The Truth of Who I Am

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

A Letter to a Phenomenal Future Teacher

I teach teachers and wannabee teachers. There’s a special place in my heart reserved for teachers and the work they do. This work with teachers challenges me daily because of who they are and what they’re getting into and with whom they will work. I spend a lot of time thinking about each one who comes my way and admiring and caring deeply for them because they have chosen to be a teacher. Because they have chosen to be on the front lines with our children. Because they have chosen a career that matters in this world and if they are among the good ones, they will never get paid their worth. It’s impossible. We should try, but it’s impossible.

It’s the end of the semester and, sometimes, if I am lucky enough, I give this letter to future teachers when I leave them because I see that they will be the good ones, the heroes. If you happen to be one of them, this letter is for you, too.

Dear Future Phenomenal Teacher,

I’ve had the opportunity to say a lot to you in this course. In the end, however, I realize that most of what I said will, likely, be forgotten. I decided that if I chose what I consider to be the most important things and put them on paper, maybe then you would remember. Three seems to be a time-tested magical number so, in the spirit of being unconventional, I will go with four. Here goes…

             First, know everything you need to know about good teaching and apply it. Learn about content and pedagogy and content pedagogy. Learn about how children learn, what they love, what motivates them, what scares them, what sharpens their minds and what dulls their minds, who loves them, and who does not consider them. Learn about the world – its people, its problems, its future, its wonders, and its fragility. Learn about how curriculums get developed and chosen, how schools get and use their funding, who makes decisions about standardized testing, why you have to do what you do. Know your worth as a teacher and show it.

             Second, know the students who enter your classroom. Really take the time to know them. Don’t underestimate the importance of informal conversations, eye-contact, humor, and attentiveness. Know your students so well that you can’t help loving them…or at the very least having a deep concern for their well-being. Ask them about themselves, ask their parents, ask anyone who cares about them. Actively take the time to know them and then be sure they know you know them. Acknowledge their presence daily. Speak to each of them at some point everyday. Let what you know about your students guide the way you teach them. Be the teacher that will stand out in their minds as the one that challenged them to realize their potential.

             Third, be an advocate for children. Discover what you stand for and be the teacher that speaks up for it, knowing that you will be empowering others to do the same. Challenge those things we do to children in schools and in society that we know are harmful to them. Determine your comfort zone and then challenge yourself to step out of it, when necessary, to advocate for what is best for children. Be an advocate, not just for your students, but for all children. Become political.

             And fourth, love life. Make a sincere attempt to thoroughly enjoy your life. Go to movies with happy endings; go to the beach and swim in the ocean; walk barefoot on soft grass; ride roller coasters; laugh every chance you get; fall in love with another person; try new foods; remember hilarious jokes and tell them every chance you get; talk to strangers; dance; sing out loud – off key or not; eat good ice-cream; have dreams and hobbies and books that have nothing to do with school and teaching and social justice. Be passionate about life. Enjoy life to the fullest because you will need to refuel yourself as you go through your career as a teacher and take on the lives of your students. Many will come to you from fortunate backgrounds, but so many will not. And whether or not you like it, you will take on and feel their pain. So fill yourself up on the good things in life as often as you can to balance out the tough stuff.

Teach to change the world…one little person at a time.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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Sweating the Small Stuff – My Messy Beautiful

Today I’m struggling with embracing the mess in my life so I thought it was the perfect day to write about how beautiful it all is. At least, I’m trying to convince myself of that. I like a good challenge and I am definitely sweating the small stuff.

EVERYTHING is ridiculously messy at this moment because it’s been exactly 7 days since the two women who bring me joy every two weeks last came to clean this house. Every flat surface has been claimed for old and new mail, back packs, dirty dishes (that I keep telling the kids will not be picked up by the servers who quit a long time ago), random boxes, science stuff, cut up pieces of paper, crayons, cards, remote controls, shoes, clean and dirty laundry, and also art. Yes, it’s definitely art when it’s your child’s. And it’s a lot. And it looks nothing like the beautifully organized and displayed art I see on Pinterest all the time. They don’t tell you what to do with all the REST of the art once you’ve displayed the ones you’ve managed to display. I have this set up in my laundry room:

And I thought I was winning and reveled in that smug sort of way I just KNOW those Pinterest-posting people feel. I felt, for about 3 days that I was one of them. It’s impressive, right? Okay, so I didn’t actually use the leveler nor did I drill holes into the wall or hang the wire. I could do all that if I wanted, but someone else around here loves levelers more than I do so I sacrificed my opportunity to bring joy to this man that I love.

After the 3rd day, the other MILLION works of art proved to me that I was not Pinterest-worthy because what do you do with the rest of it?! I’m not one of them. The Pinterest-posting folks are still on my pedestal and I’m not on it with them. Oh – and please don’t notice that those masterpieces have been up there for 2 years now.

I’m still searching for beautiful in the mess. Still sweating the small stuff. I’m also feeling a little miffed that I came home and spent an hour planning and cooking what I consider to be a nutritious, delicious, veggie-packed, made-from-scratch, natural, mostly organic and definitely no high-fructose corn syrup nor Blue no. 7 nor Red no. 40 meal only to have it all negated by a giant-sized cookie packed with an entire bag of M&Ms – and the kids tell me that Daddy is so nice because he sits and watches TV with them (I was cooking, remember) and also lets them eat the stuff they like to eat (said cookie containing a bag of M&Ms each). Seriously, we should have a rule about this. The rule should be that you can only destroy what you built. I think they have this rule in Kaya’s pre-K class. It’s not fair to be the one putting time and effort into the good-FOR-you stuff and also be the unfun parent.

I was quite hurt. When the dinner was all ready, they were not excited enough to come eat. They requested longer in front of the TV (with Daddy). Then, when they finally came to the table, they looked suspiciously at their plates and poked at the few beets I placed on their plates – just to try – don’t judge me. THEN they argued over whose plate belonged to whom, i.e. the plate that looked like it had the fewest veggies was most wanted. Then there was crying. Well, I did take away a plate and muttered something about the food not needing to be eaten because there were other kids in the world who would appreciate even a bite of what was on the plate. No need to force anyone to eat this great meal was my rationale. So the crying was sort of expected. Still, don’t judge me.

And I was still searching for the beautiful in the mess and still sweating the small stuff.

So then I left the house in the hopes of getting some retail therapy. Retail therapy is real. You can’t convince me otherwise. I drove all the way to the closest mall, enjoying the first quiet moment in my day. And then when I got there and opened my door to get out of the car, I shut it again quickly because it was way too cold and windy to step out of my car and walk in for my therapy session.

So I drove back home thinking about it all and wondering how to stop sweating the small stuff and how to truly live out all the beautiful quotes and stories and messages I have received from the universe my entire life through the Glennons and Oprahs and Freires and Brenes and Mayas and many, many self-help and spiritual books. The truth is I know so much more than I live out in my everyday life. I could stop reading all of that and know all that has ever been written and all that will ever be written about truth because it’s all inside me and it’s also all inside you. I know it  and you know it when we come across it because we recognize it.

Living out these truths is my quest in life. It’s my journey. It’s our journey.

And I realized another truth and that is that there will only be one time in my life when I will have arrived at that place of perfection and it will be when I take my last breath. Until then, I must keep at it.  The mess will always be there whether physically or emotionally or socially or mentally. The mess is part of life and if we didn’t have it, we would never see the beautiful that exists in it all.

And then, while writing this post amidst the mess on my desk, because I contribute to the mess, too, of course, I see this:

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Do you see it? There, in middle, but not entirely hidden was a See Beautiful sticker from a remarkable woman and friend who started a movement to get the world to See Beautiful. If you haven’t come across her website or blog or Facebook page, you must. She has encouraged and challenged and pointed out the beautiful in this world at all the right times and in the best ways and sometimes when she doesn’t even know it, e.g. the sticker showing up at the bottom of my messy desk on a day that I was struggling to see beautiful in my messy life. See Beautiful is all about spreading beautiful through messages, projects and sales in the same way that Monkees do. And since I’m writing this post as part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project by Glennon Melton of Momastery (one of my favorite blogs), it seems appropriate to spread the word about the See Beautiful movement.

I’ve stopped sweating the small stuff for now (as in just for today until my slightly neurotic PMSy self returns). And I can see my messy, beautiful life again.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

To learn more about the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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The Big Reveal

I found myself watching an old episode of What Not to Wear recently and, as always happens, I went through all the emotions of 1. worrying about the ego of the woman that was mauled into a makeover, 2. feeling mildly guilty for judging her poor taste in clothes, 3. impatience at her inability to see how she really looks to others because of her clothes, and 4. a growing excitement as Stacy, Clinton, Carmindy and Nick (or Ted) work their magic. #5 is the kicker…

The show does not vary much. After the magic is done, there is a Big Reveal of the “new” woman who is radiant and beautiful. This is my #5 where I always, ALWAYS have to wipe away tears. ALWAYS. I love makeovers and I absolutely LOVE the moment of the Big Reveal. I savored every Oprah and Dr. Phil makeover show. I take it all in while watching the transformation – particularly the very beginning where the person’s story is told of who they are and how they got into the state they’re in. And, of course, the Big Reveal is the very best part for me.

Today I thought about why it is that I love makeovers so much. I have very seriously considered this career path for my life. I’m not even joking. Friends who know me well would confirm it for you. This may have been the career that got away. Anyway, as I thought about why I love makeovers so much, it dawned on me that I love makeover shows because throughout the show, the makeover magicians are actually people who are really good at seeing past the outside of the person and right through to the inside of the person. They see the radiant, beautiful person on the inside that is just yearning to be seen and to be free.

That radiant, beautiful person has always been there at the core, the truth of who the person is. And the makeover people just have that gift of seeing that truth through all the other stuff. All they have to do then, is to simply remove those things that diminish the radiance and uncover the beautiful person that is on the inside. What a special gift to be able to do that! To be able to SEE right through the ridiculous clothes and makeup and crazy and/or neglected hair.

Stacy and Clinton see it almost immediately and then spend some time trying to understand more deeply by talking and showing and questioning and listening to the person. They really listen to the experiences and desires and fears and dreams of the women they makeover before they ever tell her what not to wear. It seems their main goal is to help the woman see what’s on the inside by holding up a magic mirror. And I love it.

And what I love EVEN MORE is the look on the face of the woman when she is revealed to herself. The routine is that she puts on one of her new outfits and walks out without ever looking in a mirror until she’s with Stacy and Clinton and on camera. Then she looks in the mirror and, often for the first time in a long time, she sees HERSELF again. She sees HER SELF. She recognizes the beautiful, radiant woman that she knows as herself. She recognizes herself and can suddenly see her dreams within reach because she looks like the woman in her dreams. She had lost sight of her self and someone else had to find her for herself and help her SEE what was always on the inside.

We’ve all been there, I’m sure, where we have lost sight of the truth of who we are. There are times when I don’t recognize myself and the dreams I dream for myself don’t seem to fit the woman I see in the mirror. She sometimes looks so strange and foreign to me.

And here is where I am pausing to filter and deciding that I must keep typing. I’m sort of in that phase right now. In and out of it. Some days I see myself with such clarity and I look exactly like the woman destined for my dreams. But then there are days when the mirror reflects back to me a very blurry, distorted and diminished image of the truth of who I am. And it is in those moments, when I am least recognizable to myself that I wish the most for someone to see me – SEE ME. I want a Stacy & Clinton in my life to hold up the magic mirrors on those bad days when I am most blurry and distorted.

And what a gift it is when someone who loves me – the truth, the core – of me so deeply and so openly that it is the only way they ever see me. None of all the outside ridiculous stuff ever matters. That stuff is always a transparent mask that means nothing. It is during those times, when the image in the mirror I look into is blurry and distorted that they hold up their shiny, magic mirrors and I see my SELF in all my radiance and beauty that I also know most certainly that I am loved. That’s grace. That’s love in its truest form. In the end, isn’t this exactly the kind of love we all seek? To be loved at our worst. To be loved when we are furthest from the truth of who we are. To be reminded of our selves when we are blurry to ourselves.

Inevitably, this kind of thinking about how much I love what others do for me always leads me to ask myself how well and how much I do those kinds of things for others. Because it’s a hard thing sometimes not to get distracted by the ridiculous outsides of people. All the ridiculous masks can get me all judgmental and impatient. Sometimes it’s just too hard not to look at their blurry, distorted images and believe that’s all there is. Sometimes it’s easier to take the masks seriously and focus on and criticize the mask rather than see through it and love deeply and openly. More work for me to do, but I continue to strive to live out that career as a makeover artist for people – at least the part where I can see their insides first, just like Stacy & Clinton. Because this is also true…

As for me, I’m not even sure where I was headed with this post except I’m still chipping away at the armor and trying to get to the truth of who I am so that I can live from that space of always seeing myself in plain sight and always remaining true to my SELF.

And still, always, trying to live as the woman destined for the dreams I dream.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

P.S. If, based on the title of this blog post you expected a naked picture of me….my sincere apologies.

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