Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise. ~Maya Angelou
Facebook has allowed me to meet so many talented, interesting and amazing people. One of those people is Mary Costanza: A Woman’s Heart and Soul. Her page speaks to every woman and those who love them. It is a community wherein a woman is reminded of her strength, beauty, power and self-worth. Mary reminds women that within them is the key to every secret dream and desire.
Granted, I regularly find that it is as if Mary’s posts speak directly to my heart, but I found a recent one especially compelling. In it, Mary writes about self-expression, which is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. She writes:
She slowly began the process of self expression. She had so much in her heart and soul that she wanted to share with the world. She was tired of being so damn passive, quiet and unknown, and hiding in the shadows. She had a voice and wanted to share who she was with the world. She didn’t want to be loud and obnoxious; she wanted to express herself with class and style, and a little mystery. So she said to herself, let’s go for it, let’s be brave and bold, and let’s step out into the unknown, and with a deep breath, she began to write what she was feeling in her heart and soul, and the creativity was unstoppable, it’s like the sky above opened up and just started pouring down on her. Idea after idea just keep coming, the ideas kept coming so quickly that she couldn’t keep up with them all. She said I am not afraid anymore, she said I’ll dye my hair purple, red, gold whatever color she feels like wearing that day, she’ll wear leather, cover her body in tattoos, buy a Harley, travel the world, have a beer for breakfast or whatever it may be to express what she is feeling inside. She knows that there are those that will judge and criticize her, but she does care anymore, she is old enough, wise enough and brave enough to admit she is a little wild, and wants to be free, and she now knows it’s time to free that wild woman inside, it’s time for her to come out and play, she not hiding her anymore. The beauty of self expression, it can’t be explained; it can only be lived.
For the most part, I discovered self-expression through my role as a trial lawyer. I expect that given the public mindset of lawyers as a whole, it seems odd that one equates the practice of law with self-expression. Nevertheless, as a lawyer, I was able to express myself through one of my favorite medium — writing. More surprising, however, was the extent to which trying cases allowed the actor in me to flourish and blossom. Although representing the client was my first priority as an attorney, doing so placed me at center stage with an opportunity to orchestrate a performance wherein the most compelling, persuasive, engaging and believable party was deemed the victor. In most cases, that party was mine and justice was indeed served.
After years of practicing law, fibromyalgia forced me to resign from my active law practice. I landed on disability. For a very long time, my health took center stage and the idea of self-expression was frivolous and thus banished. In illness, I lost myself and with it the need for self-expression. The passage of time silenced that part of me that delighted in or curious about the act of creation or self-expression. I came to deny that such a need existed. I was lulled into an existence where my thoughts and feelings were unimportant and the only thing that mattered was my ill health and all that it had taken from me. I was told repeatedly that this was an opportunity that few had — a clean slate upon which to create the life that I wanted. I wanted no part of it.
However, as time passed, I began to yearn for a creative outlet that allowed me to express myself in new and exciting ways. With that in mind, I created a list of activities that I wanted to learn and incorporate it into my life as a positive and healthy form of self-expression; something to counter and out weigh the self-defeating thoughts and ideas that had become the norm. I sought to banish the idea that I was not and could not be creative.
During the past year, I’m beginning to overcome the word “can’t” and surrender to both drawing and painting. I am allowing myself to explore various forms of self-expression, some new like photography, painting, and drawing, and others like journaling, blogging and even writing. I’ve come to realize that the move of the hips in dance, every line of a pencil in drawing, every mark or stroke of a brush in painting and every word choice in writing or song, conveys a particular thought, idea, or feeling. Through these forms of self-expression, we release fear and anger, as well as love, joy and happiness. Embracing self-expression can be an antidote to negative thinking, pain and sorrow and an affirmation of forgiveness, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth and self-acceptance.
As I read Mary’s post, I found myself nodding in agreement with one sentence after another. She expresses, far better than I, my thoughts, the why and nature of self-expression, and its’ pull that once unleashed is self-fulfilling. Her words remind me that self-expression is yet another of the precious gifts given to humans as a product of being human, of being alive, and “that it can’t be explained, it can only be lived.”