It sounds crazy saying it because I know she’s not really going anywhere. I know I’ll be able to read her magazine and watch her network. I may even see more of her since I don’t regularly watch her show anymore.
I know it’s not cool to love Oprah. I don’t always love her. I have gone through periods of really being mad at her. (The James Frey years) I have been annoyed and flabbergasted by her behavior in the past. I have laughed and cried with her. I have yelled at her (well, at the TV). I have learned from her. I regularly use phrases that she coined … including “aha moments” and “what I know for sure”.
She taught me what Maya Angelou taught her. Maya taught her many things but my favorite is when Oprah was in distress and sad and couldn’t get out of her despair, Maya told her to “get on your knees and say thank you”. Just writing it brings tears to my eyes because that one line changed me.
If not for Oprah, I wouldn’t have heard that. I wouldn’t have read Maya Angelou and Iyanla VanZant and Sarah Ban Breathnach. I wouldn’t have written a gratitude journal. I venture to say I wouldn’t have been able to have the spiritual conversations that have been opened up worldwide because of her show. I wouldn’t know Eckhart Tolle and that would be a shame because when I say his work is transformational, I’m not exaggerating. His work changed me. I suppose I could have come across these writers without Oprah but I’ll never know.
She is so much a part of our collective consciousness that it’s hard to separate what we would think about or talk about without her show. She has guided the conversation in our culture. She has her finger on our pulse. She has given us what we wanted even when we didn’t know what we wanted. I’m most pleased that she guided that conversation to spirituality. At times I would pray for her to have courage to speak of Jesus Christ and not always “beat around the bush”. But I understand her. I feel that I know her and so does the rest of the world. That’s incredible.
Who else could teach us how the right bra could change our lives (seriously, I was really in the wrong bra!) and then switch gears and comfort us after 9/11? Who else could share her struggles with weight loss and drag out a wagon full of fat (remember how skinny she was?!?) and then interview Nelson Mandela? Who else’s couch would Tom Cruise jump on? Who else would have created the Angel Network?
Now I know you would still be a reader without Oprah and you do not credit her with your faith formation. Some people get downright angry about this – they won’t buy an Oprah book club book because it is embarrassing to admit they are reading one of the books she recommends. That’s a shame because she has recommended some good ones. People will recommend one of her books and say, “I know it’s an Oprah book but really, I swear, it’s worth reading.” I’ve seen people taking the stickers off as if they are way too educated to listen to a lady on TV.
We have to stop that. Why do people belittle her? Why do you get angry that she has a following? I think that’s worth exploring. What in you is threatened by her? Has she shown what can be accomplished and the sheer magnitude of it is overwhelming to you? Does she make you feel inadequate? Does she make you ask yourself tough questions? Does she make you think?
Right now some of you are getting even more annoyed. You insist that her show is jibberish. You do not want to give her any more attention. I haven’t even touched on her astounding personal story. I’m not even going to talk about the way she represents what is good in America, what is possible, what opportunities there are here. Okay, now I’m getting carried away.
I’ve been to her show. I have heard stories from people that work for her about her being tough, not that nice, a perfectionist, some would even say mean. Maybe all that is true. All that tells me is that she’s a real person. The idea that she can bring about all of these emotions in us – admiration, disgust, laughter, annoyance, gratitude, love, understanding, anger, inspiration, etc. means that we actually have a relationship with her. We have known her for 25 years which for me is over half my life. We will miss her.
Do I believe Oprah changed my life? Yes I do. And I know it’s not cool to admit it but I challenge you to think about how she changed yours. And next Wednesday, even if you refuse to watch her last show, at least take a moment to think of her and say “thank you”.
©2011 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™ All Rights Reserved