By Shewanda Riley
Comments like “I know that’s right” echoed throughout the Fox Theater in Atlanta the first weekend of December as the sold-out audience responded to the insightful statement “Fear keeps you safe, but it also keeps you stuck” made by forever First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her tour for her book The Light We Carry. Laughter and affirmation filled the theater as Obama offered insights about love and life as she enthralled a sold-out audience in a conversation that was moderated by entertainment mogul Tyler Perry.
Keeping with the honesty that she offered in her first memoir Becoming, Obama shared even more insights from her latest book on many topics including how she’s adjusted to life after The White House. Part of that adjustment was dealing with uncertainty as a result the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide shutdown. In discussing the effects of the pandemic, Obama admitted that like so many others, she suffered from low grade depression which made her reevaluate areas of her life. When asked by Perry what she thought the root cause was of the depression, she indicated that it was due in part to the realization that despite how hard she tried to do well as First Lady, for some it would never be enough. “You think that you showing up right will matter. For some it never will,” she explained. Those lingering thoughts as well as the pandemic shutdown made her question many things.
For example, the isolation made her reflect on her responses to fear. As pictures of her as a child were projected to the audience, Obama shared how her mother made her walk to elementary school by herself when she was five years old. “Is she crazy?” was what she first thought when her mother told her that. Moreover, she recalled being afraid and feeling uncomfortable. However, she had to face those feelings and she acknowledged that confronting those feelings became a familiar way of life for her. When her father’s Multiple Sclerosis became progressively worse, she had to deal with similar feelings. Even more so, when those feelings resurfaced during the pandemic, she realized one important thing: having dealt with those feelings as a young child gave her the skills to successfully deal with the uncertainty of her father’s health and could help her in dealing with emotional swings caused by the pandemic. In describing that period of her life, she explained that despite the sometimes-uncomfortable feelings, uncertainty ‘was the rocket fuel that can keep you going despite challenges.” Most significantly, she added that she learned not to crumble when difficulties happened.
As the attendees streamed out of the auditorium when some were overheard expressing joy in hearing Obama boldly share her truth. Even though First Lady Obama didn’t quote chapter and verse of scripture as part of her presentation, she exemplified the powerful biblical wisdom of the truth setting you free. Sharing these truths about her life illustrates John 8:32 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Freedom comes in both sharing and hearing truth.
Shewanda Riley (Aunt Wanda), PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @shewanda. You can also listen to her podcast at www.chocolateauntiepodcast.com.