I take Oprah’s magazine, O. My friends who aren’t from around here laugh when I say that I “take” a magazine. I never knew that was a southern way of saying I have a subscription. Learn something every day, even if it is from Yankees (kidding, of course — I love my Yankee friends. Just hate the team the Yankees).
Now that we’ve cleared that up, back to the magazine. That I take.
In every issue, the last page is Oprah’s column on what she knows for sure. It’s the first place I turn to each month when the magazine appears in my mailbox. Then I go straight to the food section, followed by the book recommendations. I can’t say that I’ve ever made a recipe from O magazine, but the food stylists and photographers do an outstanding job. I have definitely taken book recommendations and have not been disappointed.
The What I Know for Sure column was spawned by Gene Siskel asking Oprah what she knows for sure. On the surface, it seems like a simple question, yet it had Oprah “flustered and stuttering and unable to come up with an answer.” She explains it: “The late film critic Gene Siskel used to ask in his celebrity interviews, ‘What do you know for sure?’ The first time he asked me this question, it threw me. Since then the question has become a way of taking stock of my life—hence the monthly column, in answer to Gene.”
Siskel inspired her to find out what she knows for sure, and every month she shares what she’s discovered. Say what you will about Oprah — some people think she walks on water while others can’t stand the sound of her voice — when she talks, people listen. Sometimes she gets a little too “out there” for me, but for the most part, I agree with what she says and usually come away from her What I Know for Sure column thinking, “Yeah! What she said.”
Because it’s the holiday season and I’m in the giving mood (and because I’m still waiting for the answer to the question of my next surgery to be handed down from the mighty GYN oncology tribunal at MD Anderson), I give you Oprah’s Top 20 List of Things She Knows for Sure.
1. What you put out comes back all the time, no matter what. (This is my creed.) [Oprah’s creed, not mine. Although it is a good creed.]
2. You define your own life. Don’t let other people write your script.
3. Whatever someone did to you in the past has no power over the present. Only you give it power.
4. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. (A lesson from Maya Angelou.)
5. Worrying is wasted time. Use the same energy for doing something about whatever worries you.
6. What you believe has more power than what you dream or wish or hope for. You become what you believe.
7. If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that will be enough. (From the German theologian and humanist Meister Eckhart.)
8. The happiness you feel is in direct proportion to the love you give.
9. Failure is a signpost to turn you in another direction.
10. If you make a choice that goes against what everyone else thinks, the world will not fall apart.
11. Trust your instincts. Intuition doesn’t lie.
12. Love yourself and then learn to extend that love to others in every encounter.
13. Let passion drive your profession.
14. Find a way to get paid for doing what you love. Then every paycheck will be a bonus.
15. Love doesn’t hurt. It feels really good.
16. Every day brings a chance to start over.
17. Being a mother is the hardest job on earth. Women everywhere must declare it so.
18. Doubt means don’t. Don’t move. Don’t answer. Don’t rush forward.
19. When you don’t know what to do, get still. The answer will come.
20. “Trouble don’t last always.” (A line from a Negro spiritual, which calls to mind another favorite: This, too, shall pass.)
My favorites are 2, 5, 10, and 17. Because I’m a little on the OCD side, and because it’s the biggest storyline in my life to date, I equate most of Oprah’s list to cancer. Well, numbers 2 and 5 have been my style from the get-go, way before cancer so rudely interrupted my otherwise fabulous life. It’s just the way I was made and it’s how I roll. I don’t know how it happened or if it is just imprinted into my DNA, but I don’t give a fig what other people think. Sure, I want the general impression of me to be one that’s positive, but when everyone is wearing skinny jeans, I’m gonna pull out my boot-cuts. My swim-against-the-current ways predate my diagnosis, for sure, but those trend-bucking ways have defined my cancer “journey.” From eschewing lumpectomy to questioning the doctors to rejecting that status quo and doing my own research, I’ve bucked the system and made choices based on what I truly believed. When a Very Important Person took offense with this little blog, I said it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. I will be fair and will endeavor to be balanced, but I will tell it like it is.
Number 5 has been a harder row to hoe than numbers 2 and 10. I’m a worrier, and that too is stamped into my DNA. While I make a real effort to not let the worry overtake my more rational side, it is definitely an effort. My good friend and health-care sherpa Amy Hoover has a saying: “Don’t borrow trouble.” That saying has become my mantra in this cancer “journey,” even if it is quite the effort to leave the borrrowing behind.
I’ve never loved Oprah more than when she declared to millions of people around the globe that motherhood is the hardest job ever. For someone who doesn’t have children to get this is quite gratifying. I adore my kiddos and feel immensely grateful to be raising them but it is a hard job. Not hard in the sense that it takes a lot of education or training, but hard in that you never know if all your hard work will pay off. You can do all the right things as a mother and still end up with kids who lose their way or thumb their noses at your values or vote Republican. It happens. There are plenty of how-to books on parenting, but none of them can guarantee the outcome you seek. Sorta like with cancer.