My father wrote poetry most of his life. As his cognitive abilities declined, he didn’t give up poetry writing. Instead, he wrote haiku, a short form of Japanese verse. When he was placed in an assisted living facility, I found sheaves of haikus scattered all over his study. They were numbered, and he’d written one hundred of them. I thought Dad’s ability to adapt to his limitation without giving up a pastime he loved was inventive and admirable. It’s so easy to be upset and angry when our bodies fail us. I’d rather be like Dad and try to find creative solutions to those limitations.
In my teenage and early adult years, I memorized many Shakespeare sonnets, along with any particularly beautiful poem I came across. Sadly, I’ve forgotten most of them, but I’ve remembered a handful into middle age. I’m partial to several sonnets and short poems by Byron and Tennyson. I use them to help me when I’m distressed. Reciting them in my head slows down my breathing, which automatically adjusts to the meter of the poetry. Reciting them also serves as a mindfulness tool. As I focus on the words I’ve cherished for decades, other thoughts fall way. When I’ve finished reviewing the poems, I’m calmer and more centered. I discovered this poem when I was twenty-one.
SO WE’LL GO NO MORE A ROVING
by Lord Byron (George Gordon)
So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.
If you have a poem, or prayer, or even a favorite lyric, you can try this trick to calm your mind and body. It’s always available and free, and it might help you in a stressful moment.