Maya Angelou died yesterday.
For some reason, this hit me much harder than I expected. I caught myself crying freely when I first read the news. And then, several times more, yesterday, after hearing her warm, strong, rich voice during a tribute on NPR. “Fierce grace” indeed”.
When I first heard the news, my first thought was, “Oh no…” and immediately, I thought of Oprah who had been so close to her. I had always admired their friendship in which Oprah describes Dr. Angelou as her “mentor, mother/sister and friend”. My heart ached for Oprah who I sensed must be grieving more intensely than we could possibly imagine.
I have been profoundly affected by Maya Angelou’s wisdom and personal story. Having watched countless interviews and read few of her books through the years, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. But the biggest effect so far has been on my decision to use my voice. Her death made me feel like standing up fully, using my voice and doing my very best from now on. I even started a twitter account.
I feel a deep admiration, respect and even kinship with her. The story of her being mute for several years after a rape by a family friend, her ability to reinvent herself over and over again with multi-passions and her strong sense of connection to the divine made me feel I could do anything my heart intended. She was a true Renaissance woman and a mentor to the biggest influence I have had since my late teens.
But like Oprah said in her tribute statement, accolades aside (and they were many – grammys, doctorates, a medal of freedom…), you could never forget how Maya Angelou made you feel. It is why Oprah said “she would always be the rainbow in my clouds…”
I have had one relationship like this. It changed my life. And this is why I feel Oprah’s pain…
I am a recovering friendly loner.I say recovering because I am trying to change this habit. Connectedness is #2 on my strengthfinders list. I love connecting like-minded people… It gives me a strong sense of fulfilment. When those like-minded people become great friends or collaborators, I feel pure joy. I also like making people feel included, like they belong in whatever group I am in.
Match-maker, match-maker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch! – Fiddler on the Roof
So, I love connecting and including people but I am a loner. I find it very easy to isolate myself. It can be confusing to others since I am very friendly… I really love people but I am very comfortable with solitude and rarely feel lonely. Being a third-cultured person, I have moved around my whole life and so I don’t feel a sense of belonging in any singular culture. I can be comfortable anywhere… this trait has saved me a lot of heart ache in the past.
Things have changed. I have felt differently since my first child nearly 7 years ago. I find myself longing for belonging, a real sense of community, heartfelt connection. I find that I now need more out of my friendships – better boundaries, respect, reciprocity, positivity, love, joy, inspiration, support, honesty… I never thought about these qualities in my relationships. I never needed to. I was just happy to connect and make friends knowing I would be moving anyway.
I realize that most of my habits were suited for a nomadic life. But I am not that any more, I am now a settled nomad and that demands a new set of skills. I can’t survive on shallow relationships. No man is an island. I have had to learn to go deeper in my relationships. I wanted what Oprah and Maya had.
And in 2011, I found it.
It changed my life.
Then, I lost it.
Come back on Monday to Learn about the relationship that changed my life. Until then, please ponder these and leave your comments below.
What habits are helping you practice connectedness? What habits are hindering your connectedness? What habits have you outgrown or evolved out of and no longer need?
See you next week!
Remember what Albert Schweitzer says – “Grow into your ideals so that life will not rob you of them!”
Yvonne Whitelaw writes on Yvonnewhitelaw.com where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By living her ideals and sharing her lessons along the way, she hopes you will be inspired to live your ideals and ultimately live your calling.