Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For colored girls. . .and so much more.

"Do you have any idea what it mean
to somebody like me to see you talking on that show? 
Do you?"

Okay. So here's a not-so-startling confession:  I'm feeling kind of melancholy today. Why you ask? Oh, I'm sorry--have you been under a rock, or better yet, on an I.C.U. rotation?  Uuuhhh, hello!  It was only the last day of the OPRAH WINFREY show.  Duhhh!

Dude. Deanna and I watched this together and bawled like we knew her personally. Man, oh man. It was not EVEN pretty.

I know, I know. At least one of you reading this has either a.) rolled your eyes so hard that they are now halfway down the block, b.) uttered aloud, "Please don't let this post be about Oprah," or c.) stopped reading this post altogether at the end of the last paragraph. But, hey.  What can I say, y'all? Oprah inspires me. For real.  (Oprah-haters, you can stop reading right here.)<-----

"Let your life be a mentor."

Remember when we were talking that day about a person's life serving to mentor others?  Surely this woman--this "colored girl" from Mississippi who went to a historically black college just like me--has mentored me for more than half of my life. Yes. Oprah Winfrey's life has absolutely served as one of my most cherished mentors.

Wrap your mind around that for a second. . . .especially those who aren't so keen on Oprah Winfrey. She was born in Mississippi in the 50's. Mississippi. In the 50's. As in, the worst place you could be during that time. As in the setting for "The Help." Ponder that for a moment. Now--can you even imagine what it has meant to people like me. . .yes, colored girls. . .to see her speaking with the sass of a sister, taking sometimes unpopular stands, all while holding the entire world's attention? Can you even begin to imagine how proud it makes me of who I am? You have to understand. . . .historically, that's been a struggle for my people. So for some, this thing is deeper than a day time television show with a cult following. I hope that makes sense.

I still remember the early Oprah shows when I was a high schooler, and then later when I was in college. As her show evolved into something more mature and responsible, so did I, and it wasn't until I really grew up that I really came to appreciate what this woman has done for so, so many people.

Especially me.

You think you know. But you have no idea.

Her example has made me want to live a more authentic life. Watching her has made me want to listen more carefully, react more thoughtfully, and live more intentionally. Even starting this blog came after adding it to my "vision board" -- an idea that I took directly from an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." And the truth is . . .ever since I sat cross legged on my floor that evening cutting and pasting and scribbling my biggest, baddest dreams onto that board, something changed inside of me. My already good life started becoming my best life.

Today on her parting show she said that in the deepest parts of her soul she knew that every time she was on that show  that she was doing exactly what she was purposed to do. Like in some divine way she was aligning her energy and her dreams with a calling.  Some folks believe in callings and some don't--and that's cool.  I happen to be one that does.  That's one of the other reasons why I've admired Oprah Winfrey--she's one of the people that got me thinking about being deliberate about my dreams.  About striving to live and breathe and walk fully in my purpose.

I think my vision board helped me to move closer to that goal. It's especially helped me to try to set out to make a bold vision for what I will contribute to this world.  (And let me tell you. . .I have some whoppers on there!) I'm happy she gave me the idea to do it--I look at my vision board every single morning and every single night-- and feel recharged.

Vision compromised: I didn't get on your show, but hey, making 'O' mag was pretty damn cool.

I can't say that I've watched every single Oprah show for twenty-five years, but I have seen a whole bunch of them. I saw the one where she wheeled out the wagon with the fat. I watched that day when Tom Cruise did toe-touches on her yellow couch over his new boo, Katie Holmes.  I cried my eyes out when she introduced her half-sister to the world and even jumped up and down with the crowd on every single "favorite things" episode.  So, yeah. I've not seen them all, but I've seen my share for sure.

Might as well jump.

Of them all, my favorite moment ever in the history of watching Oprah was several years back when former child actress Tracey Gold appeared on her stage.  By no means was this one of the more popular episodes, in fact it probably flew under most peoples' radar. Either way, this was the moment that gave me that "ah hah moment" Oprah's always talking about.

Growing pains. For real.

Ms. Gold, once the golden child of the mega-hit "Growing Pains," was going through some real life growing pains of her own. As if coming on the show before to dish about her very difficult journey through anorexia nervosa weren't enough, this time she was on the show after she'd been arrested for a D.U.I. She'd had a few glasses of wine, drove onto the highway, and promptly rolled her SUV into an embankment nearly killing her entire family.   She was so, so ashamed of herself. I mean, of course she was. Putting your kids into the hospital due to being irresponsible? Um yeah. That's pretty heavy, man.


When the interview started, Tracey Gold was shaking like a leaf. I will never forget how dejected she looked. And don't get me wrong--she had messed up. Drinking and driving is an awful thing and there was no way to sugar coat that fact. But as I watched that episode. . . . I saw my own clay feet, remembering my own lapses in judgment when faced with similar situations through the years.

The shame seemed to suffocate her right there on that stage. But something about the way Oprah listened to her was. . . unforgettable. She didn't make excuses nor did she trivialize what Ms. Gold had done. But she didn't villain-ize her either. Instead she just listened and then admitted the many times that she, too, had had that "swimmy-in-the-head" feeling after that second glass of wine--and drove anyway.

Then, just as Tracey Gold seemed to be at her lowest point in that episode--where her expression looked as hauntingly pain-stricken as this mugshot from that evening's arrest. . . .

We all need redemption.

. . .Oprah Winfrey looked at her and said these words that I have told my patients, my learners, and many, many, many times myself:

"We are not our mistakes. We are our possibilities." 

This was, quite possibly, one of the best things I'd ever heard someone say.  I have that quote on my office door and wallpapered across my heart.  I ponder those words often, and think of them when dealing with Isaiah and Zachary,  and especially when caring for my patients at Grady Hospital.  See, the "ah hah" in those words was crystal clear -- they were words about redemption. Redemption, man.

That day, she needed redemption. Oprah has often needed redemption, too. . . as have many people she's spoken to over the years. So I guess what I'm saying is.  . . we've all needed redemption at one time or another. At least I know I have.

So, yeah.  I'm sad today because I feel like one of my most beloved mentors has just told me that she is moving far, far away even though she is saying over and over, "Oh, don't worry, you'll see me."

First day of kindergarten, 2010.

Last week it was the last day of kindergarten and Isaiah wept uncontrollably the whole way home.  He sobbed and sobbed telling me that he would really, really miss his teacher and also "just being a kindergartner."  No matter how many times I explained that "it would be different, yes, but better, you know?" this kid wasn't having it. Through breathless chest heaves he emphatically stated, "No, Mom. It won't be the same. Because we won't be in kindergarten any more."

Funny. I thought he was being a little dramatic that day, but now, I think I know how he feels. 

I told Isaiah that everything in life has a season and that the season for kindergarten was over.  I also told him that it was okay to be sad when a special season comes to an end.  He seemed to get that concept. After a good cry--and this is what he called it "a good-kind-of-cry, Mom"--he wiped is face and went back to playing and laughing and living.


I suspect that when it really sets in that the show has ended, I will have a good-kind-of-cry, too.  And then, I will quietly reflect on this very special season with this remarkable mentor whose very life has shown me what is possible for someone who looks like me and talks like me and dreams like me if I just give my best effort.  Perhaps, that might even lead to the "ugly cry"--a term I love that I also borrowed from this mentor. Kind of like that "ugly cry" I had while watching yesterday's episode. . .this part on the finale where the four-hundred plus previously underprivileged black men that she'd put through college quietly entered with candles filling an entire stage behind her. Quietly thanking her for sowing a seed into their lives. . . .literally. Men whose rich brown hues resembled those of my own sons . . .and the countless faces I see at Grady every single day.  Those faces represented hope and possibility. . .and I bet in those faces there was some redemption, too.


So. . . .to this mentor of mine who will probably never read these words. . . . I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for living your imperfect life in front of an entire world so that I could fold it into the blue print of my own life.  Thank you for helping me to create a bigger, clearer vision for myself, to savor every miracle, and to dream bigger even if it feels a little embarrassing sometimes. Most of all, thank you for letting your light shine in such a way that illuminates others and gives them the courage to do the same. . .and for reminding me that we are not our mistakes, we are our possibilities.

Yes, ma'am. I will follow you over to your new place. But, like Isaiah, I know in my heart that yes, this season has come to its end and no, it won't be the same.  I know it will be nice over there but, like Isaiah said, I won't be in kindergarten any more. . . . .

The last thing I told Isaiah after hugging and consoling him that day was to remember that his kindergarten teacher would always be his teacher. That makes me smile because right now I need to hear those words, too.

Say what you want about Oprah. Her success was no accident.

Yes, you will always be my teacher.

Thank you, Oprah Winfrey. It's been real. . . . for real. Now . . . if you'll excuse me, I think I will dry my eyes and go back to playing and laughing and living, too.

Happy Wednesday.

Now playing on my internal iPod. . . . . . .Beautiful.


  1. Oprah is a wonder. I will miss her too.

  2. Ugly crying... yes I am! I boo-hoo'd my way through these last few weeks of Oprah... extra snotty on Monday... extra EXTRA snotty on Tuesday! Girl, when Kristen Chenoweth came out singing "For Good" (I'm a ridiculous Wicked fan) I was already crying... but when those brothas came down those aisles??? DONE!!! Put a fork in me... I was DONE! Stedman?!?!... Aretha (who looked GREAT!)... It was all too much for me to take. Today's final episode was PERFECT. I will probably watch it again tonight. I love Oprah. You already know...

    And thank YOU, my beautiful sister, for being my own little Oprah.

    I love you.


  3. Wow. Even I love Oprah. One of my favourite thins about the holidays - being able to watch her on daytime TV. Just makes me feel so uplifted - but I know that just because her show is over, it doesn't means that we won't be able to feel that upliftedness any more, for she has instilled it in everyone who feels the same as we do. :)

  4. Thank you for writing this. I have always been an unabashed Oprah lover and have felt so sad this week watching it all end. I have a friend who works for OWN and has met and talked with Oprah many times -- she actually confirms that the woman is as authentic is "real" life as she is on her show. And doesn't she just freaking glow?

  5. You know, honestly- Oprah is one of those people who has changed the world for the better. Even if I sometimes did roll my eyes, I completely and openly admit that.
    I'm sorry you'll miss her.

  6. That's why you're my girl, Ms. Moon--you do keep it all the way real. I think we can all agree on her changing the world for the better. :)

  7. I wonder if you realize just how inspiring YOU are. I could not get through the whole post (eyes all blurry from tears, and I can't even specifically pinpoint the word or phrase that made them so), I will have to read it in pieces. I keep typing and backspacing... so much to say, so few coherent words available.

  8. I love Oprah and what she has done for the world. She has made such an impact and my bucket list goal was to go to her show...I never got to go. I appreciate your post about Oprah so much. And you are so right about what she went through to get where she is. A self-made woman for us to emulate!

  9. Anush--you are always so very sweet. I thank you.

    Toni B.--yeah, girl, I totally had "get on Oprah show" on my vision board. Guess that has to change to OWN now. Watched two reruns today. Saw the two interviews she did with James Frey who wrote the pseudo-memoir "A Million Little Pieces." After the Tracey Gold moment, this might be one of my favorite Oprah moments. Again, about redemption, but this time she needed to be redeemed. She admitted to lacking compassion and leading with her ego during that interview back in January 2006 after the big stink over his book. Very honest stuff. Was proud of her.

  10. I loved this post. I've been reading your blog for a long time, and never commented. I will miss Oprah deeply, too. You put it in words that touch my heart. She is such a role model, and always showed the truth with compassion. Thank you.


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