Truth versus Judgment

Oprah Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 ...

Oprah Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oprah Winfrey once spoke about how much she had been harshly and unfairly judged at different times.  She had often been taken to court and had always put a lot of energy into defending herself.

But one day, in court, she made a decision.  I’m not doing this anymore.  She said she knew she wasn’t guilty of what she was being accused of, and she chose to let that be enough.  She said no matter what anybody thinks, or how many people damned her, she knew what the truth was.

I remember that moment of watching her as she was talking about it, and how at peace she was with herself.  At peace with herself and in a way

unassailable.  It takes a lot of nerve and courage not to defend yourself when you’re being judged for something that you know you’re not guilty of.

I think it can be important to state the truth and stand up for yourself, but sometimes it’s a waste of time.  Somebody who is judging you has already shown you that they don’t have any interest in knowing the truth about you.  They don’t care enough about you to want to be fair.

It’s tough and it hurts like hell.  But it is what it is.  You can’t let somebody else’s judgment of you be your death sentence.  A friend of mine, writer Ella Camp, said “The past can cast a long shadow over our present- therefore we must at times, actively seek the sun.”

Judgment can be that dark shadow.  It’s driven by stuff in the past – unresolved anger, fear, hurt.   But here’s the thing: nobody’s judgment can actually alter the truth about you.  I reckon to know that is to step away from the shadow and stand in the sun.

I heard the most beautiful thing in the movie The Interpreter the other night.  One of the characters said “a single whisper can be heard above an army when it is telling the truth.”

Inspiring Stuff from Oprah Winfrey and David Arquette

I so love Oprah and that part of the American psyche from which she emerged – and which she’s taken to great heights I think.  She always embraces the biggest, most creative and generous ideas about life and encourages people to be authentic, honest about their challenges.  Yesterday I watched her interview David Arquette who had just come out of rehab, and is walking a very different path in life from that which led to his crisis and the destruction of his marriage.

He was beautiful to watch.  He spoke quietly and was very open and honest about his own behavior to that point; not beating himself to death, but taking responsibility for it, facing his own pain, not running from it, getting help with it and with his recovery so that he can reclaim his life.  Oprah was kind to him and respectful, nurturing in a way that was really great to see.  It was real; there was no rescue in it and no pretense.

At one point she said that it was so important for us to tell our stories openly because when we see somebody else having gone through immense challenges it gives us faith that we can come through our own.  And we all have challenges, nobody is free from that.

It certainly inspired me and reminded me that the journey I’m on, to heal from my past, become more conscious of what drives me and of what life is really about, to see more clearly the choices I’m making and learn how to make ones that bring more quality to my life and that of people in my world, to grow my entitlement and improve my self-esteem – a lot of people in the world believe this is a worthwhile journey and are on it themselves.

I forget that sometimes.  I grew up in a culture where entitlement, emotional fluency, consciousness, personal accountability, cause and effect were alien ideas and practices.  God was a Catholic God, a male and a pretty unforgiving one.  You had one chance and if you blew it this life time that was it forever.  You’d burn in hell for eternity.  Emotions were deeply repressed, behavior consequently massively neurotic.  Anger couldn’t be expressed, so passive aggression ruled the day.  Nobody really understood why anybody did anything, and what lay beneath the surface was unacknowledged.

But what lies beneath the surface is what interests me the most, and it’s what always jumped out at me since I was a child.  I believe it’s where all the power is in life.  Still, sometimes – especially when I’m quite isolated and immobile as I’ve been lately – doubts start creeping in.  Am I just deluding myself that I’m making progress, that I really am stepping out of my history?   Are these ideas I harbor just new-agey escapism?

Then I see Oprah talking to David Arquette about his journey, the importance of emotions, self esteem and entitlement, accountability, the power of love, the value of where crisis can take us.  That we do our best every step of the way. When we know better we do better.

And I’m reassured.  Oprah’s right, we do need to see other people talk about their challenges.  It validates our own, and reminds us we’re not alone and there’s nothing wrong with us because we’re wrestling with life.  In fact, there’s everything right.

The End Of The Oprah Winfrey Show Era

I didn’t get to see the last Oprah show yet, but there’s the most beautiful photo of her in the paper today, crying, her arms outstretched.  I bet the whole audience was crying.  What a phenomenal woman.   She’s been compassionately alongside so many people’s lives in their journey, inspiring us, giving us hope, teaching us that yes, we’re worth it and yes we can!  No matter what the odds.

She’s shown us with her brutal honesty about her own challenges how we need not be ashamed of our own.  How we can step out of history.  And most of all how every single one of us has equal importance and equal rights to a life that’s fulfilling, inspiring to us, that our dreams can come true.  Something she said years ago really sank home for me – she said people worship celebrities, herself included, and lose  their own sense of who they are.  They make comparisons between themselves and these super- successful stars that just aren’t real.

Don’t live for me, she said, live for yourself.  Become your most important person to you.  One of the things I’ve loved about her the most is that despite her phenomenal power, influence and wealth she’s remained at core trustworthy and who she’s always been, except that she’s grown within herself.  Her ego hasn’t bloated, she hasn’t become obsessed with her wealth and power.  She’s stayed true.  Her goal seems to be to help people create a better life for themselves, and she’s got more and more skilled at it.

Another thing I’ve loved about her is her amazing capacity to embrace the biggest idea possible and to encourage others to do the same.  To even help them along the way.  That ability is rare and I think it’s a pearl of great price.  Her generosity of spirit towards life and people is too fabulous for words.

Something that seems to have really blossomed in her over the past couple of years is  her extraordinary capacity for joy, to have fun.  It has a richness and a depth to it that makes it so profoundly meaningful.  Now that has truly inspired me!  I saw a show where she did a shoot for Ellen DeGeneres.  It was a cover for Oprah Magazine.  She wore a fabulous, sensuous red dress that embraced her full figure and didn’t try to hide anything.  She looked stunning and had such a ball with it.

This passionate woman has got heart and so much soul.  I think she’s changed the world and the way women look at themselves, she’s broken down a lot of the myths about what we can’t do.   I’m glad I’ve lived in this time that she could be a part of my life.  And I’m very glad it’s not over, that she’s still going to be around, on OWN.  At a time when she could easily rest on her laurels she launched out into something new, and even risky.

That’s pretty inspiring on its own.  Thanks Oprah, for everything you’ve done so far, for people, for men, women and children.  And thanks for what you’ve done for me, how you’ve inspired me, reminded me of all that’s good in life, taught me to keep reaching and never give up.  To me you’ve embodied unconditional love.  I wish you the best of luck for what lies ahead of you.

Btw, I’m busy making my own life important to me, but I still want to meet you.

Oprah, Truth and Speaking Up for Myself

It’s raining today, a good day to write and work inside.

I looked at Oprah’s invitation to join her new network which goes public next year.  It’s called OWN.  Oprah Winfrey Network.  She has a picture of herself that has been so doctored it doesn’t even look like her.   You’re told you get a personal message from Oprah.  No you don’t.  It’s not possible.   So the first two things that I saw were both not the truth.  A doctored photo of a skinny Oprah, and a “personal video” that wasn’t personal.  It was a shock.

I signed up and followed the link to where she’s looking for people to be on the show.  One of them was “achieve a dream” [my words].  I opened the link, and read “…Oprah Winfrey Network is seeking parents and professionals who have a goal they’ve always wanted to accomplish but never achieved. Women and men who appear to be in their late 20’s or older are encouraged to respond…” [quote OWN].  I don’t understand the word “appear”.  It doesn’t make sense to me, and it pressed quite a few buttons.

And what about the rest of us?  I asked myself, has Oprah abandoned older women?  Women who aren’t mothers, who haven’t been able to create a profession yet?  Women who appear to have slipped through the cracks, but whose life is still massively important to them – who have dreams as big and vibrant as any other kind of women?  Are we not as important?   I don’t know.  All I can know is that Oprah hasn’t chosen us specifically, which I interpreted as that she’s specifically excluded us, for now anyway.

I wondered why.  Well, it’s her network, it’s her baby, it’s her choice.  She’s worked hard to be where she is.

But as for me, I feel sad, abandoned.   I had hoped that she would single out some women in whom I could  see myself reflected.

Clearly I can’t wait for Oprah to give me a voice, or to show me that my life has meaning.  Clearly I need to find it for myself and speak up for myself.