Truth is something that can appear to be quite elusive these days. It’s very easy to find half-truths or outright lies, misconceptions, misunderstandings; they are all sitting at our fingertips. So when I find truths that speak to me, that resonate within me in a way that I know in my core this is truth, I try to pay attention.
Maya Angelou was someone I had heard of in high school. We may have read a poem or two, if so I honestly don’t remember. It wasn’t until college that I took more of an interest in her, and in reality it’s probably because I saw her on Oprah. I have a tendency to cringe when speech is seemingly deliberate. When I can tell someone has thoroughly thought through what they are saying and they say it in a very matter of fact manner. I don’t know why. But I typically disengage. So to watch Maya Angelou speak and find myself literally on the edge of my seat feeling as though I am being pulled in a little bit nearer to her with each word was extremely unexpected. She spoke in a very deliberate manner, she knew what she was saying, but this time it was different for me. She was speaking in truth. Every word was one I wanted to hear, and I was glad she spoke with such clarity both in pronunciation and in point. And since truth, as I stated can be hard to come by, I wanted to make sure I shared some of it here, by way of Dr. Angelou.
1.“When people show you who they are believe them (the first time).”
I have found this to be true time and time again. Whether it is in a relationship romantic in nature, a friendship, family members, whomever we have in our lives, people will show us who they are. If someone tells you they are mean, believe them. If someone tells you they don’t care, believe them. If they say they just want to have fun, believe them. If they cheat on you, ignore you, make it a point to hurt you, believe them the first time. They are showing you who they are, and they are making it clear they have no intentions of changing this for you. Once a person shows us what they plan to do, and we stick around, then that is our poor choice. They will easily have the chance to say, “well you already knew” and use it as an excuse. And sadly, they won’t be entirely wrong. We have to learn that being a savior is not supposed to be the same as being a victim. So staying somewhere that is harmful to us to stick it out, to be strong, because we love them and we know they love us if we could just get them to change just one more time is never an excuse. We are saving no one and in trying to do so are only creating inequality within the relationship. We must pay attention to what people tell us about themselves and have enough worth about ourselves to be willing to let it go.
2. “…and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well.”
This quote comes from her essay titled New Directions. And it continues along very well with the previous quote. Many times we don’t leave a situation because we’ve planned out a future in our heads. We have something, and maybe we are only holding on by a rapidly fraying string, but we are holding on. There is something in front of us. But when our vision of the future does not match the reality of our future, there is a problem. If we truly stop and look down the road ahead, which most often will look like the road behind and it in no way is a path we should continue down, we must be willing to stop and change directions. We have to let go. We have to imagine a future that is different. We must be willing to try, and not only once, but as many times as it takes to get us to where the future we are imagining has the capacity to line up with the future coming to life in our reality. Whether it’s a career change, a relationship change, or even family that is harming us, we must care enough for ourselves to forge onward towards better things.
3. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
And on our path to our new places we must let go of the past, lighten our load and forgive. We must be willing to admit to ourselves that we acknowledge what has happened, we understand that we were deeply hurt whether emotionally or physically, whether from and outside source or something we did to ourselves, we must look at the moment for what it is and find a way to release it. It is the only way to move forward successfully. We cannot let those moments define us. We know that they exist. They aren’t likely to be things that we forget. But they are things that we can move forward from without allowing them to control us. Forgiveness is truly one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves.
4. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In life we all have choices that we make every day. One of the most important choices we make is how we treat others. None of us were immune to people coming into our lives and making us feel bad. As children someone hurt us. Well, in all likelihood, multiple people. Children can be cruel. Adults can be cruel. We are all humans exposed to other humans, and that means life isn’t always going to be pretty. So each day we must make a choice to treat others the way we truly want to be treated. So we must believe ourselves worthy of the treatment we extend to others. We must know that we have the chance to grow a person, to encourage them or to bring them down, and it is essential that we become growers of others. We know how people made us feel. It lasts. We remember being scared, we remember being hurt, we remember being outcast, feeling alone and desolate, that no one else understands or cares. We remember these things because they made us feel like we didn’t matter. And that is not acceptable. We cannot continue a culture of people whose only goal is to make people feel this way. We must do what we can to acknowledge and accept our own worth and love ourselves enough to recognize and grow this in others. To be encouragers and walk in light so that others may follow. So that we can all know truth.
This is an excerpt from one of my favorite parts of her Master Class with Oprah: “to be the best human being you can be” (in every situation)
Yesterday we left the house for lunch with the sun shining, and returned a little over an hour later to a flooded street that I couldn’t make it down. We didn’t get home until late last night when the waters finally receded. It was an unexpected turn of events.
I had a lot planned for yesterday, a good portion of which involved my computer and looking up stuff for school and for work online. Instead, Jack and I went to my grandma’s where the only internet option is dial-up for a computer that was bought somewhere around 1996. Sometimes it does turn on, though. And you can get a decent game of solitaire in when it does.
So instead of all my plans, we visited with grandma. And it was nice. I think it was easier to accept a break because I didn’t actually have a choice. It was not possible for me to do what I felt I needed to do. I had to take the time to do something else. I didn’t have an option. And, although today I feel behind, and I woke up in the middle of the night worried that I was behind on what I needed to do (if anyone knows of a great job…feel free to let me know – or if you know how to get a lot of people to buy my book, that works too!), I also feel glad that I had to take that break.
Sometimes it seems that I’m ignoring some of the things and people I don’t want to ignore. I think for so many of us our days are quite busy. And maybe that’s why I keep going back to patience lately, I’m not really sure. But it’s hard to fit everything is. And it is overwhelming trying to schedule in all the things we need to schedule in. But sometimes when the rain comes, it’s actually coming to provide a break. To provide some solace. Or to provide a new opportunity we hadn’t thought of or had time for before. And if we have no other choice, we can take the time to play in the rain, and see where it leads us. It’s interesting how much we love and want to play in the rain as kids, and as adults we spend so much of our time trying to avoid it. Maybe the rain makes a mess and can be cold or stormy, but maybe it’s there so we direct our attention to all of the things we aren’t paying attention to.
Whether we wear a raincoat, build a tent, or dance in it, there are certain things that are made truly special only by the rain.
I took Jack walking today, and we ended up out during an extremely hot point in the day. Originally there were lots of clouds around, but when we arrived they had all disappeared. We walked a little bit, and took even more breaks. He had a wonderful time, and I watched all the runners and cyclists as they rode around.
From all I could see the heat was pretty stifling. I remember when I was younger how much more energy it took to play games in the afternoon instead of in the evening. It didn’t stop us from playing, but I would dare to say that most of us held our stamina longer and made better decisions when we weren’t trying to win games in the oppressive heat. And this is true of many situations.
Sometimes we have to push through the heat. Sometimes there are no other options. But there are more times when if we would just wait it out and let the heat die down, even just a degree or two, it makes all the difference. Having the patience to not try to fight the fire is hard. We don’t know how long it’s going to last or what it might burn up in the process. When we are standing back and just watching from the sidelines, that urge to do more tends to kick in. We feel like we just have to do something. We have to fight through it, and make things happen right now. We have to stop it. We have to fix it. We can’t just sit there.
But patience is a virtue. (at least that’s what they say). And in reality, in a large number of cases if we decide to take on the heat, to run into the fire, we end up only feeding the fire. It billows up. The problems grow. Now everyone is at risk, when before we were in a position to do something once the heat died down. We have to be willing to wait it out. To have patience. To remain calm. To remain in control. We have to make sure that we only fight when necessary and that we are equipped to do so. Whether you’re shouting or quiet, whether you are explaining it away or searching fervently for the answer, if you are standing in a fire you are no match for the fire. Without the right gear, without a spare supply of oxygen, without other people helping you to work to put out the fire, you’re simply standing in the fire. And that heat, those flames will quickly consume you. You won’t know which was is up, much less out. No one will understand what you are saying. But if you stand outside, you wait it out and let the heat pass, suddenly the path has been cleared for you. So don’t buy into the fury. Don’t listen to the hate. Don’t participate in storms that will only get you clobbered. Stand your ground. Know your goal. And wait for the path to clear.
When I was working on my undergrad I had a class called motivation. In it we talked about something called “flow theory.” Flow theory talks about this thing that happens that people refer to as flow. Basically, you ask people why they like doing the things they like doing and what’s different about the things they like the most. People typically respond with whatever it is that they like the most, and state that “It just flows” for them.
This was a concept I immediately understand. I had always had things that just flowed for me. When I was younger it was sports. Particularly basketball and softball. For some reason, it just flowed when I played them. I had a natural talent for them. So playing them just made sense to me. I also had that flow with writing. There is a connection that happens when I write. And it just flows. It was nice when I was in school, because I could write papers the night before or in the morning when they were due. And well, procrastination flows for me as well!
But I’ve also found that we can use those things that flow for us to focus our minds. I am one of those people (which I honestly think is at least half of all people) whose mind is constantly going. Thousands of thoughts all going in all directions at one time. Spurred on by stressed. Making decisions nearly impossible. And finding a goal or a path in life nearly impossible. Clinically, it’s probably considered a low grade form of ADHD sans hyperactivity (except this morning when I had some coffee for the first time in a year and It was amazing!). When we can’t slow our minds down and we can’t stop the thoughts and focus we have an attention deficit. But like I said, I have found that I can use those things that flow for me to calm my mind. And if I can pay attention to the fact that my mind is calm, I can use that time to work to find a focus. I can prioritize my problems. I can make a list. I can organize my thoughts in a way that seems impossible otherwise.
It’s important that we pay attention to what we are doing with our time. It’s important that we utilize the tools that we do have at our disposal. We all have something (multiple things) that flow for us. If we pay attention and utilize these things, then we can use them to find our focus. We can use them as tools to guide our lives. We can calm our minds. We can find respite. We can search for the right next move. When we need to know where to go, because we can’t see any doors open for us we can use what flows for us. Let it calm us. Let it move us. Think about what flows for you, then try to see if you can use it to organize your thoughts and figure out different roads you can take. Use it to find a way to get to where you want to be. It may take some practice, but the payoff is worth it. And so are you! 🙂
“And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…” Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
I bought this book for Jack on Friday. It’s one of my favorite books in general. I hadn’t read it in years, and I was thinking about how frustrating it is to be waiting, when I came across this part of the book. Ironically what I thought about was the fact that Dr. Seuss, who I always imagine as being fun, and not having issues in life in general, he knew how I feel sometimes. He knew how hard it is to get out of a slump. He knew how frustrating it can be when you get stuck in that place where you are just waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting for someway to figure out what on Earth to do because nothing makes sense anymore and sometimes you don’t even know if you want it to.
It’s easy to get stuck in those places. Stuck in the darkness and end up waiting. I feel like I’ve been waiting a lot lately. And it’s a normal part of life. Now I know that I have to do things and be proactive. But a few years back I had no idea that it was even possible to not be waiting. I didn’t know that there was something I could do. I didn’t really think that there was something I should have to do, because I sort of decided that I was put in the place that I was at because of all the things that had happened to me. So I didn’t understand why someone couldn’t just come along, and see what I had to offer or show me that I had something to offer like these other people I saw had happen to them. So I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And nothing ever changed.
That’s the thing. Nothing changes if we don’t let it, but nothing changes if we don’t make it either. We all have things that we are waiting on, but sometimes we are waiting on everything. And we can’t do that. We have to be able to take control of our minds and our bodies and our souls. We have to get the help we need when we need it. And we have to put in the effort. Because, “You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend reading it. You can google it, and find the text. It has good advice. (The urge to rhyme here is really bad, but I’m going to refrain, he’s better at it than me!)
Stop playing the waiting game. Nothing worthwhile can come of it. We have to live each moment. No one can live them for us. We are the makers of our own decisions. And that gives us power beyond measure over our lives!