Cleopatra, the Queen of Denial

darkness

We each are a little bit Cleopatra, the Queen of “Denial”. We overlook flaws in ourselves and our relationships. We gloss over harms and injustices we see or commit. Because when we notice these things, we disrupt the status quo. Things might get messy before they get better. And it calls on us to get to work rather than just kick the can down the road.

But for real progress to be made, in ourselves and in our relationships, we must look deeply and notice where things fall short. Then we can get to work to close the gap between the way things are and the way we want them to be.

Love is.

thinlove

“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t no love at all.” –Toni Morrison

Thin love says, “I love you if…” There are as many ways to fill in that blank as there are relationships. Thin love is conditional love, love that shows up only when its own needs are met first. Thin love is love that doesn’t show up at all when things get tough. Thin love puts itself first and is never sacrificial.

Love is bigger than that. It shows up whether you’re in prison or the boardroom, whether you’re top of the class or getting expelled, whether you are sick or well. Love gives wholly of itself and never runs dry.

Love is.

Celebrate love.

hidingplace

Love rejoices in the idiosyncrasies of another. Love says, “Look at this! Isn’t it amazing?” Love is curious and exhilarated, bold and exuberant. Love delights and comforts and feels safe. Love makes you better– more whole– and fills you with warmth.

In celebration of love–all kinds of love–here is a beautiful poem:

Bird Understander
by Craig Arnold
Of many reasons I love you here is one
the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright
so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal      all the people
ignoring it       because they do not know
what to do with it       except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death
it makes you terribly terribly sad
You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or       (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird
All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird       and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless
but you are wrong
You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song
These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt
you have offered them
to me       I am only
giving them back
if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not

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Go naked.

naked

We wear many masks and fluff ourselves up with many props, but how’s that working for us? Nikki Giovanni notices:

A lot of people refuse to do things because they don’t want to go naked, don’t want to go without a guarantee. But that’s what’s got to happen. You go naked until you die.

What guarantees do we have in this life anyway? To health, to wealth, to job security, to happiness? Not so much. There really aren’t any guarantees to anything we do, and we delude ourselves to think otherwise. When we ‘go naked’ we engage from a place of authenticity, without the masks and props. We, our actual selves, enter into this thing called life.

J.K. Rowling notes:

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all– in which case, you fail by default.

This is it, our one shot, our one life, and we owe it to ourselves to go into it as ourselves and with gusto.

Misery won’t touch you gentle

misery

Oh, child. How I wish for you to have a life without misery and heartache, a world without disillusionment and betrayal, a childhood unmarred by neglect or abuse, a journey without conflict. But, alas, that will not be. We do not live in a utopian world, but here in this world, and you will  know sorrow and pain and, as much as I would love to shield and protect you from it, I cannot. There will be dark days, my love.

But you are brighter than the darkness, and, even in your misery, you will find a way to shine. And when you are at your lowest point, I will be there beside you knowing that you will rise again and that this pain will make you more compassionate and humble, more honest and fierce, more determined to make this world a more perfect place, because you, my beautiful child, are not meant to be kept down in the darkness, but to shine.

Read.

boyread

Reading opens our hearts. There may be no better way to stand in someone else’s shoes and look at the world from their point of view, to understand a life and world experience wholly different from our own. The inevitable result of experiencing the world from someone else’s perspective is empathy. And empathy moves us closer into recognizing our kinship, one and all.

Rain, rain, go away.

dreamrainer

We can’t choose everything in life, but we can choose what kind of person we want to be. We can choose to be encouraging and supportive, rather than bleak and pessimistic.

We can avoid being the person who rains on someone else’s parade.

Who aren’t you seeing?

invisible

Who don’t you see? So much of our reality is defined by our perception, the things we see and focus on, the things we dismiss as background. But some of that background we can walk right by is human–people who serve us dinner, wash our cars, stock our grocery stores, people begging on the street, people next to us on the bus, people in crowds. Sometimes it’s not just that we don’t notice, we avert our eyes.

Imagine what it would be like to someone who people overlook, whose voice is unheard, who is there but unnoticed. After a while, you might question your own reality. Are you…invisible? Do you matter?

There is so much good we can do by simply noticing each other. Smiling in greeting. Looking people in the eye. Acknowledging that we are all on this shared journey of life together, for this moment on the same page of the story.

We can see each other.

 

Begin with a dream

Harriet

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. There is nothing that has ever happened to help this world that didn’t start with someone believing the world could be better and dreaming of a way to make it so. No matter how wildly unbelievable or preposterous the dream, someone had the audacity to challenge the status quo and the tenacity to make it happen.

What is your dream? How will you reach for the stars to change the world?

How to carry a heavy load

load

We are weighed down. The tasks ahead seem dauntless; the burdens great. There is so much to be done, and seemingly so little time. Yet, we know that others before us have been able to carry heavy burdens with grace and inner strength. How do they do it? Some ideas:

Evaluate your load. Is it really yours to carry? Holding on to other people’s problems is debilitating because we have no control over their actions. Similarly, feeling like you’re bearing the weight of a global problem on just our own shoulders is both unrealistic and unnecessary. We can help and support someone struggling, and work with others toward a common goal on larger problems, and those are properly our burdens, but we can’t force someone to behave as we would have them, and we, alone, cannot solve a problem like world hunger and peace that is so much greater than any one person. We must discern how best to offer our support and efforts, but realize that, sometimes, the ultimate solutions are beyond our control.

Focus on the gift of that present moment. It is easy to get overwhelmed in a crisis. We see or experience them daily, but when we focus on the present moment as an opportunity to help others, our perception shifts away from the weight of the burden to the lightness that comes from helping others. Yes, there is a refugee crisis, but perhaps we can help. Yes, we’ve lost our job, but perhaps that is an opportunity to do something we’ve dreamed about. Part of the burden that comes from bad things happening is trying to hold on to the world as it existed before the crisis. We mourn the loss and rail against the unfairness. But when we lay that down, and focus on the new reality and challenges present now, in the life we have now, we feel lighter.

Recognize a larger perspective. We will not always be here in this dark place. A new day will come bringing new possibilities and circumstances. We must hold on and look for the bigger picture, remembering that there are ebbs and flows to life, and that this too shall pass.

Ask for help. Sometimes we best carry our burdens by letting someone else share them. We are made to support each other. Perhaps helping you with your burden is the answer to someone else who feels that they lack purpose. Win-win. Life will surprise you that way.

Yes, we are burdened. Life can be hard. As M. Scott Peck says in The Road Less Traveled,

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Amaze yourself. We are stronger than we realize and braver and smarter and more capable, and sometimes we just have to close our eyes and push forward. For inspiration, consider this video of an actual burden and use it as a metaphor for the burdens you face today:

 

 

You’ve got this.

 

 

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