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.

Move the chains.

football

Any great achievement depends on small steps forward. Progress. Getting up again and again. Pushing through challenges. Ever forward.

If you are confronting a large, overwhelming project, break it up into small manageable pieces, and then tackle those. One at a time. You’ve got this.

Persist.

persist

Sometimes progress is subtle and slow, born of persistence and endurance. Not everything needs to be solved now, today. But we must persist. We must set our goals and work toward them, cognizant that we may stumble and backtrack along the way.

Yet we push on.

For a lovely example of persistence, consider the story of ┬áJadev Payeng, a simple man who set out to plant trees in a barren stretch of wasteland where no one believed anything would grow. That was in the 1970s. Now that barren wasteland is a forest home to rhinos, elephants, tigers and more. One man, one mission, plus persistence, and now there is a sanctuary for many wild animals bigger than New York’s Central Park.

For a short video of Payeng story, go here. For a deeper dive, watch National Geographic’s look at this remarkable story.

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Walk in the direction of your values.

walking

It takes courage to be authentic. It is so easy to stay disconnected from our emotions, afraid to listen to the messages they give us, to put on a happy face, constantly, to be afraid to buck the crowd or disturb the status quo. But the things that upset us are clues, really, to what needs fixing. They are data points that we can take in and consider what needs help–in ourselves, in our relationships, in the world. And tuning in to the full breadth of our emotions juxtaposed against our values can help us discover how we can make contributions in our society–to unmask wrongdoing, to stand up on behalf of the vulnerable, even to advocate on behalf of those society is only too willing to throw away. Authenticity helps us find our voices and the courage even when we are afraid to put on our work boots and start walking in the direction of positive social change.

What seems impossible?

impossible

What seems impossible to you right now?

So much seems out of reach. So many problems have yet to be solved. So many people do not get along. And yet, when we step back and take a long view, so many seemingly impossible things have been accomplished in just a lifetime–anti-biotics, flight, space travel, computers, internet. And though social justice clearly does not move in a straight line, we have seen significant advances in human rights that our great-grandparents may have been unable to predict or even hope for.

So what to make of this? It’s important to keep fighting the good fight even when the odds seem insurmountable. Keep striving for peace, for social justice, for a more equitable world. We may not see the dramatic change now, but when someone looks back at our time here on Earth, they will see we didn’t stop pushing forward and, with that long view, there was continued progress ever forward.

August high.

August

August marks the end of summer and the beginning of another school year. It is as good a time as any to ask yourself–

Where are you going?

Are you progressing?

What vision do you have for the months to come?

Months turn into years turn into decades turn into a lifetime. Pausing periodically to make sure you’re on the right path is always a good idea.