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365 Reasons to Smile – Day 79

mayangelou2Last September, I had the privilege of hearing Maya Angelou speak at an event in Charleston, West Virginia.

The woman isn’t simply an amazing woman; she is simply a genuine person.

Unlike other superstars, she doesn’t make me feel as though I’ll never be pretty enough or skinny enough or connected enough to make my mark. Instead, she reminds me that words have the potential to make a greater impact than anything else and that the most meaningful words don’t come from leading a perfect life.

They come from the struggles and mistakes and the missteps all of us make but only some of us are brave enough to write about.

In her autobiography I know Why the Caged Bird Sing, Ms. Angelou draws her readers into her imperfect world. She is so talented that the reader actually feels what she feels, particular in her most difficult moments.

That’s why her descriptions of rape and teen pregnancy are particularly difficult to read. That’s also why her autobiography is on the list of the 100 most frequently challenged books.

The fact that it’s not censored and I’ve had the privilege to read it, always makes me smile.i know why the caged bird sings

Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  Day 78: The First Amendment

Day 77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness    Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart  Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green Lights Day 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious   Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer   Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs     Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s Victory Day 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His Masculinity Day 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of Hay Day 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still Remember Day  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessons Day 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment     Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles   Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

My Brief Encounter With the Perfect Imperfection of Maya Angelou

I am an incredibly imperfect woman living in a society of people who hide their imperfections much better than I do.

Some are better able to hold their tongues. Others have achieved such brilliant success that it hides any inadequacies. And then there are the people who spend a great deal of time and energy covering up any deficiencies.

Since my tongue often seems to engage before my brain, my successes are nothing out of the ordinary and I choose to spend my time and energy just being me, I don’t mind that people know I’m far from perfect.

Despite that, I’m always striving to become a better person. For that, I need inspiration, which most often comes from other admittedly imperfect women.

These are the women who make me believe.

They make me believe that even those of us who are flawed can accomplish great things. They make me believe that past mistakes and missteps are the fundamental ingredients for a rich life. And they make me believe that, despite injustice and unfair odds, believing in possibilities can only result in magic.

My inspiration comes from women who have overcome barriers and have an honest compassion for those who are still struggling.

And, of course, my inspiration comes from women who can express all this in writing — women like Maya Angelou.

Despite her splendid poetry and prose, her insightful observations of human behavior and the reverence she must encounter everywhere she goes, Maya Angelou doesn’t deny who she is: an imperfect woman who has struggled but, through the support and encouragement of others, done the most she can with the gifts bestowed upon her.

Last week, she shared both her humility and her humor with an audience in Charleston, West Virginia at an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the YWCA.  Thanks to an invitation from a friend, I was fortunate to be in the audience as she poked fun at herself, challenged all of us to empathize with those who are different and encouraged us to think of possibilities.

She talked about her years of silence following the conviction and murder or the man who raped her as a young girl and how poetry freed her. She encouraged us to always find something to make us smile and, when we can’t, to write about something that does. And, she lectured about not blaming others for past injustices but rather thanking those who endured them and taking responsibility for future generations.

In short, she was amazing. I was either laughing or crying the entire time she was speaking.

And then she read her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth,” which she wrote in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. About halfway into the poem, she lost her place. She faltered, fumbled then regained her composure as she finished.

I know during those moments of silence while she searched for her place, all of us seated at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences were holding our breath. She had earlier reminded us that she is 84 years old, and that fact sunk into our brains and into our souls.

The moment was brief, and it passed. But it had still occurred.

Yet, at the end of the evening, Dr. Angelou held her head high, showed appreciation for the applause and ended her talk with dignity.

Some might think she was trying to cover her mistake, but I know she was simply demonstrating why she is so great.  Instead of being defined by her mistakes and struggles, she soars through self acceptance and overcoming challenges.

If that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what is.