Monday, June 9, 2014

8 Things that I learned from Maya Angelou

Truthfully, there is not much I can write that has not already been written. Maya Angelou lived her life, publicly, thoughtfully, openly, and loudly. She affected millions of people in a multitude of ways.  She played the role of my mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, and mentor when I had none. I didn’t know her personally, but I looked to her grace to guide me.  One writer lovingly, penned her as a professional  “hope-monger” and she always doled it out, when I needed it the most.  Through the years I have read every book, every article, watched every interview and felt that she was ethereal. Upon her passing her friend Toni Morrison is quoted saying, “ I thought that she was eternal, that she’d always be there.”  As did I.  Here are a few things that Maya Angelou taught me,

    1.     “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” This was life changing for me. I have a terrible habit of falling in love with people’s potential, not who they really are.  They know themselves better than anyone; so trusting their take on themselves is an important action. Plus, it’s not fair to thrust my expectations on anyone; I need to accept them for exactly who they are at this exact moment.
    2.      “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refused to be reduced by it.”  It took a while for me to understand that I didn’t have to surrender my opinion of myself to anyone else.  People can be cruel, and this little gem helped me immensely and repeatedly.
    3.   “Life loves the liver of it.” One can overcome great adversity, and still be joyful.
    4.    “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” In my opinion, the most interesting and inspiring people have been through “it”.   Wounds and scars make for interesting people.
    5.   I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” I interpret this quote as both passive and aggressive. You can’t always be a doormat, you have to push back sometimes, but you also can’t only take from people, you have to give too.
     6.       “I am a human being and nothing human can be alien to me.” We are more alike than we know.
     7. " Courage is the most important of virtues.” She has said this in at least a dozen interviews. Her theory is that in order to be consistently kind, loving, vulnerable, you must have courage and I couldn’t agree more.
     8.     “When you know better, you do better.”   Oprah has an entire montage on this, so I won’t go into too much detail. But I will say that forgiving yourself you’re past mistakes, and chalking it up to a lack of knowledge is very liberating!

I have held her words in my heart for my entire life, she taught me more than I could ever put into words. Although I never met her she always made me feel proud to be me.  

Cheers to a well lived life!

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