Maya Angelou: Teacher of Quiet, Lady of Grace

This was originally posted on October 16, 2013. Dr. Angelou passed away today and my heart weeps. I will forever admire this woman. Thank you Maya, for easing my sorrow and teaching me to see the joy that surrounds me daily.

I was speaking to someone about Maya Angelou yesterday and in bringing her up in conversation, I was reminded to revisit her teachings.  I have long been inspired and moved by Dr. Angelou.  Without her ever having looked into my eyes, I cannot think of another human being who knows me so well. I admire and respect this woman for many reasons, but today I feel gratitude for her teaching me to be quiet. 

I sometimes struggle with allowing my mind to embrace silence.  I think about things and the constant thoughts, ideas, worries, and dreams often keep me awake at night. I am not a great sleeper and have tried different medications and homeopathic remedies to sleep better. Sometimes they work, but mostly they don’t. Rather than sit up and worry about not sleeping, I use sleeplessness as time for prayer.

Last night I could not sleep and I turned to Maya for comfort.  I searched online for quotes by Ms. Angelou and spent three hours reading through them. Not just reading, but listening.  I was willed by her words to be quiet and listen.  I decided that with each quote I read, I would really focus on what she was saying by reaching for understanding, not just racing through from one quote to the next without hearing her.

I want to share three quotes I read last night that had me thinking this morning.  Not only thinking, but feeling a need to be quiet.  Self-reflection is something I need to do more of.  These quotes have inspired me to be quiet and focus on listening not speaking.  I am making a conscious effort to embrace quiet, knowing I will learn things of great value.  My words are important, but my silence will bring peace.

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”  I used to read this quote and get fired up.  As women we can take this quote to a whole other level. When we apply it to men our voices change and we become angry towards all men and protective of each other.  If we viewed it from a different perspective would the meaning have less value? What if we made someone who had no options a priority?

If I make this thought about the needs of others not myself, it becomes about grace and kindness.  Maya Angelou is a lady of grace and her shared words bring me a calmness that allows me to think in a way that does not revolve around only myself. Not everything is about me, which I understand, but how I interpret things guides the direction of my life, so my choice to be quiet allows me to live my best life and have joy.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”  This is one of my favorite quotes and I reference is almost daily.  In the quiet of last night I saw it with a fresh perspective.  Who someone shows me they are, may only be who they are with me.  For example, if a man cheats on woman does it mean he will cheat on every woman he is with? Once a cheater, always a cheater?  I do not believe this is true.

Once an asshole, always an asshole?  I was once hurt by a friend and asked a Rabbi for guidance.  My friend was in recovery from addiction and I felt bad I was mad because she had done so much to be sober. The Rabbi told me if someone was an asshole and using drugs, then became sober, they were probably still an asshole, just sober. She was who she was and it was okay for me to think she was an asshole.

When someone shows you who they are, and that person is not kind or good for you, believe them. Who we are to each other is not always who we are to everyone.  I don’t want to be someone who judges someone on their past. There are exceptions of course, but in the simplest of ways, I don’t want to judge someone for past indiscretions when those indiscretions were not committed against me.  People need kindness.

“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.” This quote hit home for me.  Love requires courage and while I am not brave in many areas of my life, when it comes to love I am courageous. I believe in love and know it will be found. Courage requires one to be bold but quiet. In the end I am only responsible for myself.

I put myself out there everyday. I write my truth, share my feelings, express myself, and try to have no fear in terms of love.  I freely tell those I love they matter to me. I let them know I love them, and when the love is given back I am happy. When my friends, family, and most importantly my son, tell me they love me. I am able to experience grace. Today I am loved, able to love, and God willing I will be able to sleep.

Maya Angelou is a remarkable woman and if you are not familiar with her teachings, I recommend you take the time to listen to her. To really appreciate her wisdom you must be willing to be quiet and listen. It has been a hard lesson for me to learn, but today I feel like I did okay.  I was able to turn off noise, focus on quiet, and was rewarded with comfort.  I am finding my way and blessed with the ability to keep the faith.