Presence and Peace

18 Timeless Quotes By Maya Angelou


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Much has been written in the last week about the astonishing life and legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou.

Years ago, I attended one of her readings at the Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City.  I remember sitting transfixed, spellbound by her melodic voice.

I can’t recall the book or topic on which Angelou spoke.  Heck, she could have read from The Kansas City Star and I would have been a happy camper.

There are a precious few people in this world who can captivate a crowd the way she could; even fewer who can touch that tiny space of raw vulnerability deep within each soul.

Dr. Angelou was one of those people.

Outside, after her talk in Kansas City on that long-ago autumn night, I touched her coat sleeve as she walked to her waiting car.  It was an impulsive action, one I don’t regret, one that set up a lifetime of smiles each time I recall the memory.

Thank you for your peace, Dr. Angelou.

In the spirit of commemorating her life, here are 18 snippets of Dr. Angelou’s timeless and ageless wisdom.  Please enjoy.

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.

Nothing will work unless you do.

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

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

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

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.

You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.

I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

In so many ways, segregation shaped me, and education liberated me.

A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

And lastly, these words of Dr. Angelou’s that make me laugh out loud:

I’m a serious aficionada of country music – Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry. I’ve even written some songs. They haven’t done anything of mine yet. But it’s only a matter of time.

The time may be closer than we think.

Photo courtesy of pippalou

Who Creates the Wind Beneath Your Wings?


photo copyWho helps you rise above challenges?  Who pushes you to move past the crappy situations in life–without inflicting bodily harm?

Who is always there for you, no questions asked?

Who tends to irritate you, usually when you’re a stubborn nincompoop?

Who are your teammates, your tribe, your go-to peeps?

Who are your people who say, “What do you need?” when you call (and mean it) instead of “What do you want?” (and hope you don’t tell them.)?

The circles of Team Beth (please replace my name with yours)

There is a ring of people close to me–I can count on one hand the people who are unconditionally, unequivocally, even unconventionally there for me no matter what and no questions asked. Oh my God, these are my lifesaving heroes because I know they’ll go to the mat for me.

There is a secondary ring of people I can call and they’ll listen, express concern and offer to pray.  I need these people too; they play an invaluable role.

The third ring is my cadre of social connections–the people I respect more than really know, but their reputation for spreading love, generosity and kindness is real.  Sometimes I turn to these folks when I can’t yet reach out to the first or second ring because I’m caught up in fear.  These people help me find the courage to move closer to my heart, tighter to my inner rings.

Getting through the sucky times

I’ve shared here that I’m walking through several growth situations right now.  None of them is life-threatening (or sobriety-threatening, for that matter), but lump them all together and these are some crazy-making times.

A couple of weeks ago, as I headed out-of-town, my sweetie handed me a bundle of greeting cards sealed in envelopes.  She’s an old-fashioned paper card giver–love it!–so giving me a couple of cards to read while I’m gone is not unusual.

This was a thick bundle, though.  Nine cards.  Yes, nine.  Even a couple from our dog.

They were covered in stickers and funny notes.  The cards were heartfelt and hugely comforting.  Several of the cards even held those little 2×2 cards with tear off tabs revealing an inspirational quote.

I teared up more than once as I read those cards over the course of the few days I was gone.  Here are the quotes:

We are most alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~ Thornton Wilder

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart.  Pursue those. ~ Michael Nolan.

I am so glad you are here.  It helps me to realize how beautiful my world is. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other. ~ Audrey Hepburn

Caring is everything. ~ Friedrich von Hügel

The most precious things of life are near at hand. ~ John Burroughs

My sweetie did it right, didn’t she?  That’s why she’s my #1 fan, superstar of my inner circle and wind beneath my wings.  Everyone should have a sweetie like mine.

Maybe you do.  That will be my prayer for you.

12 Gifts From Mom to Mother Yourself


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This past weekend was an exceptional one as I traveled to Kansas City to celebrate impending motherhood for my oldest niece.

Her baby shower helped diminish the sadness of four Mother’s Days without my own mother.  While Mom’s spirit is with us as we wait for this precious new life, it’s natural to mourn the passing of our moms who have closed the circle of life.

The best traits of motherhood

Much has been written in the last few days honoring mothers and their contributions to our lives.  I believe we can keep those sentiments alive and well throughout the year by holding them close to our hearts.

It begins with acknowledging that each of us–guys and gals–hold within us the best characteristics of motherhood.  These are traits we can use to mother ourselves.

Think back to when you were a kid.  Did your mother praise you, encourage you and tell you that you could be or do anything you wanted?  Mine did.

My mom stood right behind my decision to go to journalism school and when I graduated on her 45th birthday (The anniversary of that momentous event is actually in two days, on the 14th.  I’ve been out of school for 31 years and Mom would have been 76.).

She told me I’d given her the best birthday present ever.

In her later years, especially after I went to work for a national non-profit, Mom took great pride in telling people I flew all over the country to help keep kids off drugs.

Speaking “Mom-isms” to yourself

The idea came to me over the weekend that I can use those same mothering gifts with myself.  Why not?

When I’m quiet and concentrate, I can nearly hear the sound of my mother’s voice giving me advice or talking me through a challenge.  Why not channel her voice and make it my own, say the things to myself that she would say to me?

Here are the 12 Mom-isms that best summarize my mother’s advice to me:

Encourage yourself to always give your best and be your best.

Passion and creativity will take you a long way in life.

Accept yourself just as you are today.

Some days you have to light your own fire under your dreams and ideas because no one else is lighting it for you. And that’s just the way it is.

You give birth to a new you every day.  Take care of you in every possible way.

Swaddle yourself with loving thoughts and nurturing ways.

Never judge yourself too harshly and forgive unceasingly.

Add zest to your life with laughter and playful silliness.

Push and prod yourself, expect the best.

Love with abandon.

Open your arms wide to receive the gifts of each and every day.

Always know that you are blessed beyond belief.

I’ll cherish her words of hope and encouragement and love forever.  And I’ll honor her every day by keeping her words alive.

What words from your mother can you use to mother yourself today?  Please share below.

Photo of jeltovski

La Vida Brinca: Life Jumps


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While in Mexico two weeks ago, I lost track of how often we were offered tequila.  Seriously.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner, our resort hosts were a bit befuddled by the two non-drinking women from Tejas who politely asked for water or Coke Light.

Vacations are for celebration, they said, and had I been at their resort prior to 1991, I would have definitely agreed.  At breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Mucho tequila.

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating victory over the French military forces of Napoleon III in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  Of course, through the years, the holiday has spilled into a time for folks in the United States to celebrate too.  More tequila!

La vida brinca

A photographer and screenwriter named Bill Wittliff brought the phrase to life when he used a camera technique called pinhole photography to depict everyday Hispanic living.

He published a book called La Vida Brinca filled with photographs that have a soft, fuzzy edge.  Without the aid of a lens, the viewer gets to interpret meaning from a raw, unadorned image.  Texas Monthly Magazine pondered the “spiritual and mystical” element of the photos when the book was published in 2006.

The University of Texas Press wrote that Wittliff’s method of shooting tranquil landscapes, religious ceremonies, siestas and, yes, celebrations, “is an ideal vehicle for finding profound meaning in the commonplace, for seeing beyond what the eye can see.” 

Life jumps. It frequently surprises, even mesmerizes the person living the life. @bheretoday (Click now to tweet!) Yet, what if we could bring our visual aperture down to the size of a pinhole, then close one eye and squint through the tiny opening with the other eye?

Would we too find profound meaning in the commonplace and apply imagination “beyond what the eye can see”?

Celebrate the simple, watch for the profound

It’s tempting this week to carry around a piece of paper with a tiny pinhole in the center for the times when life starts jumping.  If I close one eye and squinch up the other, I’ll bet that what I think I’m seeing–the crazy, shifting, startling images that my mind’s eye conjures up, will soften.

I really want to see the simple and profound this week.  In fact, in the spirit of acting as if, I’m stating right now that this week IS simple and profound.

Let life jump.  I’ll watch through my pinhole.  Trust me, it’s better than drinking tequila.

Photo courtesy of pippalou

How to Bring the Peace of the Beach Back Home


IMG_1924 My sweetie and I returned a week ago from a relaxing spring vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and celebrating my birthday.

People talk about needing their vacations, but I’m telling you, we really needed ours.  We’ve experienced our share of fears and worries in the last 18 months after we each received an undignified job loss (also known as a layoff).  Even our little Jack Russell pooch seemed skeptical at times about whether there would be a meal cut-back but happily none of us has missed one yet.

On the day before we left, I wrote in my journal, “I’m going to leave all the trauma/drama of the last 18 months on the beach as an intended sand sculpture. Let the waves wash my emotional angst out to sea.

“I surrender–there is no need to pack it around anymore.  All that crap really over-stayed its welcome anyway.  I’m ready to move on without it.  There is a new me coming; this time next week my arms will fling IMG_0002_2open wide to welcome the next phase of this life adventure.  But first there must be an emptying to make room for the new.”

The timing of our trip coincided with Easter Week–I’m a huge fan of symbolism.  I wrote, “This week is the perfect confluence of my birthday, Easter Week and a beachside surrender.”

My Caribbean birthday

First, a shout-out of thanks to the Valentin Imperial Maya Resort–wow, did those folks make me feel special! Throughout our stay, they sent me two beautiful cakes, a bowl of incredible fruit and an exotic flower arrangement.  Plus, my sweetie decorated our suite top-to-bottom with confetti, streamers and birthday signs.

As I sat writing on the veranda on the morning of my birthday, gazing at the mangrove forest and the sea beyond and listening to the massive bird brigade, I felt blissfully content.  I wanted nothing more than what my senses absorbed in those moments.

Later, as we walked the beach, knowing that love had no limit, I started to let go, and that process continued for the next five days.  Our time at the beach was restful simplicity followed by big decisions like whether to nap at the pool or read in the cabana.

Each day was filled with bright, sun-drenched beach walks, ocean swims and dining al fresco.  We recharged our minds and refreshed our spirits.

The reality of reality

As our vacation wound down and new adventures back in Dallas beckoned, I found myself trying to bridge the divide between beach and everyday living.  Sure enough, our first days back were a sensory overload of city sounds.  Where oh where was Beach Cabana #19?

And, how could we bring the peace of the beach into our day-to-day?

It’s simple, but as with the 12-step program I follow, definitely not easy.  The answer, as I see it, is to figure out a way to find a solid rightness about simply sitting and being, which of course means scheduling in breaks during workaday activities.

Tweet: The serenity of the beach can always be a part of us IF we deliberately and intentionally work at it. @bheretoday

Here’s what I’m doing:

1.  Starting my days as I did while at the beach.  This means reflective contemplation and journaling.

2.  Getting outside and moving.  We walked four times as much at the beach than when at home.  My body is more fluid than it’s been in a long time.

3.  Connecting with nature.  Although we’re landlocked here in north central Texas, with the exception of a few sizable lakes, there are plenty of trees and plants blooming and birds flitting.

4.  Breathe deeply.  Observe intently.  Spend time staring into space.  And above all, continue to let stuff go.

(One more:  Start adding to the next vacation jar!)