Heaven gained an angel today. A woman who "flung" songs up at heaven, fought for equal rights for women and minorities, and inspired more than one generation. Maya Angelou was a "rainbow" in so many "clouds."
In high school we were asked to select a poem and recite it for our class. Our task was to memorize it and really deliver. I choose "Phenomenal Woman" by Angelou. Memorization was never my strong point, and on d-day I flubbed words, got flustered, and felt like a failure. How could I have done such a disservice to a poem that lifted me so? "Phenomenal Woman" was my coming of age mantra and I discredited it in front of my entire English class.
That was the same school year my teacher told me I was a really good writer. It was also the same year I completed my first published work, a poem. It was the year I realized writing was more than something I enjoyed, it was something I loved and could actually do well. Why? Because I was moved. I was moved by the words of Angelou, Morrison, and others. I was in love with the way their words could inspire. I have always been enamored with the fact that words on a page can extract such deep emotion simply by being read. A selection of letters to make words that create sentences to build paragraphs/pages/stories/tales that have such a deep capacity to influence a reader. That's power. Maya Angelou could wield that power like no one else could.
I haven't been writing lately. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was too discouraged to put anything on "paper." I've slowed down on pitching. I feel frozen because I want to create pieces that touch people, but I'm not sure if I can. Who am I to do this? What words could I string together that would really move people? Every time I sit down to write I defeat myself in my own mind before I can even get started. Each day I consider giving up because things just don't seem to be coming together. I punish myself for how my life has gone backwards. I fantasize about how things would have been had I listened to my heart and pursued writing instead of marketing straight out of school. The "what ifs" debilitate me. I weigh the pros and cons of switching my career focus back to marketing and living with my "well I tried" type of failure.
Then the weirdest things happened. Last night I dreamt of writers within my circle of friends encouraging me to keep trying. Reprimanding me for not writing and physically urging me to sit down and just write. Then, this morning, I woke up to Twitter, Facebook, Feedly, and Instagram feeds full of encouraging quotes from Dr. Angelou. Her words will forever lift us up and they are always right on time.
I remembered that I'm a "Phenomenal Woman." That doesn't change when I make mistakes. It doesn't change when I fail or meet defeat. It never changes. These struggles just add to my story. They give me words to weave so that I can touch someone someday. Who might I deprive if I give up now? What if someone someday is supposed to read my words for strength to keep going?
"You may encounter many defeats, but you must
not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary
to encounter the defeats, so that you can know
who you are, what you can rise from, how
you can still come out of it."
Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for giving me that strength. Your acts, words, and spirit live on and continue to encourage. You are Phenomenal.