"Oprah, watching you be yourself makes me want to be more of myself."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
My love for Oprah is well-documented and I felt all that love flowing back my way as Oprah took to the stage and said her final farewell. She shared the highlights of her journey and the lessons she hopes we all took away from 25 years of programming. I knew some of them so well I could have completed her sentences.
Was it perfect? Short of my own personal lunch with Oprah to process my emotions on the final season, I'm not sure anything would have been perfect. However, I got the closure I needed and felt her sincerity in reaching out to thank the viewers who have loved and supported her all these years. I've been in Oprah's audience. Everything she said about needing us there and feeding off our energy is true.
I even got one final "Aha! Moment." She shared a lesson learned from her recent reunion with Iyanla Vanzant. "There is a difference, you know, between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing you are worthy of happiness." Aha!
In the spirit of Oprah's final lesson and all the wisdom I've learned through the years in "the world's biggest classroom," I thought I would share my most important lessons—the Oprah-isms I repeat and repeat and repeat, the aha moments that changed me, the truths who shaped the person I am.
Don't let yourself be taken to the second location! Retired police sergeant Sanford Strong shared this tip in 1991. "Rule number one—and frankly, it's probably, in my opinion, the most important: Never allow them to take you anywhere else. Never," says Sanford. "Because crime scene number two is going to be isolated, you won't choose it, you'll be the focus of the crime."
I know I was probably too young to have seen the original episode but this has been scalded into my memory after tons of follow-ups where Oprah viewers credit this tip with saving their lives.
The Imago Theory. A relationship theory developed by marriage therapist Harville Hendrix, Imago Theory is basically the idea that you draw people into your life to either heal or re-enact old wounds. It's why we marry men just like our fathers or act like our mothers (basically, the premise of every episode of 16 & Pregnant). Understanding this central idea has really affected how I view my marriage and so many other relationships in my life. It helped me understand that what I usually think is all about the other person is most likely all about me.
When people show you who they are, believe them. Although coming via Maya Angelou, this was not an easy lesson for me to learn. Maybe I wanted to believe the best in people. Maybe I was too busy worrying that there was something wrong with me. Either way, I finally learned that I have no space in my life for toxic people. So, I say goodbye when they show their true colors...the first time.
All pain is the same. Oprah was interviewing women in prison for killing their own children—the worst crime imaginable. After the interview, one of the woman came to Oprah and said, "I can't believe you don't hate us." Her response, "No, I don't hate you. I see that's what you did with your pain and I do something else with mine." It was a profound lesson in empathy, sympathy, and compassion that was reinforced throughout the show. A lesson that has stayed with me and colored the way I see everything.
You teach people how to treat you. So simple. So important—especially for us moms. If you give and give with no concern for yourself, then don't be surprised if those around you take and take with no concern for you either. Putting everyone else first and waiting for someone to do the same for you is a fruitless endeavor. If you want people to respect you, then you must respect yourself. Simple? Yes. Easy? No...well, unless you have Oprah to guide you.
I know Oprah will still be there to guide me. I still have O Magazine and the all-important OWN. I appreciate the heartfelt goodbye and gratitude she expressed yesterday.
That didn't make it any less sad today when my 4 o'clock came and went with no Oprah.
- Sarah Stewart Holland
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