This letter has taken an extraordinary time getting itself together. I have all along known that I wanted to tell you directly of some lessons I have learned and under what conditions I have learned them.
My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring, still. I have only included here events and lessons which I have found useful. I have not told how I have used the solutions, knowing that you are intelligent and creative and resourceful and you will use them as you see fit.
You will find in this book accounts of growing up, unexpected emergencies, a few poems, some light stories to make you laugh and some to make you meditate.
There have been people in my life who meant me well, taught me valuable lessons, and others who have meant me ill and, have given me ample notification that my world is not meant to be all peaches and cream.
I have made many mistakes and no doubt will make more before I die. When I have seen pain, when I have found that my ineptness has caused displeasure, I have learned to accept my responsibility and to forgive myself first, then to apologize to anyone injured by my misreckoning. Since I cannot un-live history, and repentance is all I can offer God, I have hopes that my sincere apologies were accepted.
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.
Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.
Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.
I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you.
To Tell the Truth
My mother, Vivian Baxter, warned me often not to believe that people really want the truth when they ask, "How are you?" She said that question was asked around the world in thousands of languages and most people knew that it is simply a conversation starter. No one really expects to be answered, or even wants to know "Well my knees feel like they are broken, and my back hurts so bad I could fall down and cry." A response like that would be a conversation stopper. It would end before it could begin. So, we all say, "Fine, thank you, and you?"
I believe in that way we learn to give and receive social lies. We look at friends who have lost dangerous amounts of weight or who have added ungainly pounds and we say, "You're looking good." Everybody knows the statement is a blatant lie but, we all swallow the untruth in part to keep the peace and in part because we do not wish to deal with the truth. I wish we could stop the little lies. I don't mean that one has to be brutally frank. I don't believe that we should be brutal about anything, however, it is wonderfully liberating to be honest. One does not have to tell all that one knows, but we should be careful what we do say is the truth.
Let us bravely say to our young women, "That raggedy hairstyle may be trendy, but it is also unattractive. It is not doing anything for you." And let us say to our young men, "Your shirttail hanging out from under your jacket does not make you look cool, it just makes you look unkempt and uncared for." Some Hollywood fashion police decided recently that appearing in wrinkled clothes with half-shaven faces was sexy because it made men look as if they had just arisen. The fashionistas were both right and wrong. The disheveled look does make the person appear to have just gotten out of bed, but they are also wrong because that look is not sexy, it is just tacky.
The nose, nipple, and tongue rings are the possession of the very young who are experimenting. While I don't like them, they don't bother me much because I know that most of the youth will grow older and will join the social sets in which they work and live. The rings will be discarded and the young people will pray that the holes heal over so that they will not have to explain to their own teenagers why the holes were put there in the first place.
Let's tell the truth to the people. When people ask, "How are you," have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know however, that people will start avoiding you because they too have knees that pain them and heads which hurt and they don't want to know about yours. But think of it this way, if people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.
Printed from Oprah.com on Tuesday, December 10, 2013