Friday, May 30

The Mayas in Our Lives

I love this introspective gaze.
This week we lost a beautiful and talented lady...Maya Angelou. She was a person full of light, despite the darkness that so often surrounded her. She was deeply introspective and had a way of conveying that emotion through her storytelling. If you have not read some of her poetry or prose, I can't express how much you are missing. I began with I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - like most of you, it was assigned reading in some English class. I didn't get it at first - because I was this goofy white kid who had led a pretty sheltered life and here was this woman talking about her struggles. Every time I read it, I find a new level to appreciate. It is much like watching a garden mature...tall trees lending a hushed luxury of green everywhere.

Since I did not get to know...or even meet!...her in real life, she will live on in her powerfully written words. Thanks to wonders of the internet, I can even see her sing and hear her recite Still I Rise. I mourn the loss to the world - but the most direct affect I felt at her passing was the moment I thought of some of the Mayas who have directly affected my life.


Deeply introspective.


Tenacious friends.

This reminds me so much of Susan
It became apparent when a friend posted on Facebook how she would miss Maya Angelou being in this world. And I reflected on how very much like Maya this friend is. She is a free spirit, lives in some frozen tundra in California? I never realized how much it snowed in Lake Tahoe - but she posts crazy pictures of snowshoeing and bears eating bird feeders and her whole body smiles in pictures! I met her when I was a theatre rat. Hung out at the theatre ALL the time. Sets, lighting, props, painting...I was game for anything.

I met Susan when she stage managed the annual performance of The Nutcracker. And for regional ballet, these people pulled off OUTSTANDINGLY professional performances. And she scared me a little bit. But I learned how to stage manage just watching her. Those were my base skill sets for most all of my employed life - some of my favorite years were standing in the wings. She was my best friend's mom, and hanging out with them was always a time a uncontrollable (snorting milk out of your nose...) laughter, intelligent discussions...acting, singing, passion! Susan Shank Mix, one of the best Mayas in my life.

Yep, Carlton laughed just like this!
Another one was a guy, but he was definitely a Maya. A fierce educator, a defender of children's need to learn in their own way, larger than life. Carlton filled up a room with light from the moment he walked into it. He laughed fully - he would just throw his head back and howl! He gave my family (and a think a few hundred other families over the course of his teaching career) a catch phrase that helps us get along in the world: "Keep it in your head." Reminding us that we all know what you are thinking - that it isn't something helpful - so the best course of action is to just swallow it down. No need to say it. Just keep it in your head. Be the bigger person. Let it go. My sister commented on Facebook today (May 30, his birthday) that Carlton would have loved Facebook. Indeed he would have. The world lost him wayyyy too soon. He was one of those rare people who could look you in the eye and talk to you and make you feel like the most important person in the world. He and I had a chance to have several conversations during a turning point in his life - as he left his position as my sister's roommate in Richmond. He never treated me like a kid sister - I was proud that he saw me as an intellectual equal. Which I found incredibly inspiring.

People change our lives in tremendous ways. They change them in subtle ways.

It reminds me of a favorite quote from Maya Angelou. It was in the April 2011 edition of O, the Oprah magazine (had to Google that, but wanted to be respectful of her intellectual property). "You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told,'s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that, I try to make sure that my experiences are positive."

I've always kind of shorthanded the same perspective on life...We are the sum total of our experiences. Whatever you are going through is giving you something for the road ahead. Maybe you'll be able to share your life experience with someone, help them to avoid a pitfall or endure a rough patch. Be sure to soak up all the experiences that you can!!!

Thank you to all the Mayas in my life (this post would take till Tuesday if I shared everything!).

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