Legendary American poet Maya Angelou passed away this week at the age of eighty-six. In honor of her life’s work, today we’ll be looking an excerpt from one of her most famous poems, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
(Angelou, Maya. This copy retrieved from http://allpoetry.com/poem/8511445-I-Know-Why-The-Caged-Bird-Sings-by-Maya-Angelou, May 29, 2014.)
The whole poem is just as striking, and I encourage you to check it out. We could easily spend the next four weeks looking at just a few lines from this poem, but let’s walk through this for one issue in your life. It doesn’t have to be profound – in fact it might be easier if you start with something that doesn’t feel traumatic.
Step #1: Is that a ‘fearful trill?’
What does your ‘fearful trill’ sound like?
Where in your life do you find yourself complaining (to others or just to yourself?) What are you likely to bitterly rant about, if given the chance?
I find that I bitch about the total lack of style, sexiness, originality of the clothing I can purchase at my current size. I’m fairly bitter about it, and I complain (to myself) about my wardrobe, often.
Step #2: Identify the “Dead” Dream
Where are you standing on the grave of your dreams?
The ‘dead’ dream I’ve identified is my dream to have a beautiful, sparkly, soft, incredible wardrobe. Once you have your dream, answer this question:
Why did you bury it?
I buried it for many reasons – it’s too hard to learn how to sew, I’ve never seen the type of clothing I want in my size and color palette in stores, and even if I did I don’t have the money to buy it. I’m also not sure I would be entirely comfortable always being in beautiful clothes and feeling incredible. (If you end up finding something like that too – something maybe a little deeper than you were expecting – just note it down and either journal about it or discuss it with a loved one in order to gain more clarity. Sometimes just finding that deeper reason why you buried a dream is all that you need in order to dig it up.)
Step #3: Identify How Your Wings are Clipped and Your Feet Tied
Where are your wings clipped and your feet tied?
I feel that my wings are clipped by the fashion industry, my own budget, and the complexity of learning how to sew.
When you look at where your wings are clipped at your feet tied…who is doing this? Your family? Friends? For most of us, the answer is ourselves. In all honesty, I’m only limited by myself. Sewing is not that hard. I already have all the designs in my head, I have all the tools, and I even have the materials. The only one really clipping my wings on this one is me.
Step #4: Define Freedom
What does freedom look like for you?
For me, it looks like a closet filled only with gorgeous, comfortable, sexy, spectacular clothes I love.
Step #5: Opening the Cage Door
Now comes the most important and hardest question:
Are you willing to do what it takes to obtain freedom?
Leave a comment and let us know if you’re willing, (or any of your favorite Maya Angelou poem quotes!)