A Phenomenal Woman: Your Spirit Lives on, Maya Angelou

Nothing can dim the light

With permission from Jamey M.

Dr. Maya Angelou came to Edmonton in 2012. I was excited to be in her presence. I knew hearing her words in person would resonate deeply within my soul. As the day approached a family commitment – which has now faded from memory – necessitated that I give the tickets away. I watched her conversation with George Stroumboulopoulos a few months ago. During Strombo’s interview I was struck by her genuineness and humility. You can hear and see one of her inspiring speeches on glamour, value, and community  here. (My tears start around 3 minutes in!)

I felt her words in my heart. What a legacy – to be for the human race. What courage and grace to live true to her values and stand strong in her convictions. Her son, Guy B. Johnson, said of his mother:

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace.” 

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Source: Pinterest

I read and re-read notices, articles and quotations on-line yesterday. Among these, one article stood out. Farah Griffin’s Washington Post article, Maya Angelou taught us how to talk about ourselves. The esteemed writer gave us words to mark the momentous occasions of our lives.  Griffin eloquently wrote:

“There was no space that Maya Angelou did not claim as her own, and in doing so she claimed it for all of us.”

“A heartfelt thank you to a woman whose greatest work of art may in fact be the life she led and the example she leave of what it means to be a fully actualized human being.”

To honour her incredible legacy I decided that I would reflect on the way some of her famous words really hit home for me in the everyday of my life. Her writing has a way of making the seemingly profane become sacred. It is truly amazing that across age, racial, class and other social divides, Maya Angelou’s life and her work transcend difference and remind us of our shared humanity. We all have a light within. Shining bravely and boldly is not selfish. We must create spaces for caring about others and ourselves. 

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.

To be loved is one of our shared human desires. As a young girl I grew up knowing the love of others but not loving myself, really. It took me a long time to recognize a brilliance (in the broadest sense of the word) within me. For some of us, the love of others is the beginning of seeing we are worthy of loving ourselves. Sometimes, self love is the key to opening up to the love of another. Love is such a powerful force. Love can bring us hope. Love shows us we are worth the fight.

“I am doing my best to live what I teach.

My work is about how cared for people care for people. My 8 year old son, Taryk, came to me in anguish one day. “I’m frustrated,” he said. “My Mom is the President of Cared Humanity and I’m having trouble being caring.” Kids can be so honest! There is always some disconnect between our values and the way we live our lives. When I turned 40 I finally gave myself permission to give myself a break – to ease off my unrealistic expectations of myself (and others). I do my best and know that I can do what I can do, no more (and strive to do) no less.

Cared for people care for people 2

 “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”  

This is so connected to the last one. On my best days I truly believe it. On the tougher ones I still feel like I am trying to prove something to myself. (I’m working on that one!) 

The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” 

My journey to get my head and heart around the meaning of care has meant being vulnerable. Knowing is always partial, though without recognizing our desire to feel as well as think, the wisdom we seek is fleeting. Motherhood has changed the shape and form of my ambition. Soaring or “reaching for the stars” means something very different to me than early in my career. Thriving means reaching (little) hearts every day. I know that cultivating connections and expanding my circle of compassion is what gives my life meaning.

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Lissa Gotwals Photography (Source: Life’s Work: Maya Angelou)

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” 

A legacy of hope.

A legacy of truth.

A legacy of courage.

A legacy of deep, human caring.

A legacy of love.

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With permission from Kal Barteski

Thank you, Maya Angelou, for encouraging us all to dare and to care.





This entry was posted in Adventure, Being Bold, Care, Community, Compassion, Connection, Courage, Creativity, Culture, Education, Heart, Hope, inspiration, Leadership, Love, Social Justice, Strong, Value, Work. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 30, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Your son Taryk shared such insight – amazing what kids can admit, isn’t it? I love that you are giving yourself a break too – self-care is often so undervalued as a type of care. I appreciate your recognition that it too is important.

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