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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reflections on Dr. Angelou



Dr. Maya Angelou passed away today. I know I’ve used her quotes on the blog but I’m not sure I’ve ever shared how important she was in my life. My connection started with reading her autobiography. A lot of what happened in her life struck a chord because of things that happened in my own. Reading her story and witnessing how she went on to use her life to help others spoke to me and set an example for not letting circumstances define a life. After that, I couldn’t get enough of her writing. I couldn’t get enough of her poetry so I made a project of surrounding myself with it. While my friends’ bedroom walls showcased TLC and LL Cool J, my walls featured Maya’s poems on colorful construction paper backgrounds. There was one for every mood and I felt comfort in that somehow. As I grew older and had more life experience, there were quotes that changed my life. You’ve undoubtedly heard them all:

“You teach people how to treat you.”

“When people show you who they are, believe them.”

“When you know better, do better.”

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."

"Nothing will work unless you do."

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”


And there are many, many more. Today, as I process through the loss, it has helped to reflect on her quotes. Tonight, I plan to go back and watch video of a project Ash filmed with her at the end of 2012 (yep, he got to meet her and as always, she had words of wisdom that have stuck with him since…I lived vicariously through him that day). I also plan to choose one of her poems to frame. I will add it the collage of frames in our bedroom. I will also leave you with the message below about the importance of forgiving yourself to get through things. Rest in peace, Maya.


I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'Well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.' If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that's rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don't have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach. 

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