By Rev. Dr. Iyanla Vanzant
Beloveds, the following is an abridged excerpt taken from, Peace from Broken Pieces. As we all try to find the right words and actions following the tragedies of Newtown, Connecticut, I had to go back and re-read this chapter. These words brought peace to me and I hope they will for you as well. It’s from Chapter 19: Starting Over and it’s not the entire chapter, but I felt there was enough here to help. With Love, Iyanla
When did I get lost?
How did I get lost?
How long have I been lost?
Was I ever found?
I have discovered that life doesn’t actually knock you down. It does, however, provide you with many opportunities to evaluate your standing in life: what you stand on, what you stand for, how you stand within yourself and for yourself. When you’re standing is weak, you don’t get knocked down. You fall down. You trip over the fallacies and fantasies that you have created or inherited. You slip on your dysfunctional puzzle pieces and your distorted sense of self.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, you fall when no one is looking, so you can limp away and lick your wounds privately. More often than not, though, you fall in front of other people, and your dress flies up over your head, exposing your ripped panties to the spectators who are doing their best not to laugh at you. Those who do not laugh, but rush to help you up, often have no idea that your ego is more bruised then your knees.
As a result of my public fall from television, I discovered that what I was standing on was quicksand. Thank goodness there were two things I could grab onto and pull myself out of the pit. The first thing I grabbed onto was my unequivocal desire to serve God. The second thing was the love and support of the women in the community in which and through which I served God.
Lydia ran my household. Almasi, Helen, and Deanna kept my business and ministry afloat. Yawfah, Rene, and Vivian kept reminding me that Gemmia’s transition, the dissolution of my marriage, and the shift in my career were not my fault. Shaheerah and Raina told me over and over again that there was something extraordinary that I was being prepared for, and the only thing required of me was to keep my heart open and my mind at peace. All I was experiencing was teaching me to become fully reliant on my inner authority, the power of God within me.
It was a hard pill to swallow. Did my daughter need to die in order for me to become a better person? Did my husband need to reject me and dishonor our commitment so that I could have a greater purpose in life? Wrong questions! The greater, grander, deeper inquiries I needed to make of myself were: what am I being asked to practice? What character values in my being asked to embody? What service can I offer the world as a result of the lessons I am learning? The answers to these questions and many more came in the form of a telephone call from the executive producer of the television program called Starting Over.
The year before she made her transition, Gemmia has insisted that I throw my hat into the ring to be considered as one of the life coaches in Starting Over. I wasn’t interested. I had already been burned. And there were still remnants of shame from my Oprahexperience lingering around the edges of my ego.
Gemmia would not take no for an answer. When the producers called me, I was shocked. They were interested. I was ambivalent. I made my decision when they asked that I come live in Chicago that winter in order to shoot the first season of the show. I don’t do cold! Not the Chicago kind of cold. Besides that, my husband had moved out, and I had Oluwa to consider. By the time the second season rolled around, the show was moving to Los Angeles. They still have my application from the first season. Was I interested?
Not really. I had buried my daughter six months earlier. I had a 12-year-old grandson to raise. I was the closest thing that my granddaughter had to her mother. Even if I could work out all of the other loose ends, I could not leave Niamoja…..
… One day I sat down and had a conversation with my brother friend Rev. Michael Beckwith. After I shared my story with him and asked him if I was moving in the right direction, he not only supported me, he encouraged me to do it all in the name of Gemmia. He said, follow the Buddhist tradition of taking your sorrow and sadness and doing something positive with it in the name of someone you love. That is exactly what I did for two seasons on starting over. Those were the two most productive and healing years of my life. Even so, they were just preparation for what was to come next.