You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread 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.
This isn’t the entire poem by Maya Angelou – just the first few verses, but when I read this poem I get chills running up and down my spine. The defiance. The power. The fight in this poem – it’s as though Maya wrote this poem for me. As I said before, I haven’t copied the entire poem, actually the context in which this is set, and the history behind this poem – I cannot even begin to understand what this incredible woman went through. What happened to her, and many of her contemporaries at that time – horrific..stomach churning, doesn’t even begin to describe it. But the message is what I take with me. Whatever life gives you, whatever cards you are dealt, whenever people or circumstance tries to oppress and suppress you – still I rise.
I’m not sassy or haughty – but I have this belief inside me, this fire burning within me, that I will rise. I have so much I want to achieve, so much I want to do with my life. Throughout my life I have met two types of people: the encouragers and enablers; and the discouragers. Fortunately, I have encountered more positive people than negative. More people who have believed in me and encouraged me than those who haven’t.
I read something this morning which I will share with you because it is an edict that I live my life by: “Don’t settle. Don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.” If you ever ask him, my husband will tell you how many times we may have walked into a restaurant and then either, I don’t like the menu, or, don’t like the attitude of the staff, or, feel the place is overpriced, or something just felt wrong – and I’ve insisted that we aren’t staying, and we simply up and leave. The point is, I believe that we are worth more. I deserve to be treated well, with respect. Having said that – that’s how I treat others. I deserve to be encouraged and my talents to be recognised – but that’s what I do to others. I want to be the best I can be – and that’s what I expect from people around me.
Those of you who know me personally, will know one of my demons is actually my struggle with my weight. I was never a slim girl, or slim woman – always on the larger side and after having my daughters, I became larger still. This is the one demon I battle with several times a day, on a daily basis. I love going to the gym – but time is a factor. The part of the gym that I love the most is actually where the weights are. The free weights, dumb bells, kettle bells etc, and the weight machines that chisel your shoulder muscles, biceps, triceps, lats, glutes – anything you want – these machines can help you. At first, I was really intimidated by this section of the gym, it was the domain of the huge, muscly men, sweating and grunting – staring intently at their muscle definition in the polished mirrors. It was my husband who made me forget all of that, and showed me what to do and how to exercise. Why is this section now my favourite part? It’s because here you can surpass your own expectations. Lifting more than you thought you could; pushing yourself more than you thought was possible; aching, but knowing there’s still more inside you and you won’t stop until your body shouts enough!
But as I said earlier, the gym sessions have become almost non-existent. A couple of weeks ago, I did go to the gym, I was on the treadmill, walking not running. In front of me were a variety of TV monitors; one showing the news, another Sky Sports, another was a BBC 1 Sunday morning animated religious debate show. The remainder of the screens (about 6 of them), were all dedicated to the same music video channel, all showing the same songs. I couldn’t hear the songs, but the visuals for each song was the same formula. Girls wearing a huge amount of make up but not many clothes, writhing around, whilst the men sang. OR girl singers wearing a huge amount of make up but not many clothes just… you’ve guessed it, writhing around.
At first, I felt bad about myself and was slipping back into self pity mode – “Oh my weight!” etc. Then suddenly, on every single other channel, there were older women who were experts in their fields, being interviewed and being asked to give their opinion on whatever the topics were (I couldn’t hear them anyway). It was then that the penny truly dropped for me. It was then my mind was able to understand what I should have realised years ago. I am more than my body. What my body looks like is irrelevant and doesn’t have a bearing on what I can achieve. Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean that I am suddenly at peace with my weight, or the extra pounds that I carry; nor am I advocating an unhealthy lifestyle where you don’t exercise and eat what you want. I don’t believe in that. But what I am saying is that I am going to stop torturing myself about not getting to the gym; about what I look like; the extra pounds that I am carrying. I am more than that. I will focus on what I have achieved in my life on a daily basis. I know that when I have more time, I will be able to exercise more again – for now I will enjoy the other things that are keeping me busy in life.
I wish that ‘Still I rise’ was a poem that I was exposed to at school. It’s a poem that every teenager should read and should discuss. We are worth more. We can do so much with our lives. It is a battle cry for those who have been oppressed, made to feel worthless, disrespected, abused – STILL I RISE!
My weight anecdote may seem pitiful to you – but it wasn’t/isn’t to me. Whatever demons you are battling with – because everyone is battling something – believe that you are worth more. You will win. Those demons aren’t even real – they are just the thoughts in your head – they are an illusion! Read Maya Angelou’s poem – wage war against those who will try to put you down – and win in life by making your dreams and aspirations come true. And most importantly, believe that you can rise.