Phenomenal Woman or what Maya Angelou taught me about being a girl.

Maya Angelou’s writing has always emboldened me, as it has many women. While much of the undertones of her writing is rooted in the African American experience, it’s her writing as a woman that has brought me up from my knees, with hopeful tears in my eyes more than once.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

My path didn’t cross with many strong females growing up. I lacked a parent that would reveal to me the uniqueness, strength and beauty I held. I had few female idols, and those I noticed seemed to follow the same faux type of vain girl power my mother held. This resulted in a string of bad choices on my part. I didn’t realize until later in life that I controlled my fate, my body, and my beliefs. I deserved respect. Maya Angelou spoke to me like the mother I needed. Her words hit me with brutal honesty mixed with love. In my head I heard her saying  “child, you need to respect yourself first. You can sway those hips but only you control who’s grabbin’ a hold of ’em.”

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Maya Angelou

Everyone likes a story. Happy endings wrapped up with ribbons where everyone makes the logical decision and no one but the bad guy feels any pain. Too bad that’s far from reality. Life is messy, and painful, and emotional, and often only the bad guy walks away happy. No one likes to hear about the muck, the bullshit, the down times.

Yeah I’m durable, and I’m determined, and I’m happy, and pretty, and fun. Everyone loves THAT girl. But no one likes to acknowledge the horse shit I had to tread through to get here. No one wants THAT girl. Well, that girl, and this girl everyone admires, is the same frickin girl. I have a past. I have history, and it ain’t pretty. If you only want to see the pretty girl but not the crooked smile then you miss out on the whole experience. Your loss.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.       – Maya Angelou, Still I Rise

PicsArt_11-13-02.33.28.jpgStill I Rise held so much meaning for me I had it placed in ink on my arm to always remind me what and who I am. It means even more now that I’ve been put through the hellish depths of my own soul and have been hurt and broken like never before. I still rose. I’m better than I was. I detoxed the dirt and depression and came back more powerful and determined.  An easy life is for the weak. Show me a person who has never been that low and I’ll show you someone with a shallow soul. 

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.     Maya Angelou – Still I Rise. 

What am I on my own? Take away the titles of daughter,wife, mother and you have my authentic self. I have to be THAT first, then add in the titles. Regardless of state of mind or income or weight or age. What am I as a woman without labels or limits or living by anyone’s standards or expectations but  my own? I am me, pure and raw and beautiful and magical and free. My love is my own.  

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” -MA

This is how I love. Passionately, fiercely, soulfully and unapologetically. It’s been made (painfully) obvious to me few deserve that kind of love. Fewer still know what to do with it. I naturally hurt when others hurt and I try so hard to save everyone from pain that I often forget to give myself the same consideration. Women can be tender and yet oh so tough. Don’t worry if someone is intimidated by you or your style of love. A woman should have true tenacity. And I don’t mean the shallow jealous kind of snark that tears down other women. I mean true fortitude and backbone and passion. If he’s not strong enough to embrace it then he doesn’t deserve it. If he’s too weak for real emotions then find someone stronger.

I celebrate my own path. I can walk it alone, that’s just fine with me. No one has to accept or understand it. No one even has to cross it. But I refuse to allow anyone to plow it. I have reinvented and tweeked and rearranged my life more than once. I’m sure I’ll do it a few more times before I go under. Every time I learn. I’m strange, I’m faulty, so what? I’m also bold and true.

One of my favorite lines comes from New Directions, a chapter in Maya Angelou’s book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now.

I looked up the road I was going and back the way I come, and since I wasn’t satisfied, I decided to step off the road and cut me a new path.

PicsArt_11-13-01.16.19.jpgI used to think I had a low self esteem. It turns out I had a misplaced self esteem. I thought for a long time that it didn’t matter what I saw in myself, if another person didn’t see it, it didn’t exist. I’ve seen everything I esteemed and loved about myself finally mirrored in another’s eyes. But because only the lotus is beautiful, not the mud it grows in, the mirror eventually becomes clouded and suddenly they claim I was none of those wonderful things. Was I wrong? Or were they? I know, without any hesitation, that I was absolutely, without a doubt, not wrong.  I’ve grown into a woman that knows her worth. and that is the kryptonite to fear. My freedom and beauty and value are no longer just questionably allowed to me. I’ve claimed them. This mind and this body are mine and I alone control them. I am beautiful and strong, even on the days I feel neither.  I don’t have to act or dress up or try to impress to get attention.  Frankly I no longer care if it comes my way. I don’t need anyone’s validation except my own. Thank you Maya Angelou, for showing me a true woman’s fortitude and value. And for reminding me what I am.

I am a woman, phenomenal woman.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need of my care,

‘Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.                         Maya Angelou – Phenomenal Woman

Please check out more of Maya Angelou at http://www.poemhunter.com/maya-angelou/poems/

 

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17 thoughts on “Phenomenal Woman or what Maya Angelou taught me about being a girl.

  1. Pingback: Featured Posts – Share Your Post Links | a cooking pot and twistedtales

  2. Eudora Welty was also a very influential writer for me. Growing up without a female role model is like growing up in a separate country than your friends who have mothers at home to teach them the secret language of girls and later, women. My passport was always humor and charisma, but I am still figuring out how to cross into unknown territories with more armor than just a smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will have to check her out. What a fantastic analogy for not having a female role model! I can relate, I’ve had to learn how to be more than the “fun girl” and I’m finding I’m so much more than that! So empowering!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A telling testament; a treatise, and poetically spoken on the power of the individual. And the references, pleasantly compliment it nicely.

    I like the face paint. Although in context to this post I wanted to say war paint. Even though you’ve done battle, I didn’t know how well it would be received, or if it is even appropriate to say such things, these days.

    Enjoyed.

    Peace, strength, courage.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Am I ever happy to have the pleasure of reading this. Exceptionally well written. I wonder how many of us can relate to this. I know I can. I look forward to reading many more of your posts. Wishing you a beautiful evening!

    Liked by 1 person

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