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.

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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To thine own self be true

trueself

You’re unique, let’s face it. And, despite what the world may try to tell you with advertising, cliques, and trends, your individuality is your strength. There are so many ways we are alike as people, and that’s important to notice because it shows us that we are all one, interconnected and kin.

But the ways we each stand out from the crowd are important to highlight, too. We each have different gifts and talents, hopes and dreams, yearnings and accomplishments, history and life lessons, strengths and weaknesses, past and present, all rolled into a one-of-a-kind package. There is no being just like everybody else because no one else is exactly like you. Those differences define you and are your super power because you can offer the world something that no one else can give: you.

Consider the hummingbird

hummingdoyle

In his essay, Joyas Volardores, Brian Doyle begins with a very close look at a hummingbird, a creature whose heart makes up a good bit of its tiny body. They are remarkable creatures. We, too, are creatures whose hearts makes up a good bit of us, and Doyle ends his essay with a look at how our hearts, no matter how we protect ourselves and wall them off, are imminently fragile, with facades that can be shattered in an instant.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one in the end—not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

Today, consider the hummingbird. Let it fill us with wonder and appreciation for all of creation, but especially our own hearts, and let it remind us of how tender and fragile each of is really, truth be told.

 

So many things, so little time.

manythings

Have you ever noticed how one thing leads to the next when it comes to wanting things? Before long, the list of wanting is endless even when, maybe especially when, you’re doing a lot of getting. It won’t fill you up. But appreciating what you have? That will make you content.

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Yes, even me.

gies

Miep Gies was a young office worker when she hid and supported Anne Frank and her family, protecting them from Nazis and the danger of being sent to a concentration camp. After Anne and her family were betrayed and captured, Miep collected Anne’s diaries and eventually returned them to Anne’s father, Otto, who survived the war. That diary has been read by millions of people now, inspiring acts of heroism and showing, in a very intimate way, the horror of WWII as viewed through the eyes of an innocent, complex, lovely, vibrant girl, Anne.

Miep wasn’t famous or rich or particularly accomplished, yet she managed through her actions to shine a very bright light on hate and replace it with a more powerful portrait of love. Anne, too, wasn’t famous or rich or accomplished, although we can see now how she was a gifted author, but her words have been inspiring and a powerful force against evil in the world.

No matter our position or age or wealth or gender, we each can make a contribution that makes the world more bright.

What is the light you can turn on in a dark room?

 

Face the fear.

fearbridge

The monster’s threat in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is chilling: “Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.” What might the monster do to exact revenge if he is truly fearless? Yikes.

But the statement taken out of context can also apply to non-monsters, people hoping to do good but paralyzed by fear to reach out. Fear gets in our way, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Fear can keep us safe from danger– falling, catching diseases, getting broken bones. But fear can also keep us from speaking out against injustice, reaching out to help a neighbor, defending a bully victim, or any one of an endless list of situations where our fighting that fear will result in a greater good. These situations stir us to act and to lay the fear aside because deep down we know the right thing to do, and we know that we are the one who needs to do it.

We are far more powerful than we know.

Reach out to others.

perfection

What are we here for anyway? What’s the point? Some people joke, ‘Life is hard, and then you die’, and there’s some truth to that. We are finite. We struggle. But there is purpose to life, and it lies in what we do for others. Andre Agassi says,

“Remember this. Hold on to this. This is the only perfection there is, the perfection of helping others. This is the only thing we can do that has any lasting value or meaning. This is why we’re here.”

Others joke ‘The one who dies with the most toys wins,’ but those things we do purely for ourselves are vanity. Instead, when we use our gifs and talents to reach out and help others, we’ve upped the good in the world. We’ve made a difference.