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Four truths Dr. Maya Angelou shared with the world

 

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)

 

 

Bursting the independence bubble

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You know how you grow up with an idea of what independence is? You know, especially as a teenager, that you will “grow up,” graduate high school and be independent. You will make your own decisions; you will do whatever you want to do. You will be on your own. And it seems like that is what true independence is. After talking with a lot of teens (you know, like) recently who (fine one of whom) asked my opinion on being independent (hey, the others asked my opinion on headphones!), I realized that I didn’t really have an easy answer or even any answer on the subject. At least not that was appropriate in the setting. So I think I stammered off something about the importance of decision-making skills in being independent. But I started thinking, as I have before on the subject.

Independence is viewed differently around the world. Here you turn 18 and move out! You have your own place, your own mode of transportation, your own stuff. It’s yours. You’re officially independent. Your happiness. Your choices. Your life. But around the world, particularly in collectivist cultures, you don’t move out. Not in that way. Families stay together. They live in the same homes or on the same property. They work together to raise the children and grandchildren. They gather often. They celebrate often. Independence is not created by a person’s ability to live on their own. Independence is, in many cases, considered to be when one can contribute to the family through work, through parenting, through assistance, even at a young age. It is responsibility that makes you independent. Because it gives you the ability to make choices.

And I think there is a lot of truth to that idea. That it is our ability to make choices that makes us independent. And whether or not we make good choices, choices that will grow us as individuals, grow us as families, and grow us as communities makes all the difference. Many times the quality of our choices determine whether or not we can remain independent by the definition we have when we are young. Can we live on our own? Not if we make poor choices. Is it in our best interest to live on our own? That is a deeper question, and of much more importance than if we can live on our own. Most of us here live on our own, but if something were to go wrong, an accident, a disaster, a lost job, any unexpected news then many of us wouldn’t be able to sustain ourselves. What makes independence great, is that when we have enough forethought we can truly go where we want to go. The understanding that independence does not necessarily mean functioning in singularity, but instead functioning in a manner that contributes to bettering, furthering ourselves and our passions makes all the difference in the world. That is the only place we can find true independence. And that independence gives us the grace to fall and to get back up, instead of falling without end.

 

(On a side note you should absolutely give my book to everyone you know this year. It’s cheap, life-changing, fun, smart, great, easy to read, and easy to order. You do it from home, no holiday crowds to deal with. And that’s always a plus! So why not knock those people you have no clue what to get off the list in one, pleasantly fell swoop??)

Day 17 – Movies and moving forward

Jack fell asleep unusually early tonight, and somehow I ended up watching Toy Story 3 alone, and not changing the channel. You can call me a sap, but everyone I know cried during the movie, so I’m comfortable with it. I normally don’t watch it, because it does make me sad. And today was a cleaning day so we were already cleaning up rooms and clearing out old toys and putting aside a few to save, so the movie came right on time.

Anyway, I was watching tonight, you know, 10 minutes ago at the end, and I started thinking about how hard it is to let go of those things that have meant so much to us. Whether it’s a toy or a trinket or something big, like a friendship or a relationship. We like to be connecting to things that make us feel happy. Things that give us a sense of knowing. We know who we are when we play with those toys… or with Jack I know who he was when I look at some of his old toys or outfits from the past few years. It serves as a reminder of something familiar. Something strong. Those things embody the things that we want to continue in our lives. And I think when I look back over today and I think of the toys I had when I was younger, I can remember my Cabbage Patch doll (I had a preemie newborn one, she had a crib and at Christmas time I would put her by the fireplace we used to have in my old house.) and I remember how happy I was. There was a lot of hopefulness for what would come. Even though there were lots of issues, the future seemed to hold a lot of possibility and that time when I played and entered into my own little world it was even better. I had an escape and I had a connection. And I think that’s what we hold onto. Those things that helped us escape or those things that hold the possibility for a future that we want. The things we were able to connect with in a way that gave us help and hope.

But the help and hope are always inside of us. And those things, even though they hold special memories are just things. Even when those things are friendships or relationships. Sometimes we really do just have to let them go and let them move on to a place where they can be more beneficial. Whether it’s donating toys or clothes or letting go of  someone in our life, we have to let those things evolve. Our roles in one another’s lives grow and change. And even though it can be sad, it’s good to let go. It’s the only way we can move forward. And moving forward is something to be thankful for. 🙂

Day 14 – Beautiful days and Invisibility Cloaks!

 

Today I’m thankful for this beautiful day. It’s truly stunning outside, even if it’s a little chilly for my taste. But I woke up really excited today to have the chance to wake up. I feel good and purposeful, which isn’t always the case, but is the way I try to make it. I like the thankfulness exercise, because it really is good to remember to be thankful for even the tiniest of things we have. And it creates a foundation of gratitude instead of a foundation of “I need.” And we all have so many things we do need to do every day and in our futures that the need can get to be overwhelming. And need is something that easily becomes skewed and lost in our quest to attend to need. It has a way of making us feel helpless while gratitude has a way of making us feel helpful. It reminds us that we have things, even tiny things that allow us the chance to move forward. We have the chance to grow and create and be who we are, and we are all someone with something to offer. Every day, even if we aren’t where we want to be, we have something to offer that can make both our day and someone else’s day a little bit brighter and bring us closer to who and where we want to be.

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As a side note, I’m again thankful (but a little scared by) technology. Did you guys see this? http://phys.org/news/2012-11-invisibility-cloak.html  This is a link to an article talking about how Duke University has created and “invisibility cloak.” You know, like in Harry Potter. Where they were able to effectively make a cylinder invisible by bending light around an object and doing, you know, other things that required mathematical formulas for mirroring light waves and working out copper’s reflective characteristics that we all hang out and do on a daily basis, so obviously I don’t need to explain any further. Which is good since I don’t really understand any of it. BUT this is really cool, and kind of scary. They made it disappear in a way that produced no reflected light, whereas previously done cloaks were “see through” but you could tell there was an object that you were “seeing through” because of the reflective properties of the cloak set up. Kind of like bubbles, I think? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what they said. Anyhow, you guys should read the article, because it kind of blows my mind that we can make things appear invisible through the use of technology and considering how all of that works what if you could make a whole country invisible? Or what if there are parts of the universe that are really close to Earth that are invisible and we just don’t know it? What if a previous group of Earth’s inhabitants figured this out and they walk around with us, but sometimes we see glimpses of their reflections but it’s too brief to know that’s what it is??  Or you know, what if it’s nothing. Points for the day: This cloak is cool (and not cloak like in the way I thought it would be) check it out. And being thankful is good. And buy my book 🙂

Day 10 – Anger management?

Tonight I am thankful, honestly thankful, that I did not punch the wall. I remembered that last time I punched a wall when I was a teenager… it hurt. And even though I really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate it when a quarterback, more specifically my team’s quarterback, throws an interception in the endzone and the other team goes more than 100 yards to score. And I’m thankful that when someone said, “there’s no reason to get so upset, just remember the things in your life that you are thankful for,” I didn’t punch that person either. So tonight, that’s two things that I successfully avoided allowing my anger to overcome me on. I did, however, yell and turn off the TV. But I feel that it was beyond warranted. FAR BEYOND WARRANTED. It’s all because I got my hopes up. Which in reality is a good thing. It’s good to have things we are passionate about. That we hope in. Etc, etc, etc… Yes, that’s as close as I can get to saying something worthwhile. I am only competitive when I care. I have drastically decreased the number of sporting events and other contests that I watch because, well, by competitive I meant extremely competitive and a terribly poor loser, so it was for my well-being that I stopped. So in conclusion, I didn’t punch anything at all today. (I’m pretty sure the wall that one time is the only thing I’ve ever really punched. I’m really good at not punching things, so that’s a plus.) And I’m thankful that I have that control. Because there are some people out there tonight in the ER because they punched a wall and broke their hand. I’m thankful I’m not one of them.

Day 9 – Holding hands

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I think back in May I might have posted an excerpt on being thankful from my book. I can’t remember if it included what I’m going to talk about today, so I’m going to say it again. Partly because I’m lazy and don’t want to look back through all of those, but mostly because it’s something that’s important and that I want to share again if I’ve already done so.  A few years back when I was watching Oprah there was a show on about a woman who had been burned. She had been so severely burned that she couldn’t hold her child. She couldn’t open a jar of peanut butter. She no longer had use of the faculties most of us have on any given day. She wore compression stockings all over her body to keep her blood flowing and keep clots from forming. And when I saw this show I remember thinking how thankful I was to have my health. I had use of all of my muscles. My fingers and toes, my feet and hands, legs and arms. My body functions as it’s supposed to. I can sit and stand without issue. I can run and jump. I can bend over. I can paint my walls. I can clean my floors. I can pick up my child when he cries. I can hold him on my heart whenever he’s scared. I can push him on the swings. I can slide down the slide with him.

Every day I wake up I try to remember to be thankful that I can. I am able. And it is my responsibility to work to ensure that I remain able. And to not take for granted the little things that I do have, that are significant things when removed. Like the ability to hold hands with my son as we go for a walk. To have the stamina to play with him outside, even if it’s not as much as he’d like (I swear I’m going to start using him as a personal trainer for people. He’s quite the motivator for staying moving!). I have hands to wash dishes. I have eyes to see the road. There is a world I get to experience with relative ease because I am healthy. And I am incredibly thankful for that. And I say prayers of healing and hope because there are many of us who do not have the same luxury.

Foundations

I was thinking about things today, as news comes in and out, and I realized that despite the fact that as I said…life is hard, I feel really good. I feel good about life. I feel good about moving forward. Even when it looks impossible or becomes overwhelming, somewhere in me I know that things will work out. And there is a solidness there, a foundation that never used to exist for me.

When I was younger I was usually bitter or angry or sad. I wasn’t happy. I was very pessimistic. In fact, being a pessimist was ironically one of the only things that I found pleasure in. I felt very lonely, and I didn’t know how to change that. So being in difficult situations only served to reinforce that idea. My mindset was that things were going to be bad, why aim to be happy, why aim to overachieve, or really even just achieve. I could undersell myself. I could just get by. And then I wouldn’t have to deal with failing, or the stress that accompanies trying to truly accomplish the goals I was unwilling to have. I didn’t want to have to deal with hardship, so I opted to make things as easy as possible. I sold myself short, and everyone else, too.

So being where I am now, understanding that I can work each day at becoming more and more of who I want to be. I can work each day at coming back to that place where I know that I am worthy to keep going. I know that I have something to contribute. I know that I am doing things that are in line with who I want to be. Even if I’m not doing everything that I feel I should be, or even if I fall short some days, I still have that place to go back to. I have that position of worth. I have a foundation that everyone has as long as we are willing to be open to it. And that place provides hope. It provides light when there is darkness. It is a foundation that is solid, because it knows that there is somewhere to go. A foundation that doesn’t know there is a future, like the foundations we have that are built on fear and uncertainty, are foundations that falter as we try to move. They can’t hold us up, so instead they entrap us as they crumble around us. But a foundation with a future, one that knows our worth, our light, our love, those foundations can lift us up. They can stand strong. They can hold fast even when the sky falls down. It changes everything. And it changes it for the better.

 

PS… I nearly passed out half-way attempting to jog while pushing Jack, who didn’t feel like riding his bike or jogging yesterday. So today we did yoga. He knocked me out of position a few times, but since I’m not good at it yet, I figured I would have fallen anyway. Happy midweek you guys!! 🙂

A quick trip to the pumpkin patch and other stories…

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Well, hellooooo! It’s been a while!  A long while! But I get to write again some now, and that’s exciting. I hope everyone has been well. I’ve missed you guys! School is in full swing, but hopefully I’ll get to write more often now.

Today we stopped by a pumpkin patch. Jack had fun, but all of the pumpkins that weren’t insanely ginormous had already started to go bad, so we ended up not getting one. Well, Jack got a baby one that he was very excited about. It didn’t seem to matter to him, so we are going to paint that and try to find one to carve elsewhere.

Over the past few months as life has been changing in very extreme ways both very positive and very negative, it’s been a frustrating and exciting quest towards the future. The thing that I realized the most was that life really is hard. When you don’t know how to make a way for your family to survive, it’s hard. When you can’t see past your bills, it’s hard. When you can’t find things that make you happy, it’s hard. When you look around and it seems everyone has someone but you, it’s hard. Life is hard. The things that we are trying to accomplish in our lives, even the simple things can be hard. And when I was watching one of my favorite movies, “A League of Their Own,” I heard one of my favorite lines, and it goes like this: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” It’s hard. Life is, but it’s also great. Every day we have new chances, new opportunities. We have the chance to do something that makes us feel a little more like the person we want to be. And sometimes that involves just getting through the day. But we can work to make sure that we build something into our time, into our days to be able to say to ourselves each night, I am a little closer than I was when I woke up. And as time goes forward, we will have become the person we want to become, and we will be doing the things we want to be doing, because we took the time when it was hard to make sure that the hard was worthwhile.

(As a little side-note, I LOVE this movie. LOVE it. It’s one of the first movies that ever made me cry. That’s weird, I know. And I cried because at 10 I realized that my time playing softball was limited. I would graduate high school and I wouldn’t get to play anymore. And I really loved softball, and sports in general. One of the things I miss most about being young is that comradery that accompanies a group of people with the main goal of working together, getting better and building each other up in order to achieve something great. We wanted to win and we were willing to fight, even when it was hard. In fact, we cheered each other on to work even harder when it was hard, because we wanted to win. We wanted to succeed. And I think if we continued that type of thinking and working together into adulthood the world would be a much better place. And hopefully, even though it’s been a while, hopefully when you come to this site, it’s a place where we build each other up, and inspire one another on our journeys, especially when it’s hard.)

(And as a final side-note for the night, my goal is to get up early with Jack tomorrow and exercise, because I am still using him as an excuse not to, so instead since he’s interested in running and yoga, I’m going to try to do those with him. Because, in all seriousness, I should not be this out of shape.  So, I’m going to start the week off on the right foot, by exercising, cooking something healthy, and writing! I’m in a better mood just having written this! Happy start to the week everyone!!! )

What’s his name?

Since writing my book, the number one thing people ask me is, “Who was the boy?” My response is always I can’t remember anymore.  It’s been interesting, because even though I know I wrote about him, I didn’t actually think about the fact that I would be talking about him to people. And even though I don’t normally tell anyone who he was, it’s a really strange thing to go back to. Made stranger by his random reappearances as well, but that’s not the point.

One of the things I usually end up talking to people about is whether or not I think it’s possible to find that more than once. For a long time I really wasn’t sure that you could have that again. That you could have that connection, that intensity, or just the easy familiarity upon meeting. Lots of people refer to him as my soul mate. I don’t. But that’s partial bitterness that I’m working on leaving behind. But with each day that passes (and with each interaction I have with him) I’m reminded more and more that it would make no sense for it to not be possible to have that more than once. I think the biggest issue is being closed off to it after the first time.

It’s hard to reopen your heart, it’s hard to even want to envision a world differently than you had when your heart was open. But it’s possible. And it’s important. Because even if we were left broken, we have the capacity to pick up the pieces and come back to life. We can come back stronger than we were before. We can go places with more courage, more faith, more hope, because we already know how to be open. We already know how to love. We know how to look and see where we need to grow, who we need to be to find a path that will last. One that fulfills us. One that reminds us we are whole just as we are. And we will invite people who are the same. People who won’t run, people who won’t lie, people who won’t make it a point to destroy the things they love, as long as we make it a point to come back better and stronger. (PS please take heed to, “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou) So it never really matters about ole what’s his name anyway. Being open was up to you. Being open is still up to you. And anytime we begin a journey more wise than the first time we tried, the potential for reaching our goal is increased exponentially. So take the time to grow stronger. To reach higher. And to remind yourself that you were always whole to begin with.

Friday Favorites Quote of the Day

Today was a bit of an adventure. We started off the morning celebrating the birthday of one of Jack’s friends. Then we took a brief 1.5 hour trip to the ER to get a chest x-ray for Jack. Fortunately three hours later I found out everything was all clear, and his continued coughing should resolve soon. I’m hoping that’s the case. Since it’s been such a long day and there is a Friday Favorite trend, I’m actually going to do a spin on that and pick one of my favorite quotes to talk about.

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier” – Mother Teresa

When I was sitting in the waiting room today I looked around at all the people. And I thought about all of the different struggles that were going on there. Yesterday my 88-year-old grandmother had surgery for colon cancer. We were one of the families that was nervous and anxious in the waiting room. But she is back in her room, and was sitting up today, and outside of a bit of nausea is doing quite well, especially given her age. But I thought about how nice the support is. Even when it’s hard, even when you don’t want to hear it, it’s nice to know someone is trying to care. (don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely irritating when the people we want to care are not the ones who care)

A lot of the time, I actually find it nice when it’s strangers who take the time out to be kind. In those situations there are no strings attached. It’s simply someone taking the time out to acknowledge your existence and in a positive manner, and it’s left at that. I really like this idea. People always talk about the power of a smile. And it’s true. It’s hard to be unhappy when you’re smiling. And that energy will carry on to those who let it in. We can’t force people to be happy, but we can make it a point to do our best to be positive and encouraging to others, even if it’s just a smile. And even if it’s just for that moment. It’s nice to know that we can brighten someone’s day. Because we know it makes a difference in our lives when someone takes the time to brighten our day. Moments are fleeting, and we have to make the most of them. We can choose to be happy. We can choose to let light in. And we can choose to give light out. So with all that’s going on and with the day dwindling down here, I’m going to leave you with this: Make it a point to make someone’s day brighter this weekend. Even if it’s a stranger you see on the sidewalk. Take time to smile, even if there’s no reason to. When that’s the case you’ve got nothing to lose anyway.

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