The Truth of Who I Am

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

Revisionist History, Herstory, Mystory

I’ve been thinking about history quite a bit lately. In my classes with future teachers we’ve been exploring the way history is taught and how strange it is that we tell kids lies about the way things were and who came to this land first and why they came and what they did. The predominant narrative in most schools begins with “… in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Honestly, I don’t feel like adding a link to the poem for anyone reading this post because I don’t think the poem needs to be recited anymore. End that story. Period. That revisionist history is not a simple lie, but quite simply, a thick veil that has held this country back from progress as human beings. To tell the truth about the history and herstory and ourstory will be the beginning of the story of human beings who see each other as part of the same story.

But those are not the stories that I sat down to write this morning. The stories I’m thinking about are revisionist stories of my own life. I recently listened to someone who gave me a gift of seeing the word revision in a new way. Actually it was a way of seeing the word as it truly is and always has been. Revision. Re-vision. To see something again. To look at something in a new way. I got to thinking about the stories of my own life that I have told myself and told others many different times over the years. But when I took another look at some stories I started to wonder if there might be a way to revise…re-vision…them. One of the re-visions shook me up a bit.

You see, when I was six, I experienced something that left me with many feelings including shame and fear and small and helpless. It left me with a story in which I was the person something happened to and there was nothing I could do about it and it was an awful thing to have happened to a little girl. The experience and the story led me to see myself as not much of a risk-taker and not very brave or courageous, a play-it-safe and anxious person who didn’t like too much of the unknown and only took on challenges she knew she could complete successfully. Yep. It’s quite a sad, sad way to see yourself. But I did it. Even when nobody else could tell it was how I saw myself. I got very good at hiding fear and smallness and shame and I imagine few people could even guess at helplessness.

But then, upon re-visioning the story, I started to see another version…vision…of the story. The story didn’t end there with the experience, and what I came to believe about myself was not truly the way things were. When I looked carefully at what actually happened with that experience, I began to see a whole other story. A story of a little girl, who for years, lived with an experience she was too scared to tell anyone about so she kept it inside her. And she was so strong to keep going. She was so brave to keep her heart open and to keep being loving and funny and kind and to seeing people for who they were. She kept herself open to love and trusted people despite the betrayal of trust by another human being at such a young age in her life.

Pause.

Okay, so that was hard to write and I realized that I was writing about myself in the third person the same way I wrote about the experience sometime ago here. Let me try that again because there are these words that have stuck with me:

“This is, perhaps, the greatest risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are.”

Cinderella, 2015

Continue…

When I revised and wrote my revisionist history, I realized that my story didn’t end there and much of what I had held on to was not even the truth of who I am. It turns out that I’m not really a timid, scared, worried girl only walking above safety nets. All along in my life story, I have been brave and daring. When I add up the pieces of how I have made decisions on a daily basis and lived them, the fears and worry were certainly there, BUT I DID IT ANYWAY. That’s exactly what my good friend (who knows nothing of my existence but we’re so close in my head) Brenè has been saying for a few years now and I’ve been striving to do. But I’ve actually been doing it all along. I could have, at age six, balled myself up and built an armor around me to protect me from hurt. I could have built an armor that told the world that I did not trust people. I could have closed up my heart and stopped letting people in because people can betray and hurt. BUT I DIDN’T.

Note to Oprah: Not trying to steal your friends, but isn’t Gayle enough for you? P.S. I love you.

I got on an airplane for a 48 hour trip on 3 flights at age 18, by myself for the first time, to come to a country I had never set foot on, and go to a college I had never seen before, with not a single soul that I knew. I met people and asked and answered all sorts of questions. I took on a teaching a job in a country I had not been to school in and I kept my heart open to people. I left teaching to finish up a degree and lived off a tiny babysitting job then took a risk in buying a townhouse while living off a meager stipend and some savings while working on another degree. And then I got up in front of college students and TAUGHT COURSES!!!

I even kept my heart open to love and fell in love…more than once…and then married the love of my life. All of it took great courage because nothing was safe about any of it. There really were no guarantees for success. And I continue to take great risks, to dare greatly. Heck, I even sometimes APOLOGIZE to my spouse and kids.

So there, I’ve written my revisionist history. My new stories are helping me make different decisions. I no longer accept that I am not brave enough. I no longer accept that I am too anxious or fearful. I plan to continue to show up and be seen as I truly am.

So what’s your revisionist story?

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

 

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