Maya Angelou never cease to inspire and impress. Letter To My Daughter is a book which I had been searching for a long time , I couldn’t get a hard copy so I went online and after so many searches found an e-copy. Must say the wait was worth it! I am not done with reading the book , but whatever I have read has stuck in my mind and I wanted to share with you folks, If I go with that intention , well I will have to copy -paste the entire book . So I decided to share something that is applicable in all our live , we always forget our blessing when clouded with sadness or uncertainty. Maya Angelou describes how she dealt with one of her bad days by counting her blessings . I felt a great urge to share it with the world . This book is dedicated to all the women , she considers all women her daughters. This book strikes a chord with all women and sometimes men as certain aspects discussed in it has a universal appeal. Ok , enough of my blabber. The following is an extract from her book Letter To My Daughter.
Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess, the George and Ira Gershwin opera, was
still bringing audiences to their feet on its European tour.
The colorful cast was still robust and welcoming to me but I
was anxious to leave the tour and return to San Francisco,
I was riddled with guilt because when I joined the cast I
had left my eight-year-old son Guy with my mother and an
aunt in San Francisco.
The opera company offered me a sizeable increase in
salary if I would send for him, but there were already two
children traveling with their parents, who exhibited behavior that I did not want my son to see, nor imitate. I was principal
dancer and sang the role “Ruby.” I received a decent salary,
which I sent home, but my guilt assured me that my money
was not sufficient, so I stayed in pensiones or youth hostels,
or with families to save money. After the curtain came down
in the theater, I doubled singing the blues in nightclubs and
in the daytime I taught dance wherever I could find students
and I also sent that money to my mother.
Still, I began to lose my appetite and weight and interest
in everything. I wanted to go home to my son. I was told that
I was obliged to pay my replacement’s fare to Europe, and
my own fare home. I met that new pressure by singing in
two more nightclubs and teaching dance to professional
dancers and to children barely able to walk.
At last I had the money and at last I boarded a ship in
Naples, Italy, for New York. I refused to fly because it
occurred to me if the plane crashed, my son would only be
able to lament, “My mother died when I was eight years old.
She was an entertainer.” I had to get back to San Francisco
and let him know that I was that and more.
After nine days on the ship I arrived in New York and took
a train for three days and nights to San Francisco. Our
reunion was so emotional that I confess it may have sent
me over the edge. I know I loved my son and I knew I was
blessed that I was not in love with him, that I would not
smother him by trying to be too close and at the same time I would love him and raise him to be free and manly and as
happy as possible.
After one week of living in the top floor of my mother’s big
house, set on the top of a hill I became anxious again. I
realized it would be difficult if not impossible to raise a
black boy to be happy and responsible and liberated in a
racist society. I was lying on the sofa in the upstairs living
room when Guy walked through. “Hello Mom.” I looked at
him and thought I could pick him up, open the window and
jump. I lifted my voice and said, “Get out. Get out now. Get
out of the house this minute. Go out to the front yard and
don’t come back, even if I call you.”
I telephoned for a taxi, walked down the steps and
looked at Guy. I said, “Now you may go in and please stay
until I return.” I told the cab driver to take me to Langley
Porter Psychiatric Clinic. When I walked in the receptionist
asked if I had an appointment. I said, “No.” She explained
with a sad face, “We cannot see you unless you have an
appointment.” I said, “I must see someone, I am about to
hurt myself and maybe someone else.”
The receptionist spoke quickly on the telephone. She
said to me, “Please go to see Dr. Salsey, down the hall on
the right, Room C.” I opened the door of Room C and my
hopes fell. There was a young white man behind a desk. He
wore a Brooks Brothers suit and a button-down shirt and
his face was calm with confidence. He welcomed me to a chair in front of his desk. I sat down and looked at him
again and began to cry. How could this privileged young
white man understand the heart of a black woman who was
sick with guilt because she left her little black son for others
to raise? Each time I looked up at him the tears flooded my
face. Each time he asked what is the matter, how can I help
you? I was maddened by the helplessness of my situation.
Finally I was able to compose myself enough to stand up,
thank him and leave. I thanked the receptionist and asked
her to telephone Luxor Cab.
I went to my voice teacher, my mentor and the only
person I could speak to openly. As I went up the stairs to
Frederick Wilkerson’s studio, I heard a student doing vocal
exercises. Wilkie, as he was called, told me to go into the
bedroom. “I am going to make you a drink.” Leaving his
student, he brought in a glass of Scotch, which I drank
although at the time I was not a drinker. The liquor put me to
sleep. When I awakened and heard no voices from the
studio I went in.
Wilkie asked me, “What’s wrong?”
I told him I was going crazy. He said no and then asked,
“What’s really wrong?” and I, upset that he had not heard
me said, “I thought about killing myself today and killing
Guy, I’m telling you I’m going crazy.”
Wilkie said, “Sit down right here at this table, here is a yellow pad and here is a ballpoint pen. I want you to write
down your blessings.”
I said, “Wilkie, I don’t want to talk about that, I’m telling
you I am going crazy.”
He said, “First write down that I said write down and think
of the millions of people all over the world who cannot hear
a choir, or a symphony, or their own babies crying. Write
down, I can hear—Thank God. Then write down that you
can see this yellow pad, and think of the millions of people
around the world who cannot see a waterfall, or flowers
blooming, or their lover’s face. Write I can see—Thank
God. Then write down that you can read. Think of the
millions of people around the world who cannot read the
news of the day, or a letter from home, a stop sign on a
busy street, or…”
I followed Wilkie’s orders and when I reached the last line
on the first page of the yellow pad, the agent of madness
That incident took place over fifty years ago. I have
written some twenty-five books, maybe fifty articles, poems,
plays, and speeches all using ballpoint pens and writing on
When I decide to write anything, I get caught up in my
insecurity despite the prior accolades. I think, uh, uh, now they will know I am a charlatan that I really cannot write and
write really well. I am almost undone, then I pull out a new
yellow pad and as I approach the clean page, I think of how
blessed I am.
The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and
amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may
or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days,
glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If
I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow.
Today I am blessed.