A Plebeian's Experience at the New Zealand Oprah Show

Friday, December 18, 2015
I remember when Oprah Winfrey started screening on television in New Zealand. We used to discuss her shows in the school playground during our lunch breaks. Fresh 15 year olds solving the problems of dysfunctional adults. It was really among the first of those kind of shows to come to New Zealand and we were all fascinated by Oprah.

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Over the years, on and off, as I left school, went overseas, worked, lived my life, Oprah came in and out of my life as time allowed.

And then I went to Chicago.

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Sometimes when we'd drive downtown, I'd look up at those tall buildings and wonder which one belonged to Oprah. I'd keep an eye out for her studio. I never saw it, and I never saw her. I didn't even watch her show during that time. There were no televisions where I was living. I never even went to one of her shows even though for one short year we lived in the same city.

But time passes and Oprah came back into my life again when I was married and had small children and was having trouble with breast-feeding. So I'd sit down in my living room with my small baby, turn on the television and watch lunchtime Oprah, while feeding my baby.

And oh the things I learned. The little seeds I gathered. Oprah was very influential in my early mid-life years. Sometimes lonely years as I'd left many friends behind in America, my husband and I moved clear to the other side of the country and lived on a rural lifestyle block. I was just emerging out of the cult that we had become involved with and it was a crucial time for me of re-adjusting my views of the world. Re-adjusting my life and little whispers of new ideas and questions that Oprah raised on her show began to wander restlessly in my mind. She reached out from the television screen and met my heart.

We share the same Myers Briggs personality type... except she's an extrovert and I'm an introvert. INFJ for me. ENFJ for Oprah. But Oprah just has this way of being real, whatever your personality type is. She instinctively meets you where you are and knows, with an authenticity that is at times, uncanny.

So when the opportunity came to go and see her in Auckland, I was waiting in line when booking opened.

Going to see Oprah has to be one of the highlights of this year for me.

Whatever you think of Oprah (and there have been some cynical reviews written about her show, and sure, the music was a bit cheezy at times, but I wasn't there for the music), you have to admire her for what she has done with her life. For where she has come from and what she has achieved, and her generous big heartedness to others. Her good intentions of wanting to help others. She is a woman among women and no matter whether you find her inspiring or not, or you roll your eyes at her words of hope and encouragment, she demands respect for that reason alone.

A friend and I got two of the cheapest tickets we could - the rich and entitled paid thousands for the best seats in the house - but most of us mere plebeians had to settle for seats way up the back of the arena. And it was still good. We were way up the back, but we were looking full on to the stage. And they had music playing with a DJ before Oprah came out. The camera would zoom in on random people in the audience who would cheer, dance or pull faces. I love Kiwis.

Oprah said she felt a contentment in New Zealand that she hasn't felt anywhere else in any other country. Maybe she was flattering us, but maybe there is some truth to that too. I think New Zealanders are generally down-to-earth and real about life and we don't really go in for a lot of fluff.

What she had to say that night came at a crucial time in my life. I know I was meant to be there.
Sometimes things like this happen in your life and you know they happened for a reason. That night was one of those moments.

Oprah shared one of her favourite poems with us. She said the name of this author twice, and I locked it away in my memory because I wanted to be sure to find it when I got home. Thank you Oprah, for saying his name twice.

When I read this poem, I think over my life - I remember my happy childhood and my turbulent romances of my teen years. I remember the years of my early adulthood that were stolen from me by a manipulative and powerful man from Chicago.
And I think it's kind of ironic that two people from Chicago could have two such opposing influence over me. One for evil. One for good.

And then I recall Oprah's words to us on Wednesday night.

"Everything that has happened to you, was also happening for you".

Oprah talked a lot that night about co-authoring our lives with God. If I take anything away from her show, it is those words. It is the wisdom in those words. When you have come from my experience of having someone tell you that God is a dictator and that he has a plan for your life whether you like that plan or not, these words have the power to bring great healing and clarification.

She talked about the importance of meeting with God everyday. Talking over as you would with a close friend, your plans and decisions. Sometimes during the evening, it almost felt a little like we were at a revival meeting. She unashamedly talked about her relationship with God.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience. To deny that, is to deny our purpose for being here.

Oprah kept stressing, over and over, that God has a plan for every single person. That we are not a mistake. That we are not insignificant. That it doesn't matter where we come from or what we have done. That God has given us a unique passion, a job to do, a life-fulfilment, a legacy to enjoy and to leave behind.

I know what it is I want to do with my life. I think I've always known, but this past year I have allowed other things to crowd out those little whispers. Oprah told us a story of her personal assistant who wanted a filing cabinet for her 8th birthday. I thought 'what did I want for my 8th birthday?" I know exactly what it was I wanted for my 8th birthday. I wanted blank notebooks to write my stories inside. And the desire is still the same all these years later. It's not the notebook or the pens, it's the desire to write and to do something good with the writing.

I came away from Oprah with a determination to use this summer break to really sit back and think about how to make each day count in the pursuit of my dreams, the pursuit of my intentions. To again, re-adjust the path of my life. I was inspired by her words, her passion, her experience and her wisdom. She has been a great influence in my life at various times over the years and Wednesday night was no exception.

To co-author with God - the things he has in store for my life.

That's what I love about that poem by Derek Walcott. That one day I will come back to meet my old self, and we will smile at each other.

photo credit: P1110007 via photopin (license)

photo credit: Chicago (ILL) Willis Tower ( Ex. SEARS Tower ) 1974, N-E side " the loop " + notes via photopin (license)


Jen said...

PLEASE run and get Emily P Freeman's book called "A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live" - it is SO good and speaks exactly to this topic. About how you were created with desires and purpose in you and how to uncover and live that.

Rachel Lees said...

Thanks Jen, for the recommendation. I'll check it out!

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