Maya Angelou Quotes

Words That Spark Memories

Maya Angelou’s quotes often bring a flash of a personal memory that epitomizes that quote for me. It’s like I own the quote. This is usually followed by a quoted post-it up on the bathroom mirror or on my bulletin board or a reminder stuck on the corner of my monitor.

Quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Memory: R.S. has the amazing skill of listening without interrupting. She has dark eyes that gaze at you while you are talking. Her very white hair is in stark contrast and emphasizes that gaze and feeling that you have 100% of her attention. When I visit with RS, I feel like am truly all I want to be.


Quote: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Memory: When I sat next to A. and he slowly opened the easy to read book, I mentioned how words have shapes. Some letters are like tall buildings and some have tails that hang down. That A for his name is a tall building.

“Just like the A in Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day had that tall building A. As we read today, I wonder how many of those tall A’s you can find for Alexander.”

“OK. I know there’s probably one in the title.”  He turned to the title page. (He knew the title  page is at the beginning of the book and is usually just a few words on the page, but he didn’t know he knew it).

     I read.
     He stopped me. “There.”
     “Yes,” I turned the page.
     His small index finger stamped on another A and another.
     “Yes.” I read and turned to the next page.
     He grabbed the book turning the page. I read and when I tapped the last sentence on each page, he turned to the next page. We whizzed through the book.
     “Sure. And you can take this book home tonight.” My second grade A. whose mother told me he hated books, smiled a half-smile as he took the book. A. left school that day, clutching his book.
I still feel good when I think about that day – and it was 40 years ago.


Quote: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

Memory: When you accrue more than 70 years of living, there are bound to be people and situations that “come along” that you certainly never would’ve asked for on a Christmas list or wished for as you blew out the birthday candles on your cake.

Two stand out as unchangeable; permanent. One was with someone outside of me; the other was something that happened inside of me. The sudden tragic death of my first husband; an ischemic stroke.

Although 46 years separated the events, both brought immediate shock and numbness – a protective device to enable me to cope with extreme trauma. Although with a stroke the “numbness” sure lasted longer. I could not undo either of them, and I went back and forth hating each situation. With each event, I knew somewhere along the line I had to figure out how to accept it because staying angry, or devastated would make me physically ill and that was not part of my life plan.

I think my core temperament was stronger because in both instances, I knew that I wanted to survive, thrive, and be happy. I was still me – changed, but still me. And I could add survivor, thriver to my list of strengths.


Memory: It was a small thing, really. When I got home after the doctor’s appointment, he didn’t ask about the medical results.
     I felt alone, weakened even, though the report was positive. I’m sure my body language showed – a bit of a slump, no big smile after we said hello.
     But when he showed me what he did out back on our patio to make it look so clean and neat, I knew the slumpy, poor-me attitude was a garment I had to take off if I wanted to feel lighter and happy. So I smiled. “Let’s have coffee out here.”
He said, “I’ll go make it.”

Triumph on Rocks

Maya Angelou quotes from

Because of Them We Can 

What quotes do you “own”?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.