Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye...

The end has arrived; after 25 years, the final Oprah Winfrey Show has aired. I'm only half kidding when I say that I don't know what I'm going to do without regular Oprah fixes... 

Now, lest anyone accuse me of bias, let me begin by saying that I am well aware of the criticisms leveled at Ms. Winfrey. Sure, she can come across as a teensy bit self-absorbed (See figs. 1, 2, and 3), but dammit, I love Oprah.

Fig. 1
{Oprah wearing what appears to be a wedding dress to Bob Greene's wedding! For shame, O.}

Fig. 2
{Question: Who's on the cover of O this month? Answer: Oprah, Oprah plus puppies, Oprah times two.}
Fig. 3
{Did you know that she was in a little film called The Color Purple? Did you know that said film was directed by Spielberg?}
Ok, so humility may not be one of Ms. Winfrey's many virtues, but if my life were as cool as hers, I'd probably talk about it all the time too...

I realize that I sound like a total cliche cheeseball, but I really do feel that her show enriched my life. There is so much garbage on TV (I should know, I watch a decent amount of it), but the Oprah show was different. It generally operated on a higher plane, adding something to the conversation by teaching us, making us feel, or making us think. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it was pure escapism - I didn't learn shit from the Octomom episode, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. For the most part, however, Oprah and her team avoided sensationalism and rose above.

So here without further ado, in no particular order, are some of the things I have learned during the many hours of my life that I have spent with O.

1.  The world is full of amazing and inspiring people who have persevered through unimaginable challenges with smiles on their faces. (In other words, I have no business complaining about anything.)

*There was poet and peacemaker, Mattie Stepanek.
I remember my mom and I sniffling through an episode of Oprah where she was interviewing Mattie and his mother. Ms. Stepanek had muscular dystrophy and had passed it on to all four of her children, Mattie was the only one to live past age four. Despite his debilitating disease, Mattie had a palpable and contagious spirit of joy that I have always remembered. Mattie believed he was put on earth  to teach people that "we must remember to play after every storm and to celebrate the gift of life as we have it, or else life becomes a task, rather than a gift. We must always listen to the song in our heart, and share that song with others.”

*There was Monica, the mother who contracted necrotizing fasciitis after a C-section and had to have both arms and both legs amputated.
This woman was so impressive, I vividly remember when she said that she never had a why me? moment, saying only, "I did have moments of 'If God just left me one arm or one leg, life would be a little bit easier,' but that's not the way it went. You make do with what you have. I could still love my girls. The bottom line was I am still here."

*There was Tererai Trent, the Zimbabwean woman who was recently crowned Oprah's favorite guest because of her determined pursuit of an education.

This woman grew up, without running water or electricity, in a tiny village in Zimbabwe where school was a privilege reserved only for boys. By age eleven, Tererai was married to a man who beat her at the mere whisper of a desire for an education, and by age eighteen, she was a mother of three. Although the odds were stacked overwhelmingly against her, Tererai set out to achieve her dream of an American education. You can probably guess where this is going... If you have four minutes, watch the video to see how amazing her journey really is; this is now going to be required viewing in my class. If you have four more minutes, watch Oprah pull off her last big surprise.

*There was also Jacqui Saburido, survivor of a horrific accident caused by a drunk driver; Randy Pausch, the college professor who decided to live life as Tigger when everyone would have understood if he had more of an Eeyore vibe; and even Faith the two-legged dog.

Thanks, Oprah for introducing me to all of these stories that I might not otherwise have known. They have given me pause, reminded me to stay in the moment, and helped me to appreciate all I have.

2. The right bra can make you look ten pounds thinner. Also, Spanx are a gift    from God.
Ever since Oprah had the bra whisperer on, I have been obsessed with going to her store to get measured and find out if I'm wearing the right bra. Thanks to my observant and thoughtful sister, I am sitting on a gift card to Intimacy, the bra whisperer's very own bra boutique. So thanks to O and Mo on that one!

3. If you're ever attacked, you should never let them take you to a second location. 
I clearly remember watching this episode when it first aired in 1991. At that time, I was fairly certain that danger lurked around every corner (I did grow up in the tough neighborhood of Shelburne, Vermont), and I was eager for tips on how to escape death. Anyway, I have always remembered that Oprah's expert said that we must do everything we can to avoid being taken to a secondary location that is isolated and likely to become the site of our demise. When the moment of truth arrives and you are being mugged, carjacked, etc., you should throw your wallet and car keys as far as you can and run in the opposite direction. According to retired police sergeant Sanford Strong, the would-be kidnapper will be taken by surprise and will likely choose your cash and car over you. Watch out muggers, rapists, carjackers, assorted hoodlums, I've got your number.

4. Gratitude is important.

{Source: honor the gift}
"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey
 I think that I was in high school when I first heard Oprah talk about her gratitude journal. I have always known that gratitude is important, but Oprah really drove the point home. I don't always write it down, but every night I at least make a mental list of the many things I have to be thankful for. Apparently it was Meister Eckhart who first said, "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough," but I first heard it from Oprah.

5. Education is power, and if you empower women, you can change the world.

Pretty self-explanatory...I have always admired Oprah's commitment to (and willingness to fund) schools, particularly those that serve girls. This also seems an appropriate juncture at which to give Ms. Winfrey a big shout out for her book club. On her recommendation, I have read and enjoyed: Where the Heart Is, White Oleander, The Poisonwood Bible, The Heart of a Woman, The Bluest Eye, A New Earth, Great Expectations (actually, that was more so on Mrs. Donoghues recommendation and it wasn't really a recommendation so much as it was  demand), Night, and The Secret Life of Edgar Sawtelle.

6. "When you know better, you do better."

{They were laughing at the hilarious joke I just told them. You know, because they're my best friends and we hang out all the time.}
This quote originally came from Maya, but it is one of my and O's faves.  I remind myself and my students of this idea regularly.

1 comment:

Talk to me, Goose