May 29, 2014
I owe Maya Angelou a debt of gratitude, may she rest in peace. I was 22 years old the first time I read Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman”. And although I wasn’t one at the time, I just knew that one day, I would be a phenomenal woman. Well, dear Readers, today is that day.
Phenomenal (adjective) very remarkable; extraordinary.
It takes a certain amount of confidence, not ego, to call oneself phenomenal, but I daresay that I have that confidence. I have not always possessed such conviction, and quite frankly, it does come and go at times. But by and large, I have self-assurance in myself and my abilities. I know what I do well, and I know how to capitalize on it.
What makes me a phenomenal woman lies not in my looks or my dress size. What makes me a phenomenal woman is in the way I carry myself, the way I present myself to the world. I try and live my life so as to not hurt others. And inevitably, when I do hurt someone, I seek forgiveness and try and make amends. I acknowledge to myself, my children, my students, my siblings and the world, that I am sorry for my wrongdoings, that I am remorseful, and I am willing to do better in the future.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea, dear Readers. I conduct myself in this manner for not altogether altruistic reasons. I choose to behave this way because I choose to be happy. Happiness is a choice. I do not want to live a contented life. I do not want to live a satisfactory life. I do not want to live an adequate life. I want to live a happy life; I choose to live a happy life. And with 50 years of life to my credit, I realize that I am happiest when I forgive others and seek forgiveness for myself.
Another reason I am a phenomenal woman is because I have always had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not the life others have expected of me. In my adult life, I have certainly made my share of bad decisions. However, those bad decisions generally came as a result of my not being courageous enough to stand on my values. One of the most courageous things I have had to do was based on the values I developed with regard to raising children. I value a child’s curiosity. I value a child’s need to question authority. I value a child’s need to be informed, relative to their age and understanding. And I value a child’s right to be an individual and have independent thoughts. Trust me when I tell you, dear Readers, there were many days when I wanted to toss those values right out the window and yell, “Because I said so!” to one, or all of my children. And perhaps I did on occasion.
However, in the end, I had to remain true to my convictions, my values. I wanted to raise my children to be loving, caring, and forgiving. I wanted to raise my children to respect and honor God, themselves, others and Mother Earth. I also wanted to raise my children to question authority, respectfully, of course, and to never follow blindly; to raise them to be independent, contributing members of society. And I believe I did.
“So,” you ask, “what was courageous about that?” It was courageous because I knew that my children would develop their own courage to live their lives true to themselves, and not the life others (me, I) expected of them. And I knew their courage would take them to places far away from home. Subsequently, given how very much I love and miss my children, it took a phenomenal woman to raise them in such a manner as to let them go.
Thank you, Maya Angelou, you inspired me some thirty years ago. Now, I too, am a phenomenal woman. Peace, ~v.
*Excerpts from Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Women”. See here for the poem in its entirety.