Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fully Human

"Bold and Beautiful"

I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Maya Angelou yesterday, and I have been trying to get in touch with why she had such an impact on me. Yesterday I came across something she once said, and I immediately realized why I was always so drawn to her. 

I work very hard, and I play very hard.
I'm grateful for life - I believe life loves the liver of it.
I live it.

If ever there was a person who loved life and lived it fully, it was this remarkable woman who grew up  in an Arkansas cotton field, experienced all the humiliation, prejudice and degradation the "Jim Crow" South had to dish out; and then went on to be a world renowned poet, author, teacher and mentor.  

Maya Angelou was a dancer, a singer, a street car conductor, a magazine editor, a friend and associate of the most eminent African Americans of the mid-20th century, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was a well-respected college professor with a string of honorary degrees from various universities. She was a renowned poet and accomplished author - reading one of her poems at the inauguration of President Clinton. She spoke six languages, and before her death, President Obama bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award on her (the country's highest civilian honor).  

Talk about a full life!

I've been thinking about what it means to live a life that's full, and I look to Maya Angelou as a model and an example for my own life.  

Lots of people today live life very cautiously. They carefully plot out their futures, surround themselves with like-minded people, protect and guard their resources.  For many people, life is predictable and controllable. They may be stuck in a rut but at least the rut is comfortable and familiar.  Living like this, the world is very small and life is pretty empty.     

When I look at someone like Maya Angelou, I see someone who lived a big, bold, risky, generous and adventurous life.  She embraced pain and failure as widely as she embraced joy and success, and even in the midst of all the darkness and the suffering, she always claimed the light. She lived with hope knowing that in the end love always wins the day.

It seems to me that you can only live a full and bold life by living with hope - freed from the grip of fear, giving up the ego's careful control, embracing all the surprises life might have to offer.

I will miss the "fullness" that Maya Angelou brought to the human family and always look to her as an example of how to be "fully alive." 

I call to mind something that the Buddhist Nun, Pema Chodron once said:

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake 
is to be continually thrown out of the nest.
To live fully is to be always in no-man's land,
to experience each moment as completely new and fresh.

I sit in my garden as I usually do, greeting the sun at the beginning of a new day. Yesterday is past, tomorrow never comes.  All I have is now and it's all brand new.  

So I open my arms to all that "is" - open to the pain, the sorrow, the failure, the joys and the successes of living every day.  And I live in hope because I truly do believe that love abides, and in the end love does conquer all. 

I'm grateful for life - I believe life loves the liver of it. 


  1. Megan Malone-FranklinMay 30, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    What a lovely reflection on such a full life!

    1. Megan, thanks so much! For me, Maya is an American hero