Last night, before my run, I watched the finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show. I have been watching the Oprah show for all 25 years that it has been on TV, and that makes it since I was 15 years old. Some seasons I watched more than others, but every season, I watched. And every season, I learned.
I read much of the media critics’ reviews of the finale, and per usual, most of them took the lazy way out and disclaimed the actual intention of her show by pointing out her obvious business savvy and mostly describing her work as a means to a very successful, billionaire-y end. Yeah, duh. No shit she is a media and entertainment phenomenon that we are unlikely to see for at least another 50 years. But they always miss the point: the reason she IS so successful is because of her ability to articulate what she has learned about living a life with integrity and grace and humility and joy to the rest of us by making it safe for US to share our failures and triumphs right there on television! We not only are validated by each other (the most important part), but she gave us a wealth of resources which only blossomed with the publication of her magazine and of course, the internet machine. So yeah, did I ever get annoyed with the commercialism of “My Favorite Things” or having to listen to Julia Roberts yammer on about Danny Moder one more effing time? Of course. But that is not the Oprah that I was tuning in for. My Oprah, and I’d venture to say everyone’s Oprah, is the one who was there day in and day out, showing me those aha moments that allowed me to make better decisions about my life going forward and to be grateful for the life I have.
I have been nervously toying with the idea of sharing more intimate stories here on this blog, but because I have not yet realized a vision for what that looks like in the big picture, I have been reluctant to open up about certain things. I think this is more about prudence and maturity than fear and I know that because I feel incredibly confident every time I write a post and the hit that “publish” button. Writing has been critical to my recovery from a near-total loss of self after being in an abusive marriage which then turned into a lingering and emotionally and financially devastating divorce. Without the ability to work some of it out here, and then receive actual cheers of support and shares of their own similar struggles from family and friends who read it, I might still be in the shadows. And that is how Oprah ran the show. Brave guests shared, we related, we mulled it over, (sometimes for longer than we or others thought it would take), we made the necessary changes to our thinking and our actions, and miracle of miracles, we were all rewarded with blessings by living our best lives.
A writer and blogger I admire very much, Maggie Mason, is also an Oprah devotee. Not only has she been to the show and attended the surprise send-off in Chicago last week, she embodies the values of living your best life. On her blog, she asked for some participation in a little Oprah gratitude project. The assignment was to take a photo of yourself with your favorite Oprah lessons written out and then post it to a flickr group she created, #thanksOprah. I am still not a flickr user, and am pretty much over the self portrait photography explosion of the mostly Facebook variety, BUT, she offered a loophole for Luddites like me, and said we could post our favorite lessons in the comments of her blog post. So many wonderful Oprah lessons poured in, as well as so many adorable photos, that when viewed as a group were sweet and powerful and inspiring. I wrote a few of my faves in a comment, the theme for what I needed at a certain time in my life is obvious:
Never give up.
The Universe first talks to you in a whisper. Pay attention.
And then, I went back a few hours later with another one, one I think of often, and also from a lesson I learned the hard way:
Always sign your own checks.
And then, because the Universe pays attention to the work we are doing to make ourselves authentic and whole, I experienced a small moment of the power of validation this morning. Ms. Mason had picked one of my favorite Oprah lessons (“Always sign your own checks.”) and listed it in the post with the gratitude photos! I was sitting there on the ferry, just doing my normal reads of news and blogs and when I got to that post and saw mine and my name, my smile came up from my toes and out the top of my head and stayed there for another two hours. Truly, there is no greater feeling to receive as a human being than validation. It is a form of love, because it is honors what you know in your gut is right, and love is always right.
So just like Oprah said, no goodbyes, but only, til we meet again. Because the people who are supposed to be in your life never really go away from you. And if we learn to let go of and heal from the bad relationships, we will only have room for the love and validation of those who really just see us.