An Evening With Oprah
I have been wanting to share my thoughts on ‘An Evening with Oprah’ with you since the moment I walked out of Rod Laver Arena a month ago, but I do hate spoilers and I know that some of you at that point were waiting to see her on your own home soil. Now that her Australian Tour is well and truly done and dusted and the busy festive season has passed us, it finally feels appropriate to share. This is a LONG post (even by my usual standards), so if you want to cut straight to my key take-outs from that night, scroll straight down to the picture of Oprah on stage with a younger version of herself on the screen behind her, and read from there.
Wednesday December 2nd wasn’t my first encounter with Miss O.
I was at her Melbourne public appearance in Federation Square when she was here in December of 2010. I had taken the day off work, caught a very early train into the city to be sure of a good viewpoint and waited outside in the summer sun for hours. And hours. In true ‘Jo form’ I had remembered to bring muesli bars to snack on, but not sunscreen. I was too scared to use my phone while I was waiting for her arrival in case the battery drained and took with it my only opportunity for photos, so I just kind of hovered around the whole time, alternating between feelings of excitement and of utter curiosity in how the other early-arrivers were choosing to pass the time. I learned a lot about innovative sun-smart techniques during the waiting period from a guy who cut ‘ear-holes’ out of his wife’s copy of New Idea and wore it like a pointy canopy on top of his head (genius).
When Oprah stepped onto the stage that day with Julia Gillard and Carrie Bickmore in tow, I cried. I ugly cried. I ugly cried A LOT.
For the first time in my life I understood what comes over those young women when One Direction or Justin Bieber hit the stage. I had always rolled my eyes at them and begged them in my mind to pull themselves together, but that day in 2010 I became one with them. Oprah was my One D. Looking back on it all, I am shocked by how little attention I gave our Prime Minister – our FIRST FEMALE Prime Minister – while she was standing so close to my idol.
I don’t remember what Oprah said that day, but I do remember how I felt. I remember the feeling of my shoulders burning under the sun (I left with two rosy red souvenirs that day), the joy, the heaviness of my eyes as tears welled, and the sobbing release that followed, the taste of the gin and tonic I drank with my friend when we met up afterwards to debrief the whole experience and the moment of connection he and I shared in that conversation that was the strongest I had felt since the day many years earlier when he told me he was gay.
I’m sharing all this because (oddly to me and undoubtedly as a result of some of the negative reviews floating around in the media) when people have asked me how ‘An Evening With Oprah’ was, the first thing they have wanted to know was whether or not I was an Oprah fan before that night. Yes, I very much was.
When Julie Parker told me back in July that she had VIP tickets for our team at the Beautiful You Coaching Academy to see Oprah I cried the same way I did in 2010, only this time it was on and off for three days (hello empath). When my hubby arrived home on that first day and found me blubbering he thought something had happened to Jules because her name was the only word I managed to get out. Needless to say, by the time December came around and I was in a limo with some of my favourite people in the world heading towards Rod Laver to see Miss O, I had calmed my farm considerably. I had also warned my beautiful team about my tendency to cry in her presence.
Oprah did not at all disappoint me on that night. The only thing that I didn’t get from her that I thought I may have was a glimpse at Hugh Jackman, who had also been in Melbourne performing around that time.
For those of you who weren’t in the Arena that night, these were my biggest take-outs:
1. Make time and space to listen to the voice inside of you. Be still. Be silent.
There is a quiet voice inside of each of us that speaks gently and consistently. It knows what we truly desire and what we need to do in times of doubt or confusion. It brings intuitive wisdom that is powerful and purposeful yet we can only hear it if we make the time and space to be still and listen for and to it. Get really still. Trust. Listen. (More on this coming soon).
2. ‘Purpose’ lies is the ordinary moments that make for an extraordinary life.
There is so much natter in the world about needing to search for your PURPOSE, that one thing that you are on the planet to be, do or achieve. People think that they need to be doing BIG things in order to be living a life of value.
Oprah stressed that living your purpose can be about the little things and about the ordinary. Everything we do is movement and all of it is important. As someone who truly believes this, there was a lot of power for me in hearing validation of this message from someone who is constantly playing BIG.
3. Often when things go wrong, it is life – your life – trying to pull you in a different direction.
We treat failure like it is so final, but often it is more of a beginning than an ending. What if some things don’t work out so that better things can? What if things go wrong so that we can be gently moved in a different direction where things are able to go oh so right?
4. Everyone wants to be validated and heard.
Hearing Oprah say that the majority of her interviewees – even Beyoncé – asked questions like ‘was that okay?’ and ‘did you get what you wanted’ as soon as the cameras stopped rolling on the Oprah show really shocked me. Oprah suggested that when people ask whether or not something is okay they are not really wanting an appraisal of their performance but are more reaching out for validation. Rather than hearing the literal words of ‘was that okay?’ we are better off to instead listen to what is really being asked behind them: ‘Did you hear me?’ Did what I say mean anything to you?’
I had never come across this poem by William Ernest Henley before Oprah mentioned it and, following a quick search later that night, I fell madly in love…
by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Oprah’s presence was every bit as strong, soulful, generous and uplifting as I had remembered it.
She was glowing, sparkling (literally, that dress was divine) and gliding across the stage with all of the poise of a woman who has found strength in vulnerability and deep connection in the power of connecting.
The thing that I respected most, though, was the decision that Oprah made on that stage. A woman who is powerful in every meaning of the word, with stature, wealth and endless presence, could have chosen to pitch her discussion anywhere. She could have focused on the grandure of her achievements or the breadth of her impact. Heck, she could have chosen to read the paper aloud and there would have been thousands of people who would not have minded one bit. But, despite this, she chose to share her message, her conversation and herself authentically and openly in the simplicity of the decisions that all of us can make at any moment in our lives. And if we’re talking about personal responsibility and empowerment, it doesn’t get much clearer than that.
The next day I was ‘hungoprah’ (a non-alcohol-induced kind of hangover that comes from finding yourself in a situation you never thought you would be in with people who you adore). Another five years of life may again cause Oprah’s exact words that night to fade in my mind, but the feelings that engulfed my heart that night will not.
P.S. A huge thank you to all of you who went out of your way to find where we were sitting and come over to say hello. #megablessed