Words of Wisdom From Others: Iyanla Vanzant

“Starting Over”

Beloveds, the following is an abridged excerpt taken from my latest book, Peace from Broken Pieces. As we all try to find the right words and actions following the tragedies of Newtown, Connecticut, I had to go back and re-read this chapter.  These words brought peace to me and I hope they will for you as well.  It’s from Chapter 19: Starting Over and it’s not the entire chapter, but I felt there was enough here to help.  With Love, Iyanla


When did I get lost?

How did I get lost?

How long have I been lost?

Was I ever found?


I have discovered that life doesn’t actually knock you down. It does,  however, provide you with many opportunities to evaluate your standing in  life: what you stand on, what you stand for, how you stand within  yourself and for yourself. When you’re standing is weak, you don’t get  knocked down. You fall down. You trip over the fallacies and fantasies  that you have created or inherited. You slip on your dysfunctional  puzzle pieces and your distorted sense of self. Sometimes, if you are  lucky, you fall when no one is looking, so you can limp away and lick  your wounds privately. More often than not, though, you fall in front of  other people, and your dress flies up over your head, exposing your ripped panties to the spectators who are doing their best not to laugh  at you. Those who do not laugh, but rush to help you up, often have no  idea that your ego is more bruised then your knees.


As a result of my public fall from television, I discovered that what I  was standing on was quicksand. Thank goodness there were two things I  could grab onto and pull myself out of the pit. The first thing I  grabbed onto was my unequivocal call desire to serve God. The second  thing was the love and support of the women in the community in which  and through which I served God.


Lydia ran my household. Almasi, Helen, and Deanna kept my business  and ministry afloat. Yawfah, Rene, and Vivian kept reminding me that  Gemmia’s transition, the dissolution of my marriage, and the shift in my  career were not my fault. Shaheerah and Raina told me over and over  again that there was something extraordinary that I was being prepared  for, and the only thing required of me was to keep my heart open and my  mind at peace. All I was experiencing was teaching me to become fully  reliant on my inner authority, the power of God within me.


It was a hard pill to swallow. Did my daughter need to die in order for  me to become a better person? Did my husband need to recheck me and  dishonor our commitment so that I could have a greater purpose in life? Wrong questions! The greater, grander, deeper inquiries I needed to make  of myself were: what am I being asked to practice? What character  values in my being asked to embody? What service can I offer the world  as a result of the lessons I am learning? The answers to these questions  and many more came in the form of a telephone call from the executive  producer of the television program called Starting Over.


The year before she made her transition, Gemmia has insisted that I throw  my hat into the ring to be considered as one of the life coaches in Starting Over. I wasn’t interested. I had already been burned. And there  were still remnants of shame from my Oprah experience lingering around  the edges of my ego.


Gemmia would not take no for an answer. When the  producers called me, I was shocked. They were interested. I was  ambivalent. I made my decision when they asked that I come live in  Chicago that winter in order to shoot the first season of the show. I  don’t do cold! Not the Chicago kind of cold. Besides that, my husband  had moved out, and I had a Oluwa to consider. By the time the second  season rolled around, the show was moving to Los Angeles. They still  have my application from the first season. Was I  interested?


Not really. I had buried my daughter six months earlier. I had a  12-year-old grandson to raise. I was the closest thing that my  granddaughter had to her mother. Even if I could work out all of the other  loose ends, I could not leave Niamoja…..


… One day I sat down and had a conversation with my brother friend Rev.  Michael Beckwith. After I shared my story with him and asked him if I  was moving in the right direction, he not only supported me, he  encouraged me to do it all in the name of Gemmia.  He said, follow the  Buddhist tradition of taking your sorrow and sadness and doing something  positive with it in the name of someone you love. That is exactly what I  did for two seasons on starting over. Those were the two most  productive and healing years of my life. Even so, they were just  preparation for what was to come next.


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