April is a special month to my heart.
The month my beloved grandfather was born, when I met a dear ex-boyfriend who was supposed to be husband but didn’t, and the month a woman named Maya Angelou was born. Maya, a prominent black woman and author influenced the world with the beauty of her words and poetry reflecting her strong values and beliefs to inspire others with goodness, spread kindness, and overcome hate.
The first book that ever captured me as a child was hers, I Know Why the Birdcage Sings. While I don’t remember much of it now, I do remember that I randomly selected this book because the title captured my attention. I love birds; I love birds who sing; and I wanted to know why the birdcage sings. It was an innocent book selection with deep curiosity.
I remember falling in love with the book. I remember writing an essay about it, and then a biography essay about Maya Angelou. I wish I could remember what I wrote, but all I do recall is how I was inspired by the beauty of Maya’s selection to words, how she addresses real human issues, and chose to be strong instead of frail, kind instead of cruel, and to love instead of hate.
Over the years, I came across her quotes from time to time. Many people could relate to this: just when you are going through a crisis, break up, failing in something, feeling despair, confused, mourning, or anything else, the world surprises you with a quote that speaks to you and the moment you are living in now. Sometimes taken as a sign- to help you move forward. And sometimes it speaks to you in comforting your pain. And sometimes it reminds you of who you really are. This year, through her words, Maya Angelou reminded me of my courage.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. “
Courage. I have never heard myself saying this word as much as this year. And I have come across this quote to remind me of the events I have been facing this year; events which have revealed my courage, required my courage, and prepared me to be courageous. I often wonder how this year’s theme is consistent with exactly that: courage. I realized, that after being vulnerable, lost, found, lost again, and found once more, for many years, there had to be a time where eventually, I had to be courageous. I realized that along with my vulnerability my resilience and strength have developed over time, but courage had not yet been born. I remembered that my courage to love was different than my courage to stand up for myself, my values, my beliefs, my rights, and for what is right. And courage was the one thing that made me realize that my moral compass can not be re-calibrated for anyone or an unjust situation.
I hadn’t realized that my heart was not afraid anymore to break the silence and speak up. I realized that with this, there will be consequences. But did it matter? What really mattered was finally being able to rise up and stand up for the right. Because nothing will ever change if you don’t speak up. This year’s events were situations that put many things that mattered to me at risk: relationships, job, career, family, friendships. And yet, as much as I care for all of the above, what mattered to me was my ability to not only share how I feel, but act on how and what I feel is right. My body ached for days on end while I fought my thoughts inside me. My mind told me one thing while my heart encouraged me with another. Anxiety developed as I became more confused with the decisions I had to make.
And then, Maya’s words appeared. And she reminded me that courage is essential should I want to practice any other virtue consistently; I cannot love, be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest without courage. And she was right. You have to have courage to love someone; be vulnerable in front of them, expose, devote and express yourself to them. You have to have courage to care for others by putting them first, become self-less. You have to the courage to love yourself and at times put yourself at the forefront to be able to continue walking through life. You have be courageous to be honest – because many don’t want to hear the truth in the first place. You can not truly be yourself if you have no courage to show up as yourself to the world. You are not really you if you lack courage to be yourself- fully, wholly, and authentically yourself.
Finally, I was liberated from the cage I was imprisoned and conflicted in. Maya’s words liberated me – I broke through the cage- and my wings were neither chipped nor clipped- nor were they prevented from flying. The bird is flying and is finally singing. I stood up for my values and I spoke up for what is right. I think, that now, I too know why the birdcage sings.
2018, so far you’ve been a great lesson of courage to me. And April, thanks so much for reminding me of Maya Angelou’s words to continue to inspire me in building my courage along the way. While I pray Maya’s soul is resting in peace, I hope that coming across her precious words during her birthday month and acting on them would probably make her smile and bring her soul some comfort.
Rest in Courage, Maya.
Originally published at mindfullcravings.wordpress.com