Everyone has a story despite their success or stature in life! Who would imagine by looking at Maya Angelou and all her accomplishments that she had been abandoned as a child by her mother, survived a near death experience in the hands of a boyfriend or had her first and only child at 17?
Reading about her life story and relationship with her mom reminded me of an encounter I had when I struck a conversation with a fellow dancer a few months back. This poised, friendly, and seemingly happy woman shared with me that three months prior, she had lost her grown son in an accident and a few months after, her husband had succumbed to cancer. I remember thinking to myself how glad I was to have smiled and been kind to her. Just like Maya, she was a reminder of the incredible resilience that women possess and capacity we have to push through life no matter what it throws our way.
This month, we honor Maya Angelou as our inspiring woman of the month. I have always been inspired and empowered by her work and in awe of her poetry, wisdom, strength, and amazing talents. So naturally when I discovered that she had published yet another book, “Mom & Me & Mom,” I could not resist it. As expected, she came through. Her book is an intriguing, insightful, and sometimes humorous read with many powerful lessons for women.
Here are 9 lessons that resonated most with me and I hope will do the same with you too:
- You have to earn forgiveness – when we wrong our loved ones, we cannot just expect to be forgiven. We have to earn their forgiveness and love. Maya’s mother understood that she had to work hard to earn Maya’s love, trust, and forgiveness after abandoning her at such a young age.
- Avoid shaming your kids – let your children know that your love and support is unconditional and that your door is always open. One of the most poignant moments for me while reading the book was Maya’s mother’s response to her when she found out that she was pregnant at 17. She inquired whether Maya loved the child’s father and when Maya said no, she told her that they would love and raise the child together because there was no need to ruin three people’s lives. It gave me a new perspective on unconditional love and what it truly means. I doubt that there are many of us who would have this same reaction after learning that our teenager is expecting a child.
- Give your kids a hand up not a hand out – arm them with the tools they need to succeed and to navigate through life.
- Be careful what you say to your kids for your words can make or break them – your words are a powerful tool. Whatever you communicate to your children can steer them in the right direction and allow them to achieve greatness.
- When you support and love your children, you send a resounding message to those around that they are valuable and inadvertently cast a protective shield around them. People are unlikely to mess with your child when they know that they are loved, deeply cared for and belong to someone.
- It does not benefit your child to remain in an unhealthy relationship – self preservation is important. When you protect yourself, you save your spirit, which is not only critical for you, but also for your child’s sake.
- No matter what you’re going through, be thankful – when you find it difficult to be optimistic, remind yourself that there’s always tomorrow and that you can find at least one thing in the present that is right with you.
- Being charitable doesn’t have to be only about giving money or material things – you can be charitable through kind words, acts of kindness. or even by making someone else smile.
- It’s okay to let go of someone you love – this last lesson resonated with me the most. In her book, Maya gives her mother “permission” to pass on. I know from personal experience that it is an extremely difficult thing to do because when you love someone, you want them to hang on to life despite their tremendous pain or discomfort. You hope that somehow they will recover. When my loved one was suffering from a terminal illness, I just could not bare the thought of loosing him so I held on to him even though I knew that he was in pain. I wanted him to fight to be with me. Four days before he passed, I was flying back home and on the flight, I allowed myself for the first time to come to terms with the reality that no matter how hard he was fighting, he might not survive and I needed to be okay with it. In that moment, I let him go because I no longer wanted him to suffer. It was not only the toughest and most painful thing that I had ever experienced, but also liberating in a sense since I understood that when you love someone, you have to do what’s best for them not for you. I realized that by clinging on to him, I had been selfish. I had to think of him and to love him enough to let him find peace. Although I was devastated when he passed, I was thankful that he was finally out of his misery and resting in peace.
Hope you enjoy or enjoyed the book as much as I did. In addition to the invaluable life lessons, it serves as a wonderful reminder that the next time you run into someone; a friend, stranger, or colleague, that they too have a story and deserve your kindness, smile, or just the benefit of the doubt. You just never know what they might be experiencing at that very moment.
Have you read the book? If so, what messages or lessons struck you the most?