Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chatting with Oprah

On her final show, Oprah gave out her personal email address. Hmmm… what would I like to say to Oprah? Celebrities that have been showering her with hero worship since the Oprah Show went off the air after 25 years, just a few short weeks ago. I’m old enough to remember the Phil Donohue show, which preceded the Oprah Show. So I can say I’ve seen my fair share of Oprah shows.

What I think impressed me the most was her very last show. She spoke a lot about God. “God is love,” she said. “God is life.” And quoted Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” There was one other phrase Oprah spoke that stuck with me. “Use your life to serve the world.” Only seven words, but it made that little voice within me sit up and take notice. I have always known that societal norms of family, home, 40 hour a week office job, were not for me. But who better to reiterate what I had been telling myself for years, than Oprah. – It’s okay to follow your own path, to explore uncharted territory, to do things not like everybody else. It’s okay to be “the me” I was meant to be – which of course if you’ve read the previous blog, you know my “me” is a nomadic chameleon.

With all this in mind I began writing my email to Oprah:

Dear Oprah,

How is life going since ending the Oprah Show? I can imagine you’re taking or carving out a bit of time to “be still.” My mother is retiring next year after 25 years as a college professor in early childhood education and we are excited to see what she will do next. We know while she also will carve out some time to “be still,” it never occurred to me or my father that she would really ever slow down, so we prefer to refer to her retirement as more of a transitional phase than the end of something. I’m guessing you feel the same way.

I have an incurable case of wanderlust and a rather direct calling from God and am embarking on a three-year stint as a missionary in Kenya. I’ve spent 10 years traveling back and forth to Kenya for various reasons and think of it now as a second home. I have two pseudo-adopted Kenyan children, a daughter, Judie, who will be 22 in July and a son, Charles, who is 10.

I had some doubt as my 40th birthday arrived this past April that I was doing the right thing by becoming a missionary in Kenya. I’m not exactly financially secure and obviously as a missionary I won’t be for the foreseeable future. So I did what I usually do when I start to have doubts – I read. This time I read Fortytude by Sarah Brokaw. Have you read it? If you haven’t you should… it’s very interesting. Brokaw talks about the 5 core values a woman entering her fifth decades should possess: grace, connectedness, accomplishment, adventure and spirituality.

When I finished the book, I realized I had positioned myself fairly well for my fifth decade. I went back through the core values as they were manifested in my own life and I was pleasantly surprised.

I am content in my own skin. I do take responsibility for the energy I bring into the space I occupy (something I learned on the Oprah show). My friendships are deeply nourishing and enrich my life beyond measure. My accomplishments, although outside societal norms are still impressive in their own right. If I didn’t embrace adventure I wouldn’t be able to refer to myself as a nomadic chameleon. I want to be defined by my spiritual being – one working really hard to let go and LET GOD.

As one of Sarah’s interviewees put it, “You’re perfect just the way you are … and you’ve got room for improvement.”

Another woman commented, “Once you accept there’s a plan for you, then you see every day as a gift.” And I do – a gift worth sharing.

“Fortytude is not only to embrace the loss of youth and transcend our anxieties but to celebrate the beginning of the rest of our lives.”

I’m going to Kenya because God called me there, and I’m bringing with me the stories and advice of amazing women like you and Sarah Brokaw, who have blazed trails and raised the bar. I have nothing to fear. I’m not the first and I will not be the last to take the road less traveled, so thanks for the company – I hope our paths will cross someday.

P.S. I’m cc’ing this to Sarah Brokaw. I hope you’ve read her book! ;)

Thanks again Oprah for that last show. I shed tears followed by a big smile that has stayed with me ever since. May the rest of your journey be as rewarding and fulfilling as the last 25 you shared with me.

Peace and Blessings,

Jessica Hasslen - nomadic chameleon