I didn’t know Maya Angelou personally, but through her writing, her quotes that I loved and saved like cherished heirlooms, I felt like I knew her.
I don’t think she was ever heralded as being a leader of girl power, but in my mind, she was. I like to think though, that like me, she stood not just for girl power, but for the power of humanity, through that undeniable belief that we all are connected.
So many of her quotes resonated with my soul.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them” helped me get through many a challenging circumstance.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” has helped me more in hindsight than in foresight, but revealed to me evident truths.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style” – oh, to thrive. What a wonderful status to achieve. When a baby is thriving, it means it is doing well.
To thrive with humor, compassion and style, well, I can’t think of anything better.
But my favorite Maya Angelou quote and one of my all-time favorite quotes, period, has to be: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How simple yet true those words were. The words or actions may not accurately represent the person’s true meaning, but our soul knows when we are loved and safe.
It was a given her life had not been easy, but she had, as her words said, thrived.
She stood strong and pressed on, determined to not give up. She called herself a phenomenal woman and no one disputed that fact. She was. Her words guided me to think of the phenomenal woman I wanted to become and the women in my life who were by definition, phenomenal.
To become a phenomenal woman, I undoubtedly will have to channel my grandmother and mother. Both phenomenal, incredible women in different ways.
I know I am much like my grandmother, full of vinegar and salt, which is tempered by the gentle honey from Mama, who urges me to try nice first and think always of others. She reminds me that even if I have little, I still have something I can share.
Granny never failed to stand up for herself and that is something I used to be so much better at doing. That fearlessness in being able to speak her mind was warrior fierce and phenomenal.
Mama has always taught me to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. Being silent while others are victimized carries its own shame, she has said.
“Sometimes, you may be the only voice they have.” Mama’s other phenomenal strength undoubtedly has to do with loving everyone while judging no one.
I think of my Aunt Mary who always made whoever she was talking to feel like the most special person in the world. She sought everyone out, grabbing them in a warm embrace and urging them to tell her everything – and she meant everything – that was going on in their life.
If you told her you had an interest in something, you can bet the next time she saw you, she had something related to it for you – an article, a picture, a trinket she had found. She was the storyteller and author of our family and when I told her I loved to write as a little girl, she would sit with me and listen to my stories as long as it took to tell them. Her ability to love and make people feel so extra special made her an incredible, phenomenal woman.
So many fellow women that have been in my life, offering their wisdom, being mentors, being that mother/sister/friend as Oprah called her mentor, that have made sure I remembered who I am and more importantly, who I was going to be. I have remembered above all, the way these women made me feel. Empowered, embraced, loved and supported. Maybe even a little bit like a warrior who could do anything, even when my spirit was weary and tired, they pushed me forward. Leaving pieces of themselves, woven into the tapestry of my spirit that make me who I am and the person, that phenomenal woman, I am hoping to be.
May we all remember that phenomenal feeling, and pass it on.