Etty Hillesum

I discovered Etty Hillesum years ago as I researched my Holocaust novel The Hamsa.  My cousin Mary Ann from Indiana suggested I read the diary Ms. Hillesum wrote prior to her incarceration and subsequent murder in Auschwitz in November 1943.  Titled An Interrupted Life, her complete diary was not published until 1986.  In it, she writes a profound statement that I try mightily to apply to my own life sometimes more successfully than other times.  Ms. Hillesum wrote,

“…. Complaining means shifting the misery on to others.”

Read that statement once and you will understand it is true.  Read it twice and you will try not to complain.

“…. Complaining means shifting the misery on to others.”

There.  I made you read it twice.

“They Do Not Need Your Woe”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I recently subscribed to Garrison Keillor’s daily musings, which he calls “The Writers Almanac,” TWA.  I look forward to it every day.  He doesn’t even take Sunday off.  He concludes each daily offering with a poem.  This morning, he read “Solitude” by American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 – 1919).  In her poem, Ms. Wilcox writes,

“Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.”

As soon as the verse left Mr. Keillor’s lips, I remembered Etty Hillesum’s observation, “Complaining means shifting the misery to others.”  Take those words to heart.  Your family and friends mean too much that you should burden them with your whining.

For your pleasure, you can listen to Mr. Keillor’s reading of “Solitude.”

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