The Truth of Who I Am

"Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free." -Eckhart Tolle

Summer Heat = Pool Truth

Summertime and a great pool in our neighborhood means that there is no choice but to take the kids to the pool. However, for me, getting into a bathing suit for the public is no simple event. I’m guessing this is true for many of us women. I mean – when did we women decide that going out in underwear made from a different kind of fabric was now alright with all of us because there was some body of water around? And for those of you who get super excited because it’s time to show off your beautiful curves – yay for you! No grudges or hard feelings – just the hope that you don’t judge me when I am trying to disguise my curves that seem to be more than I think I should have on one body.

Talk about the truth of who I am! Deciding and then actually going to a public pool in a bathing suit is daring greatly for me. This has been true for me for as far back as I can remember to when I was a little kid in Tanzania going to the beach with the family on weekends. There was nowhere close to the selection of bathing suits there that exists here now. In fact, for the early part of my life, I went in the water in my modest underwear. Hey – we were a Goan family in Tanzania and that’s what we did. I remember becoming extremely self-conscious right about the age of 4 and wondering why my mother didn’t think to cover up my chest – even if it looked exactly the same as my three brothers. I was a girl and somehow I was aware that THAT part of my body was private. My sister, who was a couple of years older, at least had a hand-me-down two piece. I remember it well – gray, brown, black and white stripes. I often wished she would hurry up and outgrow it so I could have it. Side note – most of my clothes were either hand-me-downs or sewn by my talented mother. Apparently, bathing suits were not on her list of patterns she could create.

Back to the pool in this day and age. Well before heading to the pool, I go through the same process each year of pulling out the collection of bathing suits in various styles and sizes that tell the stories of my body’s journeys. As I try on each one, I stress and strain and look behind and around and stare at myself from every angle in the hopes that the longer I stare the slimmer parts of me will become. I lift up my shoulders and suck in my belly – well most of it – then examine the kudzu tattoos left behind by my babies and sigh as I realize that’s the least of my belly problems. Nothing changes no matter how long I stand in front of the mirror, but I eventually remind myself that this great act of courage, of putting on a bathing suit and getting into a pool is for my children and for them, I would do just about anything. And getting into a bathing suit is up there near the top of the list from hardest to easiest things I would do for my kids. I’m not even kidding about this.

What I wish I could do is hang signs that float and point at different parts of my body with important messages that tell the truth of who I am, i.e.

Arms – “Pick up kids almost daily to hug or comfort or reach for the faucet in public restrooms.”

Belly – “Grew two big babies (10lbs 14oz and 9lbs 12oz). Gimme a break.”

Thighs – “Born this way and been working with and denying this part of me my entire life.”

Back – “Hurts every morning from awkward sleeping positions after 1-2 kids crawled into and sprawled across the bed.”

Butt – “Born this way, too, and have varying levels of appreciation for it.”

Ankles – “Kinda like this part of my body. Stare here.”

Face – “Don’t let this nonchalant face fool you – I’m feeling very vulnerable right now and daring greatly every single moment I’m out here without a cover-up on.”

Yup. This is what I wish for. Floating signs that point and follow me around everywhere. They would really just be a way to tell the truth about me. Which is really all I want known – the truth about me. Because when you strip away everything else – not literally, but figuratively – what’s left, I’m willing to bet, looks exactly like what would be left of anyone else. We’re all the same. We’re all part of the same. While this does not happen in real life when we’re at the pool or the beach and strip off our clothes and look different physically, it’s what I believe to be true about us on the inside.

I decided to venture out and share my inner anxiety with my husband while we were at the pool and he proceeded to tell me about the The Bert show on Q-100 doing a thing where women of all shapes and sizes were posting pictures of themselves in their bathing suits in some kind of empowering movement to offer a wide range of body types to downplay the unrealistic image we have been told we should look like. So he offered to take a photo for me to post.

Mind you – he didn’t pause to assure me (whether with lies or not) that I was the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on and he couldn’t image why I might be self-conscious – or at the very least, just remind me that he sees those floating signs. But I digress and I delay because I’m still not sure I can do what I had in mind to do in this post. But this is about telling the truth of who I am…and am not. Supermodel I am not.

One week later:

Deleted picture of me in a bathing suit HERE.

So I decided not to post the photo Brian took of me in my bathing suit to post on The Bert Show as a way to stand up with my sisters in solidarity. A minute before posting, I had visions of my undergraduate students coming across my blog and seeing the photo and not being able to get the image out of their heads while sitting in my classroom and immediately I knew that for the sake of a good education, I must not post a picture of myself in my bathing suit for the public. But you’re welcome to join me at the pool or a beach any day.

In the meantime, I watched my four year-old daughter in delight and pride as she joyfully took off her cover up and ran into the pool in great excitement, proud of her new Hello Kitty bathing suit and thrilled to be able to play in the water. That’s what it’s all about. The bathing suit did not need to have any power over me. It is simply a piece of clothing that make it a little easier to be in the water to play and enjoy the water and the loved ones around me. Chances are, everyone else is too busy either worrying about what others think of them or having a great time to notice and/or judge me in my bathing suit. I’m really the only person that needs to be able to see the floating signs around me.

A picture of one year-old Kaya with the same joy she has today in the water in a bathing suit.

So I said a little earnest prayer that my daughter would never lose her free spirit and joy in the pursuit of fun and I got in the pool and enjoyed my precious time with my family. Happy summer to you!

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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Like a Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco!

San Francisco!!!! Oh I love this city! There are so many ways to See Beautiful in this city! I just can’t get over it! From the hills and mountains and redwoods and Pacific Ocean to the rainbow flags and sourdough bread and cable cars and people, people and more people. I L-O-V-E this city and from the first time I visited it 10 years ago I’ve wanted to live it in. I got the chance to be there again a few weeks ago and was reminded of what I fell in love with the first time around. There is so much to love in this beautiful city where you cannot escape the incredible, surreal sceneries nor comprehend entirely how the weather can change within a few feet.

And then there are the bridges. You are never more than a few minutes away from the sight of the glowing Bay Bridge and the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge! I could stare at this historic, most photographed and most recognizable rusty red bridge from all angles for hours. I love bridges. I have a long-standing fascination for bridges. I love the way they look and the interesting ways in which they are built. And I am fascinated by their beauty and strength.

There are so many beautiful bridges around the world that I have had the good fortune to see in Venice and Paris and Chicago and New York and London and Livingstone and New Orleans. And every time, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I am wowed by their beauty and regal structure as they stand tall and strong and delicate.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Pont Notre Dame, Paris

Livingstone-Victoria Falls Bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe

Aside from their sheer beauty, I especially love what bridges represent. When I look at or cross a bridge, I can’t help but think about how the bridge is CONNECTING one place to another. Bridges connect people and places. Where there was a clear separation by water or some other difficult terrain, someone looked at what was getting in the way and found a way to “get over it.” It’s beautiful really. Bridges are a testament to the human spirit, where in the face of things that separate us, the spirit finds a way to connect. We are meant to connect to each other. Bridges are a clear statement that, no matter what, we CAN connect.

I believe  connection is what our human spirit craves. Maya Angelou described spirit as a soul’s longing for connection to The Great Spirit (AKA God in whatever language or term you prefer). I love that. Our spirit is what drives us to create those amazing, beautiful things  – the things that help connect us with God. When we create from our soul’s longing for God (our spirit), it’s always beautiful and it’s no surprise that when we put that work into the world, we connect with others. Our spirits recognize and connect to each other through those creations. Bridges connect my spirit to the people who thought of and designed the bridges in the same way as my spirit connects to Maya Angelou’s writing or Norah Jones’ music or a class with Dr. Asa Hilliard or Frida Kahlo’s paintings or the fun pattern on my new dress or a movie directed by Steven Spielberg or the architecture of I. M. Pei or this masterpiece:

That urge every single one of us feels to do something or make something is all the same. It’s all about our spirit feeling the longing of our soul to connect to The Great Spirit. I know I could ask anybody anywhere what she or he desires and I would be told of their soul’s longing to connect. And if there is any sort of restlessness within us, it is only because we are not immersed in the creation of that which is connecting to the great I AM. I know this to be true about myself. It’s why I’m writing about it today. When I feel restless, it is only because I am not creating something from my soul by my spirit. And then I know that I have to find a way to make connections. Build bridges. Despite the foreboding water or rough terrain. And seeing beautiful bridges reminds me that I can do this. I can build bridges and get over some of the most difficult and, sometimes, seemingly impossible challenges and find a way to connect to people…to their most human and beautiful soul. God.

Yup. Bridges are beautiful. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge floating in the clouds is particularly awe-inspiring to me. It’s an even clearer image of my spirit reaching up and out and connecting across whatever is of this earth. So, in what way is your soul wanting to create connections through your spirit? What is that THING you’ve been wanting…yearning to do? What is that gift you are going to give to the world? Maybe you already have it figured out and you are doing IT. Or maybe, like me, you’re being still and knowing it before you start building. Wherever you are, let’s get to it.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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Sips, Gulps and Cheers!

A couple of days ago I came across some old videos of the kids from about a year ago and almost cried at how much they had grown since then. I wondered where the time had gone and how I had missed the thinning of David’s round cheeks and the straightening of Kaya’s hair. I wondered when exactly they had lost the last little signs of toddler-hood and became a boy and a little girl. And immediately I was wracked with guilt over having wanted them to go to bed already. Guilt over how often I had longed for those last three hours of their day to just get here and get by already. Guilt over not getting over my exhaustion during those daily marathons between dinner and dreamland and spending more movie moments with them. I wished life would slow down.

I do want life to slow down. I do want to take sips of life rather than gulps. I want to “savor every moment” and “enjoy the ride” and “go with the flow” as I am often advised to do. I really do strive to do this. It’s on my daily list of Things To Do and I am sincere in my endeavors. And I love it when I can sip on life rather than gulp it down. It’s always so much better that way. But the last leg of the race is hard around here and the idea of sipping on a cocktail instead is very alluring to me.

A good friend just sent me a link to a CNN article about a growing trend with mothers who turn to a glass or two or three of wine every night to wind down. She said it reminded her of me as I have been known to mention cocktails often and most social events I initiate are centered around cocktails. I am aware. I am always aware of the possibility of being perceived as a lush. And to those who judge me based on the number of times I mention cocktails, I have to say that I understand how you might think that. And since I now have a blog dedicated to truths about me, I thought I’d use it as a platform to clarify a truth about me.

The truth is I talk about cocktails far, far more than I actually consume them (which is not as much as I would actually like to consume them). The idea of a cocktail can take me right back to memories of stories and laughs and connecting with good friends around a table with a round of drinks. Sometimes all I need is the mention of margaritas to feel a buzz. Really, I think I just use cocktails as a way to excuse the extreme silliness and wit and giggles that go up several notches when I am in the company of people I love and who love to laugh. The actual drink does little to get me there. Those who know “Drunk Rhina” will vouch for how much fun she is. And by “drunk” I mean a MAXIMUM of two drinks because beyond that and I transition into something else. This should explain why I mention cocktails as often as I do. Some need  Calgon (think tagline “take me away”) … but I’m good with a margarita on my mind.

I do enjoy the company of friends along with a cocktail. In fact, I’m not one to actually enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine when not in the company of friends. I just about never do that…but I do wonder sometimes if it may actually help me during the marathon between 5:30PM-8:30PM that happens every night in this household. Maybe it would be nice to have a little cocktail along the way. Kinda like those lovely people who cheer you on in a running marathon and hand you cups of water. Honestly, I don’t even know what that might be like because I’ve never run any kind of marathon. BUT, I can IMAGINE what that must feel like to a tired runner. Why can’t I have little cups of wine or mojitos handed to me as I run the last 3 hours of my daily marathon of cooking dinner, serving dinner, cleaning up, baths, brushing and then the million requests (from them or us, the parents) until Mr. Sandman wins? Seriously, why not? Summer and being out of school heightens and lengthens the entire experience to a whole new level around here! The requests range from reasonable to ridiculous…

Can I get a drink of water?

Get back in your bed.

Can I sleep in David’s bed?

Get back in your bed.

Can we sleep in your bed?

Get back in your bed.

I scared.

Get back in your bed.

Can I read another book?

Get back in your bed.

Can we watch a show?

Can you come lie down with me?

Get back in your bed.

Will you come check on me?

Get back in your bed.

Kaya put a toy in my fish tank. Can I get it out?

Get back in your bed.

I need to go to the bathroom.

Get back in your bed.

My belly button itches.

Get back in your bed.

I need a haircut.

Get back in your bed.

I’m bleeding.

Get back in your bed.

I forgot to brush my teeth.

Get back in your bed.

You get the idea. They are far more creative in their requests than we are in ours. It’s exactly like Whack-A-Mole! Can’t tell you how many times Brian and I give each other questioning looks for whose turn it is or how long we try to hold out and pretend we can’t hear them in the hopes that the other will deal with it. Our evenings are nothing like the movies and commercials where the parents snuggle up and read book-after-book and have deep conversations and ruffle hair lovingly and leave gentle kisses on foreheads while tucking in their kids. My kids never fall asleep to me reading a book and gentle kisses and hair-ruffling are accompanied by more requests. All that movie stuff (except for the book-reading) happens AFTER they are sound asleep. That’s when I am finally able to slow down my heart and mind and body in the race.

It all happens at the end of the marathon when it finally gets quiet in the house and I go to each of their rooms and stroke their beautiful, vulnerable sleeping faces and breathe in the smell of their hair and gently kiss their soft cheeks and whisper special wishes and blessings into their ears. That’s when some of the most tender moments happen for me and I feel like my heart could burst open because it is so full of gratitude and love. And I don’t mean simply gratitude for the fact that Mr. Sandman, my partner and I won the marathon. It’s the deep, deep gratitude for having the honor of caring for these two little people who are, simply, two of my most prized spiritual teachers.

I do believe that we each engage in some kind of pre-planning with God before we are born as humans. The goal of the pre-planning is simply to become better humans by becoming more of our spiritual selves. So I believe that every person and other living thing I come into contact with are my teachers and very purposefully in my life. Those I am closest to are also my greatest teachers. My children certainly are.  They teach me in their wakeful as well as in their sleeping states, but THANK GOD for the sleeping states. That was an essential part of the plan. I should probably look into setting up little cocktail stations for my marathons just to see if they work. Just to see. Nah…I know this would not work for me. I have learned from experience that my children are a buzz kill for me. They are. Every time. There have been enough times of losing the pleasure of a drink just by the mere approach of one of my children. I’ll have to figure something else out. There may come a day when they are my friends and I can share a cocktail or two with them before bedtime…on their visits…but I’ll hold off on those stations for now. One day they will get it, but not any time soon.

In the meantime – anyone want to gather around a table at Happy Hour with me? And remember….

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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