I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and send my love to all the human phoenixes who overcame grief and pain as a result of the events on September 11, 2001. This post is dedicated to you.
My friend reads cards – tarot specifically. Being a researcher, I take nothing at face value, but I have yet to figure out how she figures out the things that she does; situations or feelings that I don’t share with her, but that she manages to divine from pictures of kings, queens, coins, and giant staffs.
“Honey, this is going to be an amazing year for you. I can’t even begin to explain it,” she says excitedly.
I look at the cards she’s flipped for me with mild interest, “I find that really hard to believe. Things have been crap lately.”
“I’m serious,” she responds, waving away my cynicism. “This is your year. By the beginning of the summer you’ll have your own place,” she points to a card she calls the “four of wands.”
“Next, you’ll be coming into some money. You’ll attain the financial security that you’ve been yearning for. Not that you’ll never have to work again, but let’s just say that you won’t have to worry about money anymore,” she continues.
“Finally, I see love. He’ll have everything you’ve been looking for,” she concludes.
I snort. “Is he Jason Statham? Sorry darling’ but I wish I could believe you. I wish I could see what you see. My life has been one struggle after another for…well, most of my life.”
She smiles knowingly. “It’s only after great struggle that we can truly appreciate the good when it comes.”
Her last line struck me. I’ve been reading inspiring stories all my life. I’ve seen the proof written across the page. But why is it so hard to believe that I will achieve the success I seek, when so many people have attained amazing things from difficult (much more difficult) circumstances than I have? So this is what I do when I’m feeling down and uninspired. I take a walk through history and read inspirational stories. These are some of my human phoenixes: People who rose from the ashes of suffering:
- Maya Angelou: If you haven’t seen her on Oprah’s Master Class, I highly recommend it. It’s a very powerful autobiographical piece. She was sexually abused at the age of eight and as a result, chose to become mute for nearly 5 years. She was a nightclub dancer, a cook, the first black female conductor, a paint remover, and worked in a brothel before she became an activist. Her writing has inspired generations of people. When I watched her talk about her struggles, I couldn’t help but tear up. She seemed slightly saddened by it, but her voice never wavered. I think she recognized how her struggles had been an inspiration, and had made her strong.
- Oprah Winfrey: Oprah overcame a difficult childhood of poverty, sexual abuse, and an early pregnancy with loss (her son died in infancy). She’s risen through the TV ranks to become the most successful talk show host of all time, and her focus on self-improvement and empowerment has inspired people all over the world. Oprah doesn’t hide away in some secluded mansion; she continuously gives back to others.
- Jim Carrey: Carrey is an avid student of Eckart Tolle, spiritualist and author of The Power of Now and A New Earth. I dare you to watch Jim’s video on YouTube where he talks about Eackart’s teachings and about his own spiritual awakening. I say dare, because you won’t be able to get through the video without crying. Jim and his family struggled with poverty and depression, but he never gave up on his acting dream.
- Eckhart Tolle: Have I mentioned how much I love, love, LOVE Tolle and his calm, humble, and unassuming nature? Or the fact that he’s adorable and that his voice could calm a raging bull? And that’s aside from the fact that he went through his own difficulties of suicidal depression to become one of the most influential teachers and authors in the world. If you’ve seen him on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, you’ll know that this man is no money-grubbing, easy-answer peddler. There is nothing that Eckhart teaches that he hasn’t practiced in his own life, and no problem that he doesn’t have a solution for. I’m not sure what I’d do if I ever met him…I’d probably ask him if I can hug him, in order to infuse some of his positive energy into me, and then never let him go.
- 50 Cent: I’ll be honest: I’m not a big fan of hip-hop, but after watching his interview with Oprah, I can’t help but admire Curtis James Jackson III, the man. It isn’t just the fact that he loves his Grandma. He overcame the loss of his mother when he was eight (she was a drug dealer and was later murdered), went through his own stint selling drugs, and was the victim of a shooting in 2000 – he was shot nine times at close range. This one line sums up his perseverance the best: “After I got shot nine times at close range and didn’t die, I started to think I must have a purpose in life.” His current net worth is estimated at $140 million, and he is an active philanthropist.
- Suze Orman: Overcoming a speech impediment and financial struggles in her childhood, Suze got her first break when customers at a restaurant where she was a waitress gave her a check for $50,000 to open her own restaurant. She entrusted her money to a representative at Merrill Lynch (she didn’t know much about managing money and making investments). Three months later, after she had handed him full control of her money, she lost every dime. From that moment, she was determined to become a financial adviser in order to empower others and protect them from being taken advantage of. Today, she is one of the top financial advisers in the USA.
P.S. Three weeks after my friend’s reading, I bought my first home. A deal that came out of nowhere.