Dr. Angelou by example

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Looking onto Broadway from Cambridge Public Library

Ever have one of those days? Today is one of those days.

I wrote that last week as I stared out of the window of the Cambridge Public Library and couldn’t  seem to do much else. I was feeling down about work. I was feeling that this transition to the East Coast might not have been a good thing. I was feeling that I’m never going to lean to understand these New Englanders and I don’t think they’ll ever understand me. I was feeling bad about still living with friends and not having my own place. I was feeling scared cause I can’t afford to bring my kids out here for the summer and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to go back for as long as I’d like. And I already promised Kansas students I’d be back, so I was also feeling guilty.

I was feeling lost, a bit listless, restless and, of course scared.  Cause it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go to fear first.

This week Dr. Maya Angelou died and my heart felt extremely heavy. I’ve never felt this way about someone I never met. I’ve learned so much from Dr. Angelou. More than maybe any other woman. She taught me to be strong and tenacious and hopeful and warm through her example.

Yesterday friends posted the quote in the next post all over FB and I shared it. And it reminded me. And I woke up in a great mood this morning.

It reminded me in a very real way that these days come and go. That change is a part, a wonderful part, of life. I’m not the person who can live in the same place and work the same 9-5 for the next 20 years. Or could have for the last 20.  Dr. Angelou taught me I didn’t have to. She taught me that I could have a really different life from everyone else and it would be okay. And she taught me that I could do lots of different things with my life and as long as I was passionate it would be ok. She also taught me that if my passion waned I could move on to something else and not feel flaky/flighty/guilty.

It also reminded me that I don’t want to be the person who has a meltdown over the tangled Christmas lights. And that I need to work on how I make the people close to me feel. It reminded me that I’m a work in progress and hopefully I will never be completely done.

I grew up on Lake Michigan, spent my summers swimming and body surfing, and floating on the water. I played chicken and water volley ball and Marco Polo. When it was too violent or too cold I lay on the beach and listened to the radio, read entire Stephen King novels in one sitting, made clay pots with muddy clay gathered from the nearby reservoir. And it was okay. I wasn’t bummed that I couldn’t be in the water. Cause being near the water was just as good. Not once, never in all my summers spent on the beach did I ever think Lake Michigan would be the same two days in a row. I’m no sure how as an adult I became attached to things being sunny/easy/the same.

Some days Lake Michigan would be so choppy with an undertow so strong that my Mom would sit close terrified we’d get sucked under. Hours before a big storm would be the best body surfing. Other days, especially after those stormy choppy days. the water would be cool and crystal clear so that standing in chin deep water I could see my toes. On those days my Mom would often be in the house doing whatever Moms did while their kids played on the beach. Dr. Angelou taught me to embrace and revel in the wonders and the fantastic and the little miracles every day. She taught me to love change, to really believe that this too shall pass and probably what was on the other side was going to be better.

By now you and I both know that the place I work out the lost/listless/restless/scared days is

IMG_20140527_083649_671on the mat. And it’s there that I love embracing change. If it were like aerobic classes from the 90s, the same step routine over and over I’d never be able to call myself a yogi. But it’s different every day. Some days are vigorous, some are peaceful, some are stretching, some are strengthening and some are a mix of anything that pops into my little head. Every time I’m on the mat I’m different too. Sometimes I feel full of energy, sometimes I’m reflective, sometimes it’s about seeing all the cool things I can do and it’s always about how I’m feeling, what’s going on in my heart.

So I guess what I’ve learned is that every day is one of those days. Every day is going to be different from the next and every day is going to have its exciting and its boring, its lovely and its mundane and even occasionally its disgusting.

Dr. Maya Angelou taught me that it’s not about the crappy things that happen to you, but how you choose to deal with them. She taught me to stand up and face each day fresh and not to drag the bullshit from the day before with you. She taught me that terrible things can happen to you, but it doesn’t have to define you. That one took me a long time to learn, but I learned it from her example. She taught me that hardship will make you strong, even when I thought my back would break instead of bend I looked to her and knew that I could bend a little bit further. And she taught me to trust/love/believe in myself.

I guess if I could I would say, Thank you Dr. Angelou for an extraordinary life and the heart to share it with all of us. You didn’t stand and preach, you shared and that has made all the difference. Thank you.


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