Archives for posts with tag: resiliance

As part of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program that I’ve been completing, I’ve been doing yoga.  One of the positions is  “the chair”.  It is basically adopting a near sitting position, using the air as a seat. This requires the use of my leg muscles, particularly the muscles on the backs of my thighs. The psychologist on the video does a number of repetitions of the pose. The last pose is held for the longest amount of time. She says a number of things at this time, one them being, “sit back into that easy chair…” As soon as I hear the word, “easy”, I start feeling the burn more in the backs of my legs. The word, “easy” made it harder! Then she talks about how we might be feeling fatigued or warm. That’s part of mindfulness, noticing the sensations in one’s body, even the uncomfortable ones.

I have been doing this yoga routine for a number of weeks now. At first, I thought, “Why does she have to say that? She’s making it harder.” I soon learned that if I tuned-out her words and focused on her body language, which was relaxed, it was easier to do the pose. I soon became mindful that tuning out the words also meant tuning out my attention to the sensations in my body. I was merely distracting myself, which can be an effective coping technique at times, but it is not in keeping with my intent to do a mindful practice. I redirected my attention back to my body.

Today when I did this pose, I felt the temperature of my body rise. I felt the fatigue in my legs. But I also felt something else. I felt strong, strong enough to be my own chair. Every moment in life is different. Some of them are actually easy. Many of them are very difficult. Most of them are somewhere in between.

I don’t always have to provide my own chair. It gives me great peace, however, to know that when I need to do so, I can support myself, by myself.

Maya Angelou died today at the age of 86. She taught me so much.

I learned the power and beauty of the spoken word. Poetry accentuates the music in language. Maya Angelou’s poetry did this to such a great degree that for me, reading her written poetry instead of listening to her read it, was like watching a brilliant jazz combo with no sound. It just wasn’t the same. Her voice was powerful, beautiful, and the words were hers.

Many of us know that Maya Angelou feared the power of her voice so much that she stopped speaking to anyone other than her brother, Bailey, for years. She had been raped as a child, told her brother, who told adults, and the man who had raped her was briefly imprisoned and then murdered after a few days after his release. The then 9 year-old Marguerite Johnson held her voice responsible for the man’s death. Over time, she recovered from her trauma enough to speak again.

Not only did Maya Angelou overcome the fear of the power of her voice but she used the power of her voice as a singer, a poet, a teacher, and as an activist. And when she read her poem, On the Pulse of Morning, for President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, I got goosebumps that seemed to last for days.

Another lesson I learned from Maya Angelou was the power of telling one’s life story, and further, telling it in installments. I started reading her autobiographies in high school. Although her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, remains my favorite and the most memorable, I loved her life story. I burned through the three subsequent books that had already been published and then eagerly waited for the rest to be written. Her life is fascinating and she was pretty open about her imperfections. I see now that I missed her final installment published last year. How did that happen? Oh yeah, I was experiencing cancer treatment and the resulting chaos.

My blog is, in part, a memoir that unfolds in frequent, short installments. As you know, I get a great deal out of writing this blog. It’s not just the writing, it’s the sharing of my writing, the conversations that ensue, and the miraculous times when the words I write are exactly what a reader needs to think about at that time. Every once in awhile, I have a little nagging thought that my writing is self-absorbed. Maybe I am enjoying the attention I get from writing this blog, a little TOO much. I am no Maya Angelou but I have an interesting story to tell and I write well enough. Someday my daughter will read this blog and I hope it will be something that enriches her life and our relationship.

Maya Angelou also taught me the power of resilience. She was abused, repeatedly traumatized, mistreated, and oppressed. Maya Angelou’s life was a triumph of the human spirit and a testimony to the highest power of resilience. And then she used her life experience to help others. That may seem like a natural thing to do but it is not the case. Think of how many people justify their lack of compassion for others by giving examples of how they managed to be successful despite adversity so everyone else should be. These are justifications by parents for rejecting their own children and for everyday citizens for justifying policies that let children in our country and all over the world go hungry, to be poorly educated, and to live in unsafe conditions. Maya Angelou could have hurt others with her stories, beaten up others with her success, but she didn’t.

And if you have read Maya Angelou or heard her interviewed, you know that she does not take sole credit for her resilience. She talks about the support of her brother, Bailey or her close relationship with her son, Guy. She talks about her neighbor, Mrs. Flowers, who helped her speak again by having her over for tea time and time again and talking to her in the most beautiful way.

Today, I am thinking about the power of my spoken words. I have been short-tempered, as you know. Short bursts of anger and I yelled at my daughter yesterday. She was being a pain in the butt, but yelling isn’t a solution. I am thinking about the power of my written words, not just in this blog but in my work. The reports that I write for children and teens with ADHD and learning disabilities impact their lives. The care that I take in writing them can make an important difference in the kind of support they receive from their parents and from their schools. They can also give them a new, more positive way to understand themselves and in time, lead to strategies to cope with their particular patterns of strengths and weaknesses.

Today, I am going to think about how to be an adult who helps build resilience in others, people both near and far away. What can I do to honor the people who paved the path for me, who helped me along the way, by helping build a world in which children not only survive, but thrive?

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.
-Maya Angelo (1928-2014)

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