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Inspirational prose/poems for tough times - illness/mortality

(6 Posts)
Spinstar Thu 30-Apr-15 19:46:59

I wonder if anyone can recommend anything I can read that will help me through a difficult time at the moment? I'm an atheist but always been interested in Buddhism/paganism and have Roman Catholic roots - and am open to just about anything right now - any creed or philosophy that will get me through this. I have a strong connection to nature.

I've got another thread going on the General Health section and have been having weeks of ill health for the first time ever - with no answers in sight. Hardest of all is I have DCs who are solely reliant on me and have no one else in their lives. I HAVE to be well for them and I have to find a way of keeping strong whilst having lots of medical tests and worrying about the worst outcome.

Many thanks.

MoustacheofRonSwanson Fri 01-May-15 03:53:17

In the buddhist line "When things fall apart: heart advice for difficult times" by Pema Choudon really helped me. A lot of people find the writings of Tich Naht Hahn very helpful. If you want a bit of a distraction from things, something to amuse you but make you look at life in a different light afterwards, as in a subtle way it alters the roots of your thinking, then "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" is very effective and not heavy at all.

"If this is a man" by Primo Levi, is perhaps the most inspirational thing I have ever read, but it might be too strong to take if you are already a bit overwhelmed (it's how he coped with being in a concentration camp).

Mediatations by Marcus Aurelius is good for stocicism. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, though again, it can be a bit strong- depends if you want to see things differently or be comforted. If you want comfort, I wouldn't go with Boethius. Letter from Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King, just for the sheer, soaring spirit of the man. Or if you can listen to any recordings of his speeches, as his voice definitely adds to his words.

HTH and take care

Spinstar Fri 01-May-15 08:49:04

Thanks, Moustacheo. Yes, I know the works of Tich Naht Hahn and Pema Chodrun and find them very helpful and will see if I can get hold of the others you mention.

Can anyone else recommend anything that has helped them face the unbearable - particularly coping with how to stay steady and strong for the sake of your DCs, in the face of potential life-changing/life-threatening illness?

As I am on my own with the DCs, how I am myself, directly effects how they are and I need to emulate calm and strength and optimism, whilst inside feeling terrified and vulnerable.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Fri 01-May-15 09:33:05

Spinstar, here are my suggestions for you:

Continuing on the Buddhist theme, I have on my bookshelf the Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. It’s warm and wise. It’s also an easy read - always good if you’re feeling too frazzled to concentrate.

Dying to Live by Anita Moorjani. Anita had a very vivid near death experience when she was ill with cancer. The experience transformed her. This autobiography tells the story of how she got sick in the first place and how her brush with death changed her attitude to living. Good on coping with illness and learning to cherish yourself.

And then for escapism but also touching on the theme of mortality:

The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth. I don’t read much poetry but I enjoyed this unusual novel in verse form. It’s sort of a rhyming soap opera that manages to cover most aspects of the human condition. A small gem.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. One of my favourite books ever. It is a big chunky book you can lose yourself in - deep, touching and, at times, very funny. Read this story and your spirit will soar.

Sent with my best wishes flowers. Outwith

Spinstar Sat 02-May-15 16:39:14

Thanks Outwith. I'll try to get hold of some of the things you recommend.

Has anyone got a short poem or even prayer from any religion or philosophical belief - that has helped them to get through dark times where you don't know if the outcome will be unbearable? Further medical tests are not looking good so far.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sun 03-May-15 12:35:10

Spinstar, I wonder if the poem Invictus might help you? It’s about overcoming adversity. The poet Henley wrote it after having part of one leg amputated and almost losing the other after contracting tuberculosis.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Maybe you could stick a copy of this in your handbag and bring it out if you are having a wobble and want to steady yourself?

I know you want to be strong for your children and I understand that but I don’t think you should be feeling you always have to put on a brave front. Nothing wrong with a good cry sometimes! Do you have friends or family you can talk to about how you’re feeling and what you are going through?

I don't hold to any particular creed and the only prayer that comes to mind and might help is the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.


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