Disclaimer: my life is not a complete mess. But I’m a Black woman (insert fair share of baggage here) and without disclosing whatever is actually messy about my life, just know that I can feel all those subliminal messages telling me that as a sister with young children in tow, no less, that life for me will never be no crystal stair.
So when I got a chance to attend Oprah’s “Life You Want” weekend and actually get closer to living the life I want (still working on exactly what that looks like), I felt like I’d won the lottery.
In the years since retiring her show, I haven’t been immune to the rumblings of a post-Oprah world—everyone acting like we can really get on with life without her sage, big bosom love. We can’t. We all need Oprah Winfrey, especially Black women, because she’s a Badass Goddess is why.
But it wasn’t just Oprah I went for. The caliber of the other inspirational speakers at The Life You Want Weekend was exceptional. Iyanla Vanzant’s book, The Value of the Valley, for sure taught me a thing or two when I was going through a difficult period. Her words of wisdom helped me back then, so why wouldn’t her larger-than-life personality guide me right now? Nevermind her “Beloved in Ferguson moment.”
The opening Friday was Oprah’s solo night, with her team of trailblazers taking to the stage at Atlanta’s Philips Arena the next day. After what seemed like eternity, the lights grew dim and the media maven glided onstage with the charismatic flair of a rock star on rollerblades. The throbbing crowd of tens of thousands went berserk. Me included. I have seen Oprah zillions of times on screen but seeing her for the first time in person was a whole different thing.
Wearing a tangerine, floor-length gown, you could tell she was on fire. “I’m here to help you take your glory and run with it,” she explained, “That’s a lot of promise in a weekend but you all paid for it.”
For two hours Oprah held court in the gigantic 20-000-seater auditorium. Her heartfelt keynote speech was a strikingly honest account of her spectacular life with video montage, highlighting pivotal moments, and all the while explaining life-lessons learned during the course of her unique journey.
Oprah set the bar high. I was curious to see whether the other handpicked gurus would measure up. I approached day two with an open heart.
Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert delivered an impassioned speech. Her talk, however, was geared towards celebrating fiercely independent women. Admittedly, I am fiercely ambitious, but perhaps not as independent. I am unapologetic about the fact that my choices are restricted by needs of my young family. Still, a great deal of what the New York Times best-selling author said struck a cord: for women to be true to themselves and carve out their own path.
Pastor Rob Bell said something I will remember for forever. He said people tend to think in binary terms: success and failure, good and bad, right and wrong, and so forth.
Truth be told, most of us spend our lives trying to avoid failure (an unavoidable encounter) and negative experiences, said Bell. Yet it is during our trials and tribulations that we are forced to grow and given a chance to change direction.
“Failure is life at its most poignant pushing us in a new direction,” Oprah underscored. “Life is always speaking to us, especially in our greatest trials. The question is will you listen to the whispers.”
All throughout Saturday, she also led workbook exercises focused on transforming your life.
But it was Vanzant, unsurprisingly, who was exceptional. Speaking straight from the heart, she spoke with pure, undiluted honesty.
“When you do not live with integrity, when you abandon your thoughts and betray your feelings, when you do things that aren’t in alignment with who you’re and what you desire, you demise your value, your worth and esteem,” she declared. “Once you diminish your value, worth and self-esteem, you don’t trust yourself because you’re know you’re lying.”
Well, I’m not a liar!
Did Oprah’s The Life You Want weekend move me any closer to getting the life I want? Yes (ish). It’s clear there are no life quick-fixes but the weekend gave me greater clarity and a clearer perspective about how I want to progress, both short-term and long. I also plan to take some bold steps I have been putting off for sometime (you’ll know when it happens). Still, the Goddess is has gone, and what I’m reminded is that it’s up to me, and me alone, to do the work to live life to my greatest potential.
It’s up to you, to do the work to live yours.
People, if you can ever afford to catch Oprah and her power squad on one of these self-help tours, you really should. Sometimes even the most together of us needs an Oprah sized jolt to live the life we want.