Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now. Virago Press. 1994
I am currently reading Maya Angelou’s book, Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey, now and there are a few quotes that I would like to mention that have stood out or spoken to me in any sense , way or form.
“When we give cheerfully , and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed. Charity is kind;…envieth not’…vounteth not itself, is not puffed up.” (Page 18). This quote reminds me of a saying, “Charity begins at home” and it is true.
“I looked up the road I was going and back the way I came, and since I wasn’t satisfied, I decided to step off the road and cut me a new path.” (Page 22). This helped me to understand that all of us are in control of our own paths and that we can always create another path when we are not satisfied with the current one we are on.
“Content is of great importance.” …”Attention must be paid to not only what is said but how it is said, to what we wear, as well as how we wear it. In fact, we should be aware of all we do and of how we do all that we do.” (Page 27). This is important as it forces one to consider all their actions in totality.
“Meet adverse situations with the intent and style to control them.” (Page 29). This ties in with the quote of creating your own path and understanding that you are in control of your own life.
“Spirit is an invisible face made visible in all life.” (Page 33). When I read this, I thought of people say that they can see one’s spirit and although it may be an abstract concept, it makes sense.
“I believe that Spirit is one and is everywhere present. That it never leaves me. That in my ignorance, I may withdraw from it, but I can realise its presence from the instant I return to my senses.” …”It is the belief in a power larger than myself and other than myself which allows me to venture into the unknown and even the unknowable.” (Page 34). The Spirit or notion of a Spirit is spoken of many times in Catholicism, even when they pray, they say, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” There is a belief that the Spirit is always around you, guiding you, protecting you, moulding you.
“There are a few misguided wits who think they are being complimentary when they declare a woman is ‘too much’ (Page 39) Oh, how often are women told that they are ‘too much’ and how frustrating is it that when you are too much, you still aren’t enough for people.
“She will then take his burdens upon her and make his crooked ways straight.”…”I meant ‘too much’ to be a sign of my appreciation. I don’t see how you could misread my meaning. You must be paranoid.”… “Well yes. A certain amount of paranoia is essential in the oppressed or in any likely targets of oppressors. We must stay vigilant and be very careful of how we allow ourselves to be addressed. We can too easily become what we are called with all the unwelcome responsibilities the title makes us heir to.” (Page 40) This speaks to the idea of women being oppressed not only o the basis of their skin colour but also being oppressed by the men around them. It speaks to the notion of women standing firm in how they wish to be addressed and to take ownership of their names.
“We need to have the courage to say obesity is not funny, vulgarity is not amusing, insolent children and submissive parents are not the characters we want to admire and emulate.” (Page 44) We as women, need to stand up for what we believe in, even when it is difficult, even when it will hurt us but we need to go to bed every day knowing that we have done something , anything to make the world a better place and that we have ensured that people understand when they are body-shaming and to stop their problematic behavior.
“In a world where many desperately seek to know all the answers, it is not popular to believe, and then state, I do not need to know all things. I remind myself that it is sufficient that I know what I know and know that without believing that I will always know what I know or that what I know will always be true.” (Page 48) We put too much pressure on ourselves to know everything and the be everything and sometimes we need to sit back and accept that we don’t and we need to be content with what we do know.
“I think I know what looks good on me, and I certainly know what feels good in me.”(Page 55). Women need to carry that confidence within them and to be certain of who they are without seeking validation from anyone else.
“…it was sad that the employers owned the gracious house, the swimming pool, three cars, and numberless palm trees, but had no joy.” (Page 64) One can have all the material goods in the world, and still not have happiness.
“…and I realise that living well is an art which can be developed. Of course, you will need the basic talents to build upon: They are a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings, an assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift. That people who may differ from you in political stance, sexual persuasion, and racial inheritance can be founts of fun, and if you are lucky, they can become even convivial comrades. Living life as art requires a readiness to forgive. Because of the routines we follow , we often forget that life is an ongoing adventure.” (Page 65) We need to appreciate everything that happens to us , whether good or bad and allow ourselves to grow and learn from it but we should not allow it to break us down.
“We leave our homes for work, acting and even believing that we will reach our destination with no unusual event startling us out of our set expectations. The truth is we know nothing, not where our cars will fail or when our buses will stall, whether our places of employment will be there when we arrive, or whether, in fact, we ourselves will arrive whole and alive at the end of our journeys. Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realise that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art :to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice and admit when what we expected to happen did not happen. We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed. Life seems to love the liver of it. Money and power can liberate only if they are used to do so. They can imprison and inhibit more finally than barred windows and iron chains.” (Page 66) Life is full of surprises, sometimes we don’t know what will happen the following day but we need to be strong enough to know that we can deal with whatever stands before us and that we will emerge as conquerors.
“It wasn’t that I had stopped believing in God; it’s just that God didn’t seem to be around in the neighborhoods I frequented.” (Page 75) This is the conversation many people are having , how can there be a God when so many people are suffering?
“In order to survive, the ample soul needs refreshments and reminders daily of its right to be and to be whatever it finds itself.” (Page 79). Be yourself unapologetically.
“Sister , there are people all over the world last night , poor and rich and white and Black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this weather or ten minutes of that plowing that person was grumbling about. So you watch yourself about your complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”(Page 87). We should be grateful for what we have and to appreciate the journey that we are on.
“Too many times for comfort I have expected to reap good when I know I have sown evil.”(Page 91). This happens when you expect something good to come from a bad situation.
“I try to plant peace if I do not want discord; to plant loyalty and honesty if want to avoid betrayal and lies. Of course, there is no absolute assurance that those things I plant will always fall upon arable land and will take root and grow, nor can I know if another cultivator did not leave contrary seeds before I arrived. I do know, however, that if I leave little to chance, if I am careful about the kinds of seeds I plant, about their potency and nature, I can, within reason, trust my expectations.” (Page 92). What we give the universe, is what it gives back to us.
“African-Americans as slaves could not even claim to have won the names given to them in haste and given without a care, but they pridefully possessed a quality which modified the barbarism of their lives. They awoke before sunrise to be in the fields at first light and trudged back to the floor-less cabins in the evening’s glooms. They had little chance for amicable exchange in the rows of cotton and the stands of sugarcane; still, they devised ways of keeping their souls robust and spirits alive in that awful atmosphere.” (Page 101) Let them take everything away from you but never allow them to take your mind and your thoughts, those should always be yours.
“We must re-create an attractive an attractive and caring attitude in our homes and in our worlds. If our children are to approve of themselves, they must see that we approve of ourselves. If we persist in self-disrespect and then ask our children to respect themselves, it is as if we break all their bones and then insist that they win Olympic gold medals for the hundred-yard dash. Outrageous.” (Page 103). We need to be the examples and set examples for the generations to come, we need to allow ourselves to be their mirrors.
“At the end of my meditation I came to understand that I had been looking for love , but only under specific conditions. I was looking for a mate, but he had to be a certain colour, he had to have a certain intellect. I had standards. It was just likely that my standards eliminated a number of possibilities.” (Page 112). It is always good to have standards but we need to ask ourselves if we can meet the same standards we have set for other people.
“I explain in no uncertain voice if there is even in the slightest chance that I might take a statement the wrong way , be assured that I will do so. I advise the speaker that it would be better to remain silent than to try to collect the speaker’s bruised feelings , which I intend to leave in pieces scattered on the floor. I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves to be ready to be able to come to our own self-defense.” (Page 118). We need to be strong-willed and certain of ourselves and thoughts when we speak. We must remain true to who we are and remain assertive.
He said, “Well I’m saying that the Black soldiers are having it particularly rough, but our guys are having a bad time, too. I asked, “Would you repeat that?” He said, “Well, I’m saying. . . ” Then his mind played back his statement , or he reheard the echo of his blunder hanging in the air. He said, “Oh, my God, I’ve made such a stupid mistake and I’m speaking to Maya Angelou” He said, “I’m so embarrassed, I’m going to hang up.” I said, “Please don’t. Please don’t. This incident merely shows how insidious racism is. Please, let’s talk about it.” I could hear the embarrassment in his voice, and hesitations and chagrin.” (Page 123). Black people: Black Lives Matter! White people in response: All Lives Matter!
“It must be remembered, however, that jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening.” (Page 129) Too much jealousy can push the person you love away from you.
“The woman who has the fortune to plan a pregnancy also has the opportunity to experience rare pleasures. She can consciously participate in the evolution of her body from fecundity to its ultimate production stage, the delivery of a child. During the entire period , if she remains attentive, she will marvel at the emergence of new and delightful sensualities. She must carefully prepare her mind in order to enjoy the parturition. She will spend time appreciating her body before conception. Knowing that her features will undergo dramatic changes, she and her mate will spend considerable time examining (Page 133) and enjoying her breasts and calves and arms and belly. This is important because it expands on the beauty of pregnancy and what a blessing it is.
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, lovers, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without anyone of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.” (Page 138) This is so true and one day to yourself is not a lot to ask for and is necessary to remain sane.