It’s been a month now since Oprah signed off and I miss her. This post is about what we all can learn from her very public life journey as The Empress of Empathy, The Consummate Caretaker, The Real Great Communicator. Her final show was spoken straight from her heart to us all.
My Ersatz Girlfriend
I was 34, newly married, mother of two and living in England in 1986 when Oprah got her big break in Chicago daytime talk. She wasn’t syndicated abroad then, so I missed her debut years of cooking shows and big hair. It wasn’t until 1991, as I set up house in Munich, Germany and installed SKY TV, I got my first taste of “home” from Oprah’s daily presence. These were the days before Skype and I longed to see familiar faces. She saved me from despair as I struggled to speak German, make friends, raise children and forge a family overseas.
Ersatz, that’s a German word, it means “sort of” or substitute. Even in beautiful Bavaria, life can be difficult some days without close friends and a support network. So Oprah became my Ersatz Girlfriend. Daily doses of Oprah helped me make it through by providing a sense of community far from my home country. Her personal development became my personal development. She made it a very human journey for all of her baby boomer viewers.
By 1998 I was back in the USA and just another multi-tasking suburban mom with too much on her plate. Sound familiar? Well, Oprah helped us all through job advancement, weight loss, strength training, care-taking and communicating. Almost every self-help topic held something for us all to learn. Her aging process was our aging process; her transitions were our transitions; her gratitude and giving were ours too.
Twenty Five Years On
In her twenty five years as the Hostess with the Most-est, Oprah made 4,561 shows interviewing 30,000 guests and made it fun and meaningful. She was the perfect girlfriend for a nation of women for a good, long time. She perfected the art of real communication with her gentle gestures, wide open eye contact and fearless questions.
Her many guests melted into the safety zone of her emotional embrace and opened their hearts for millions of viewers as if they were in the privacy of their own living rooms.
It’s All About Being Heard
I wrote about my five younger sisters in an earlier post about celebrating milestones. (And Oprah’s final show is definitely a milestone.)
My sister, Dr. Becky Hammons, is a specialist in adult learning. She wrote a winning 100 word essay last year for The Dior Thirty Days of Renewal on Oprah’s website.
Becky admits that she was only looking for a recipe and the essay was written under the influence of two glasses of Chardonnay. But it won her a trip to the Windy City with her husband. We were all so proud.
Of course, we knew that Becky’s wise words were reviewed by a gaggle of Oprah staffers and not the Great Lady herself. But it was gratifying to know that even the most random submission to an O Magazine contest was a viable way to be heard in our busy world.
And that’s what Oprah was all about…being heard.
11 Life Lessons from Oprah’s Final Show
So here are some quotes I’m going to remember. They are gems that will stand the test of time.
-Humility: “I didn’t have a “vision,” I just wanted to do a good job and do no harm.
-Life Long Learning: “I learned something everyday…always wanted to be a teacher and I had the largest classroom in the world.
-Perseverance: “I showed up…never missed a day in 25 years.
-Purpose: “Everybody has a calling. Your real job in life is to find what you feel juicy doing. Make no mistake, it doesn’t have to be fancy…we are a nation confused about fame and service.
-Compassion: “The greatest gift is the common connection in our human experience.
-Forgiveness: “When you know better, you do better.
-Responsibility: “You are responsible for your life…not anyone else…Don’t wait for somebody to fix you, to save you or complete you.
-Positive Energy: “All life is energy. Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.
-Addiction: “There is a common thread that runs through all addictions..feeling unworthy. We often block our blessings because we don’t feel we are good enough, deserving enough, enough.
-Validation: “All 30,000 guests wanted the same thing — validation. Do you see me? Does what I have to say matter at all? Offer validation to everyone you meet.
-Spirituality: “Wait. Be still and listen for grace and guidance from God, the omniscient, ever present G-O-D who cares for a of us. Listen. Be still what is your life telling you?
It’s not rocket science. It doesn’t need to be. Oprah has earned her place in the pantheon of wise women like Pema Chodron, Maya Angelou and countless others who help us understand, communicate and make our little piece of the world a calmer, safer, better place.
Which message resonates the most for you? What will you miss most about Oprah?