I’ve been trying to write this blog post for 24 hours now. I woke up last night at 3am dreaming about it. I’m quite sure that I can not do it justice, as I can’t seem to match what’s in my heart with what’s pouring through my fingertips. I’ve typed and deleted, and deleted and typed, and I’m ready to put it out there, imperfect and real.
When I found out yesterday afternoon that Maya Angelou had died, I felt like I had lost a friend. I know how cliche that sounds, and how many times that particular cliche has probably been uttered across the world in the past day and a half. I also know that Maya Angelou’s message of courage, and truth, and STRENGTH was universal… and so in this way she DID have friends across the world.
I had the amazing experience of witnessing a talk that she gave a few years back at the Palace Theater. I went with my Mom. My Mom was the perfect date for such an event… we are so very different, and yet so much the same in all the ways that matter most.
Maya spoke out across the audience, unified in our diversity, strong in our sameness. I listened intently as she spoke of her past, her experience as a daughter, as a mother, as a woman. I could relate to so much of what she said, and yet so much of the past that she pulled from was beyond the borders of my experience as a young, white woman, born into the privilege that the color of my skin afforded me. That was part of her gift… the ability to reach out to every person’s truth, to reach inside our hearts and grasp the very core of our humanness.
I left that theater feeling empowered, enlightened, and humbled. I felt a flutter around the edges of my heart… knew that I could DO more, BE more, LOVE more than I currently was. I needed to find my passion, find my courage, find my way. It would take years for me to realize that the flutter was my voice, and that I would need to stand up for myself to find it. In all honesty, it will continue to take years, because I don’t think we ever truly actualize our potential given our capacity to grow. For me, change started to happen when I began to reach in to find my own voice, as well as reach out to hear the voices of others.
I have never experienced pain in precisely the ways that Maya did…we don’t ever get to truly walk in someone else’s shoes. But…when we (as women) find our courage, and allow ourselves to break free of whatever it is that is holding us back, we strengthen ourselves and each other. When we share our stories, and our stories find their way into someone else’s heart, we create common bonds through the power of empathy. This sharing, these bonds, this empathy… they are vital in our society. They are the things that allow us to see the strength in our sameness, and embrace our differences. It’s how we evolve to the next level of humanity, past judgement and hate.
I think about my own experiences in my darkest moments… what served as my guiding light was the testimony of others who had made it through… those stories were the helping hands that kept me from falling straight down. I also think about the times that I have felt the most empowered, the most capable, the most energized to push past whatever was holding me back… in these moments as well, it was the experiences of other women that served as my catalyst. And, in both of these situations, the voices of others helped me to find my own.
So, thank you, Maya… for showing us the power we have in each other, the power we create by sharing our stories. Thank you for sharing yours.