The Truth of Who I Am

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

The Truth About Pants and Boxes

I had a moment of truth a few weeks ago when I was getting dressed and pulling up a pair of pants and coming to the realization that I would not be needing a belt that day for a pair of pants that have always required the use of a belt. They were snug. They fit just right on the waist and even a little too snug on the rest of the curves I possessed. Could it be? Might I really have grown my curves some more????!!!!

I stood there and attempted the usual mode of making sense of the situation.

Maybe it was because they had shrunk in the dryer? Nope. No reason for this to be the first time they had shrunk in the dryer after so many cycles of washing and drying.

Maybe it was because it was that more “sensitive” time of the month when my womanly body stores extra water? Nope. Not that time.

Maybe it was because they were just too old now so they had finally given in to the last wash and dry? C’mon, Rhina…

And then I accepted the truth of the situation.

This situation has been on my mind a whole lot since then. In truth, this situation has plagued me my entire life it seems. It goes way back into my childhood when my cheeks were constantly squeezed by all sorts of adults and I was told I had such cute chubby cheeks. Sometimes  I was told that I wasn’t fat, just plump. As a preteen I noticed with horror that my thighs filled out – especially when I was seated and looking down at them. I found myself looking in the mirror and trying to figure out just the right way to sit so that my thighs appeared smaller. As a teenager, it seemed that all my friends were slimmer and, thus, more ideal.

I swam and played a variety of sports and even competed in some sports in school. I participated in synchronized swimming, for heaven’s sake! I played badminton – and if you have played it seriously, you’d know it’s not a garden sport. I’d mention being an avid chess player, but I may be pushing my luck to make the point that I was sporty. Interestingly, I never saw myself as athletic, because my sister had that descriptor covered. I’m not sure what the obsession was, but everyone around us had to offer their comparisons of us out-loud and to us and we both took in the messages and kept creating and adjusting our images of ourselves without having the chance to actually see ourselves as we truly were.

She was the athletic one. I was book smart. She was the outgoing one. I was a homebody. She spoke her mind. I was peace-loving. She was adventurous. I preferred safety. She made friends easily. I had the hardest time making friends because I was shy. She was fun. I was sweet. She had a magnetic personality. I had a pretty face. And on and on it went. With each label, we picked up our paint brushes and changed our self-portraits just a little bit. Sometimes with a  heavy heart and sometimes with pleasure. But each time I did it, I felt a tad bit more fitted into something and therefore a tad bit less free. I suspect my sister felt the same way. Still, we grew into our labels and then remained there for the most part.

Until now. Lately. The last several years, even. The box in which I was fitted into, like my pair of pants, has gotten too snug and uncomfortable. The truth is that very little of the off-handed observations made by people who barely knew us were true. We didn’t need to take on their limited and limiting view of us and how I wish we hadn’t. We were BOTH capable and we BOTH possessed all of the qualities they noticed. My sister is also a book-worm and a homebody and peace-loving and sometimes afraid and shy and extremely sweet and beautiful. See her here…

Nancy

My beautiful sister, Nancy.

And I have been known to be a social coordinator who uses her voice and words to advocate. I went whitewater rafting down the Zambezi River into which the Victoria Falls spills. And I did that with nobody I knew on the raft with me. I also took my first solo flight at age 18 to a whole new continent with three connecting flights along the way which were delayed by hours and led to me missing flights and me having to command a taxi driver to get his hand off my knee while driving me to my final destination in Atlanta. For the longest time I did not even see this about me even as I did these things. I did not see that I was outgoing and outspoken and adventurous and a great friend, too.

And then came this little opportunity called motherhood that has taught me and filled me up in ways I did not know were possible. This has been the opportunity that truly showed me that the box I had fit myself into had always been way too small for the truth of who I am. Becoming a mother the first time around revealed the amazing capability of my body to make another human being. That’s some kind of power!

But it was the second time around, when I became a mother to a daughter that I realized just how small and tight that box had been all along. My daughter, Kaya, fills me with wonder and a deep sense of pride in the way she is in this world. I have often noticed her in quiet moments of wonder and admired the strong, independent, confident, free-thinking and carefree girl that she is. I realize that I can see those pieces of her because she is exactly how I wanted to be as a child. Well, all except for her ridiculous hot-messiness, but that’s for another blog post with a much more shallow message and lots of necessary humor.

Kaya on Mount Trashmore, VA Beach

Kaya on Mount Trashmore, VA Beach

 

The night before she started Kindergarten I had a conversation with her about goals and intentions. Yes, I am THAT mother who talks about these things in the hopes of creating memories and influencing their futures. I spoke for a while about the difference between goals and intentions. I explained that goals are the things you want to do but they have to be guided by your intentions, etc. After all of that I asked her about her intentions  for this year in Kindergarten. Her answer after thinking for a moment was simple and sweet and very matter-of-fact:

“My intention is to be myself, Mommy.”

There were no more words left for me to say so I kissed her on her forehead and smiled on the outside and nearly burst with pride on the inside, wiped away tears and said, “You do exactly that, my girl. Just be yourself.” Because what else is there to say when you realize that your 5 year-old daughter has learned the lesson that is taking you forty some years to learn?

My daughter teaches me how to be in this world. She is one of my greatest and most favorite teachers on how to climb out of the box and live in the world. I fear I may not be able to live fully until I climb out of the box and carefully and intentionally and bravely stay out of any other boxes. Who knows what I might do this year? I might participate in a triathlon if I want to. I might even join a team sport. Or perhaps I’ll write that book I’ve been wanting to write or learn to ice-skate well (as in without holding on to gripping the side bar) or climb the Tetons like my adventurous husband did. Okay so Tetons are out, but maybe the others. The world is mine and I am of the world.

Rest assured, I’ll keep my pants on, but it may have to be a different pair. For a while, anyway, until my new athletic ventures help me fit back into the old pair again.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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The Big Bad Wolf

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived simply and happily with her family. She loved her family and her family loved her. Then one day an uncle, who was not really an uncle but a friend of her parents and whose families knew each other well, came to visit. He played with her and her little brother and big sister and he seemed to be a lot of fun. He made them laugh. He gave them hugs and kisses. He made them all feel special. So the shy little girl opened up a little and played right back and laughed when he tickled her.

Then one afternoon, he offered to read to them all before he took a nap. Of course they all wanted to hear a story. So they gathered around him, eager to hear the story and see the pictures. And when he said he had to touch her while he was reading, she felt a strange new feeling in her tummy. Her heart and her throat hurt a little. But there seemed to be no questions about it and it seemed like a normal thing to happen. He was a grown-up after all and she was taught to obey her elders because they knew about things and they took care of you. So while he read the story and touched her, her mind took her away from her body. She became the character in the story who had an adventure and was running away from the big bad wolf. She ran really fast. Faster and faster, her little heart pounding harder and harder. Fear taking over her entire body. And the whole time she was not in the room in her house that was offered to her parents’ friend. She was in the woods, in an adventure. Running for her life and her sanity. She got away from the big bad wolf. In her mind at least.

And when the story was over, she walked to her room with a heavy heart and a puzzled mind. When she got to her room, she crawled up into a ball in her bed and cried and cried and cried. And she never told anyone about the big bad wolf. It was a story after all. And who would believe that she had run so fast and gotten away from such a big bad wolf? And who would believe that her parents’ good friend was a big bad wolf, anyway? She only knew that she would avoid that big, bad wolf whenever she was in the woods. Maybe she wouldn’t go into the woods again. She would stay away when he came to talk to her and play with her and pick her up to swing her. She wasn’t sure she could run that fast again. 

Wake up, parents and everyone else who takes care of young children! Open your eyes and keep them open! Talk to your children. Teach them to listen and pay attention to strange feelings in the pits of their tummies and in their throats and in their hearts. Be very clear about their beautiful bodies and teach them to protect their private and very special body parts. Give them and practice the words and actions they should use to respond to any attempt to touch them inappropriately. Without those tools, it’s far too easy for those who prey on children – boys and girls – to take advantage of their gentle, trusting and loving spirits.

Unfortunately, the people who do this NEVER look like big bad wolves to children. They look like uncles and family friends and good neighbors. They think about and plan and create friendships and build trust with you first, knowing that your children are so much easier to get to when they go through you. You are their protector. You are their gatekeepers. And listen to your children when they tell you they don’t like particular adults. Tune in to their subtle reactions to the people you bring into their lives. Don’t get me wrong. I love people and I love having lots of good people in my life. And I believe MOST people are good. But even if it’s to protect my children from the one out of the one hundred or one thousand, I know I have to do everything I can to protect them, including having uncomfortable conversations.

And if your children are brave enough to tell you about something that happened, please, please don’t brush it off in the hopes that it’s not true or to avoid an awkward situation. Address it head on. Our children deserve that from us. And it’s time we started talking about this openly with each other. I am constantly amazed by how many people I know in my circles who have been molested or abused and who never told anyone. There is no shame in having been a victim! Tell the story. Tell everyone – especially if the predator is still out there. Chances are that predator is preying on some other child. It’s not okay. And while we’re at it – can we please get serious about how we feel about it in this country. Committing such crimes on our young children deserves more than a mere couple of months in jail and an early release back into the world. The problem is that we simply “frown upon” but don’t really, really detest and abhor the crime enough.

The little girl grew up and one day her father called her to tell her about the death of the uncle that had read to her when she was very little. She was silent on the phone as she felt her heart get lighter and her tummy unwind. She took a deep breath and said, “Oh,” to her father and added silently as she looked up, “Thank you…”  

The End.

Last week while helping my daughter to wash her hair, I, once again, took the opportunity to remind my little girl about her private, special body parts and talk about when it was okay for someone to touch her there (the doctor while one of her parents was with her). She brought up a variety of other scenarios and we discussed them until she was satisfied and clear about what she should say and who she should tell immediately. A few minutes later, dried, lotioned and dressed and playing with her baby doll, I watched her cradled her baby doll close in her arms and whisper, “Ava, don’t let anyone touch your private parts. Okay, Ava? Mommy loves you so much!”

I giggled and my heart swelled with pride and gratitude that I could talk with her and teach her these things. And then I felt the usual ache of fear that she might, one day, need to use her skills.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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Nine Lessons About Marriage From My Nine Years In It

A year ago, Brian and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. I stumbled over the word celebrated because we didn’t really celebrate the day in any dramatic kind of way with bubbly and balloons. We did go out to eat with the kids and it was a beautiful evening at 246 in Decatur, GA. We exchanged special words in true 21st Century style on Facebook and received many, many beautiful greetings and wishes that warmed my heart and made me feel so loved and celebrated. However, there were a few comments made by lovely people that left me feeling a little off. I couldn’t quite understand the comments and didn’t feel quite right accepting them. So I decided to write about them in the hopes of making sense of them.

The comments that stopped me and sat like bricks in my gut were these:

“Happy Anniversary!! Thanks for being such a great team & giving hope & love to us all!”

“May God continue to shower blessings on both of you. You are a shining example of marriage.”

“What a beautiful example of marriage the two of you are!! Happy Anniversary! Continued blessings!!”

These sorts of comments puzzle me. They feel good to hear and are beautiful sentiments, but they leave me feeling puzzled. You see, I don’t view my marriage this way. I am aware that Brian and I have many great things going for us – things we have in common, amazing family, cute kids, humor, a shared Alma Mater, degrees and place of employment, love for travel, etc. And we’re very lucky in this way. But when I think about where we are in our marriage, I think about how the hard parts have been a constant through all the beautiful parts of marriage.

I want to feel like I truly deserve those comments offered enthusiastically by loved ones. Somewhere in my being I can see a truth in them. I can see how the universe really has conspired to bring us together and we really could be “a great team” and give “hope and love” to others. We really could be “a shining example of marriage” someday. But I haven’t earned this yet. I guess that’s why those comments don’t sit well with me. I love them but I want to earn them. I see the possibilities for our marriage, but I want to get there.

Fast forward a year and we’re celebrating 9 years of marriage on May 21st, 2014. I choose to honor this day by recognizing 9 lessons I have learned in my 9 years of marriage. Here goes:

1. He is NOT my everything. Contrary to the messages that bombard us about finding your one person that will fulfill your every dream, Brian has never been that for me. I’ve never actually believed in the possibility of one person that will be everything for you and this has been confirmed in my marriage. In fact, it would be too much of a burden on him (and on me for that matter) to be everything to each other. No, we are two people on our own journeys whose paths are intertwined. For each of us to fulfill our dreams, we must have spaces between us and interests and joys and friends that are our own. When we got married, we chose to include one of our favorite lines by Khalil Gibran in our wedding program.

“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Little did I realize exactly how true this would be for us. We are meant to live big and wild and free next to each other and not in each other’s shadows. And if one of us were to live in the other’s shadow, we would never be able to see exactly how beautiful the other is. He is not my everything and I love being able to see everything about him that is beautiful.

2. There is a very, very thin line that sometimes fades to invisibility between love and hate. This is real. This is truth. My truth at least. There have been moments in which I have loved and hated everything about my spouse. These have been extremely confusing moments in which I have wondered if this might be exactly what it feels like to be have a split personality or if indeed I really could medically be labeled so. For me, the struggle to communicate well frustrates me to no end. The pride and stubbornness and incredible measures we take to protect our egos break me down sometimes. In those moments of brokenness I find it hard to imagine even one more day with him in my life while in the same moment unable to imagine a life without him in it. It is exactly in those moments of being a fragmented soul that I realize I am no better and no worse than any other human being on this Earth. It is exactly when I see all I am capable of in the mirror of marriage and I realize how fragile I am. How fragile we all are as human beings.

3. Teamwork is necessary and you can’t keep score between team members. This is a lesson I KNOW to be true but one I still struggle to implement. There was a time when I would put off cleaning up the kitchen or folding the laundry because it was HIS turn to do so. I would pretend not to see the piles of dishes or clothes in the hopes that he would get to them. It would mean that he was holding up his end of the deal. Lately, mostly for my own sanity, I take a deep breathe and do it anyway and remind myself that he picks up in other ways.

Parenting together requires teamwork. REQUIRES. This is hard for me. My constant battle to preserve my independence while knowing that a serious amount of co-dependence is necessary in a marriage is confusing and exhausting. I depend on him and he depends on me for our lives to happen in a less than chaotic manner. And teamwork does often mean giving the best you are able in any given moment and trusting that your teammate will do the same.

Apparently, we’re doing it. We’ve played our lives well enough that our kids are well-nourished, generally happy, loving, joyful and adventurous. We have a home and jobs that we like and we keep showing up for the game with our game gear on.

4. It’s all about me.This is the ultimate truth – it IS all about me. When I’m happy or sad or mad or frustrated or just pissed off, it’s because I have some stuff to work through. I’m on my journey (see #1) and everything in my life is here to teach me lessons that will get me to the end. I have a purpose and it is to love wholeheartedly. And I have to learn to love and then I have to practice, practice, practice. This is why my partner is in my life. He is here to be part of my learning and he is teaching me to love. What he brings to the table is lessons and practice for me to learn to love wholeheartedly. I must learn to be wide open. Forgiveness is about me. I must learn to love. I learn to do this by looking in the mirror that he holds up for me everyday. When I see something in him – good or bad – and it causes a reaction in me, it’s because I am seeing what’s actually in me. If you can spot it, you’ve got it. Get it?

5. It’s all about him. I realize that while he is here to teach me, I am also here to teach him how to love. I play a role in his life and in his learning to love wholeheartedly. I have choices in how I respond to him in any given situation and each response is an opportunity for him to love better. There are many times that I don’t know what’s going on for him but I have to trust that he is doing his soul homework. I don’t have to take on his stuff when it doesn’t feel like mine. He’s able to handle whatever comes his way. I know this also means that I have a deep responsibility to God to love in the best way I know how at any given moment. He’s on his journey and when stuff doesn’t feel like mine, there are times when it’s really NOT mine and I have to let him have it.

6. Chilling out is necessary. Translate that however you will – chilling out as in a chilled cocktail with girlfriends or taking a chill pill along with some deep breaths. Chilling out means those things along with the laughter that accompanies it. Laughter is good. Laughing at myself and not always trying to save face is necessary. Chilling out with Brian is even better and sometimes I have to take the initiative and pour the Patron or figure out the babysitter and make time to be together away from the everyday busyness that can blind me from the fun guy with whom I fell in love. There’s nothing that takes me back more quickly to those falling in love days than doing something new and laid back with Brian. And being reminded of those days is necessary.

7. We are not with the person we married. I have learned that, while life does not change the truth of who you are, life changes how we are in the world. Along with most cells (but definitely not my neuron in my cerebral cortex) in our bodies being replaced by new cells over the past nine years, we have also changed based on what we have learned about being in this world. This means that I have to let go of seeing him the way I did years ago and expecting him to be the way he was years ago. I don’t expect (nor do I get) an excited and captivated man who cleans up his entire house prior to my arrival.

This also means that I have to try to see him for who he is today and notice when he makes an effort to do better and be better. I know I have worked hard to get better at speaking my truth and forgiving more quickly and NOT resorting to the silent treatment when it gets hard to talk about hard things. I know I’ve worked immensely on daring greatly by being vulnerable (thanks, Brene!). And I want him to see me this way and not expect me to be how I used to be. I have to keep looking at him with fresh eyes so that I don’t miss out on who he is becoming. We are not the people we married and that’s a good thing.

8. We stand alone but are supported by a village.The success of our lives and the state of our marriage depend, ultimately, on us. We do the inside work on our own and mostly in the privacy of our life together (except for this blog post, maybe). However, we are held up by a village of people who love us. People who encourage and challenge and listen and pray and cheer us on in our marriage. This village includes our parents, our siblings, our extended family members, our children, our friends and our colleagues. This is our community.

This village matters so very much to me. We live on a big, big planet with so many millions of other people, but this little village that surrounds us and supports is precious to us. There are days when I am carried almost entirely by the people in my village who believe in us and care deeply about our marriage. I feel a deep gratitude for this village. If you happen to be in our village – THANK YOU!

9. We ARE part of a Divine Design. This lesson and truth has been seeping into my being on a daily basis in my nine years of marriage. The universe really has conspired to bring us together and the Design has been in place from the beginning. I dreamed this life with Brian into being because it was already in place to happen. And I don’t write about this in an “up in the clouds” sort of way. I write it with the understanding that life is serious and sometimes seriously hard when it come to learning the truth of who you are and loving from that place. Growing into love and in love are a part of my spirit growing towards Spirit, God, I Am, Source (insert whatever special names exist). I believe without a doubt that Brian is intended to be with me and me with him in this way. The Universe is relentless in growing us in love and we must be open to the lessons.

There. Those are the nine lessons I’ve learned. Perhaps they are not new to anyone but me. Perhaps they are not glamorous enough. Perhaps they reveal too much truth about me. Perhaps nobody else can relate to any of them and all other marriages are butterflies and rose gardens free of thorns.

This year, unlike many other anniversaries, I looked up appropriate gifts according to the number of years married and bought him this piece of pottery (what is to be given at 9 year anniversaries – yes there is such a list and I found out about it a couple of years into my marriage). I’ve seen a few Facebook posts about this Japanese art form and love the story behind it.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi, repairs broken pottery with seams of gold. This repairs the brokenness in a way that makes the object even more beautiful than it was prior to being broken.

Isn’t it beautiful? The pottery becomes more beautiful because it has been broken and repaired. The breaking of the pottery is the beginning of it becoming more beautiful. It’s the perfect story of marriage for me. It gives me hope that in the hardest of times when we get broken is exactly when we have the opportunity to become more beautiful. And this is what I see in my marriage to Brian – not that we have a perfect marriage but that we have the perfect opportunity to keep becoming more beautiful. And this opportunity is one I receive with open hands and an open heart.

Happy 9th anniversary, Brian. I look forward to continuing to break and mend with you as we journey on.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

 

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Low Expectations and Cheers to The Truth of Who I Am!

So today is the one year anniversary of this blog. A year has gone by as if in an instant since I created this blog. I imagined that I would, somehow, magically, have something really important and profound to write about and that it would have oozed out of me effortlessly as all my other blog posts have. But nothing so far. I’ve been a bit disappointed in the way things are turning out on the anniversary of a day I got up the courage to start delving deeper into my truth. I had great expectations for the blog post that was supposed to have been completed ahead of time.

And maybe that’s what the thing of it is. Maybe it’s BECAUSE of my expectations – my great expectations – that I have further to fall into disappointment over them. A quirky relative whom I love in a special way very decidedly explains himself to the rest of us by telling us that he sets the bar really low for others’ expectations of him so that when he rises even a little bit above them, he wins. I can see how it works. It works. I’ve witnessed it. People around him celebrate and have a hoopla about little big things he does. He barely has to hit average to be showered with praise and appreciation.

High expectations can certainly cause some problems. My marriage and parenting comes to mind. I seriously imagined that when it came to problems between my spouse and I that we’d calmly, of course calmly, communicate with each other by explaining our feelings and hurt and then at the end of it all we’d embrace each other in mutual compassion and forgiveness and pure love and move on back into our joyful, playful, happy, flirty, loving union. Yup. I have a wild imagination.

Parenting – I imagined that my beautiful children would gather around me, very Sound of Musicish, and cup their chins while listening intently to my wisdom as I explained to them why it was important to be kind and loving to each other and also why it’s not best for our planet and their parents’ budget to pour out all purchased liquids such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath, lotion and toothpaste just to feel it as it pours out and into the drain. And after they listened and having learned, they would never repeat it again and they would embrace me lovingly and feel the joy of a mother like me. Then of course, we would run on the mountains in the wind singing…well…you must know the rest or you can listen here.

Imagination. Expectations. Gotta love a wild imagination and great expectations. And a sense of humor. Yes, a sense of humor is a MUST. The thing about great expectations is that they may be a bit unfair to a situation that can’t promise to deliver. I think it’s been one of the things that’s caused much disappointment in my marriage because I often missed the beauty of the reality because I was too busy waiting on what I was expecting and then feeling disappointment over not getting what I expected.

The truth, I’m learning, is that there is beauty in what’s real. While I can certainly have great expectations about the important things in life and in a spouse, such as character and commitment, I have to let go of the great expectations over the little stuff. Yes, he should be truthful. No, he doesn’t have to complete a laundry cycle from gathering dirty clothes and washing them to drying, folding and putting away. Yes, he should feed our children when they need food. No, he doesn’t have to offer them servings of green, organic vegetables with each meal. Yes, he should contribute to the care and maintenance of our home. No, he doesn’t have to sort through all the mail immediately.

About those kids – same thing. Yes, they should listen and learn. No, they don’t have to get it right henceforth. Yes, they should not waste purchased liquids. Yes, they should never do it ever again. I mean…stepping into a side story…the girl has been POURING out a whole lot of purchased liquids. The other day, I came upon large globs of a newly purchased tube of toothpaste in the sink and, knowing that she and her brother have been counting money lately, I declared that she would have to start paying us back for these things she’s wasting and $2  seemed like a reasonable price for the globs of toothpaste in the sink. So, very happily and Sound of Musicish, she dances away and then comes dancing back and lets me know that she put the $2 under my pillow. No worries. All was solved.

Later that night, when all was quiet and she was supposed to be asleep, I hear her tip-toeing down the stairs and to her Daddy in another room and I hear her say to him in a cute, small voice, “Daddy, the sink is blocked because I put tissues in it. But don’t worry Daddy, I’ll pay you two dollars for it, okay?” Apparently she doesn’t get the value of her dollars OR she’s just Miss Moneybags and I need to worry about her thinking she’s going to pay her way through life.

All along, I have missed out on great opportunities to see the beauty of what’s true in my life because I was too disappointed to notice it. And now that I am conscious of this lesson and truth about who I am, I will probably do better but maybe not every single time.

So there. In the last moments of this beautiful first day of spring and the first anniversary of this blog, I am finishing up an average post about loving what’s real and true in life. I created this blog with no expectations and simply a wish to be courageous and to do something I love to do, which is to write from my heart, and to do it my way and, in the process, to share the truth of who I am in the hopes of connecting with the truth of who you are.

It’s been just what I needed.

Thank you to every single one of you who has read a post or two or three. And I especially appreciate those of you who encouraged me along the way through hugs, smiles, comments, knowing looks, Facebook likes, phone calls and all out joy and kind words about connecting with me through my posts. I have been surprised and humbled to know that anyone took the time, much less enjoyed what I wrote. I have absolutely loved connecting with you through my writing.

Here’s to low expectations and lots more finding joy in the truth of the matter!

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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A Gift From an Angel

Who knew when I went to bed feeling blah and then woke up this morning still feeling blah that I would be meeting an angel? I believe the Universe knew. But I had no idea.

I was having just that kind of morning in which tears and cuss words were on the brink of falling on whoever was in my path. Feeling restless. And angry. And disappointed. And misplaced. And scared. And so very guilty that I was not waking up wholly and completely joyful about all the amazing things I have in my life. After all I have a good (and handsome) partner, two hilarious, darling kids, co-workers whom I love and who blur the line between co-worker and friend, a comfortable home and a body that works well (but could use some exercise and a couple vegetables daily).

So being on the brink of tears and cussing makes me feel scared that the Universe might snatch it all back just so I REALLY appreciate the beauty in my life. And I feel guilty for feeling restless and wanting something else because I feel a little lost. With all the quotes I see daily that remind me to love and to be positive and to be brave and to just do the thing that has to be done, feeling the unrest seems so wrong. But there I was leaving the house with all of it and venturing into an elementary school to observe and offer feedback to budding teachers. I would much rather have stayed in bed and wallowed in my pity and negativity.

As I sat in the atrium of a lovely school and got irritated at the sight of pictures of kids who looked nothing like the kids who attended the school advertising STEM education, I heard a loud thud out of nowhere and found a young boy sitting next to me in tears. There was no-one else in that big room and I could have sworn he came from the sky or wherever angels live. He was mad and sad. He was NOT having a good day. Neither was I, so I immediately connected with him and scooted closer and patted his back. That simple act ignited a tiny spark deep inside me. After some probing and angry tears and through a shaky body (all him, not me), I managed to gather that 1. he did not feel like he could do anything right, 2. a friend had just said (loudly) inappropriate things about his mama (!!!!!), 3. his teacher had not been helpful and 4. he wanted to move to another country where he would be more liked. Apparently we were sharing the same experience under different circumstances.

That’s where I got to use my magic. See, THAT’S what I do really well. I can comfort a child like nobody’s business. I can help people – friends, strangers, loved ones – feel better. It’s sort of a gift I’ve been given.I can’t play any instrument well nor do I have a stage-worthy voice. Line dancing stresses me out and sports have failed to keep my attention for very long. It took me a large part of my life to choose teaching as a career, even. I used to wish I had a definite talent that propelled me through every choice including WHAT I WANTED TO DO WHEN I GREW UP. I never liked that question because I never knew an answer. I’m still not sure I have an answer, actually. But I have learned that I have this gift of being able to get people feeling better – even if it’s simply feeling better while still feeling their sadness or hurt or disappointment. I know it’s a gift because I receive it every time I give it away.

My ten minutes with with my angel boy were the best moments of that day. I lit up from the inside the moment I started to share my gift and the little spark grew into a bonfire by the time I left him. I drove home thinking about him and wondering what it might be like to do that all the time, everyday. What might it be like to ignite my spark and feel a bonfire every day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Goals and Intentions and the difference between the two. One of Oprah’s friends wrote about it and it stuck with me. Intentions are more important than Goals. You can fulfill your intentions through a variety of goals but goals should always begin with an intention. For example, it’s been my intention to nurture teachers into their most authentic and successful selves in the classroom. My goal of getting a Ph.D. came from that intention. Or another example – my intention is to be a GOOD mother and raise kind, happy children. My daily goal is to be patient and to NOT yell at my kids even when it’s the 51st time I’m making a request. Another example – my intention is to bring out the best in people, including myself. And I translate that to mean simply that we live from our souls, from our insides, from the place that God resides, from the truth of who we are.

I had to pause a moment after that last line, and even before it, because I didn’t see it coming. I just stated the intention of my existence. I realize, in this moment, that all the things that make me sad or mad or frustrated or disappointed or pissed off and on the brink of cuss words begin with not witnessing myself or others living from the truth of who we are. The opposite is also true – all that makes me feel happy and joyful and loving and amused and peaceful comes from witnessing myself or others living from the truth of who we are. Funny – I didn’t know when I named my blog that I was also naming my life’s intention. I suppose my goal of starting a blog fits with my Intention.

As for my little angel – our talk was just what we both needed. He walked back to his classroom with a lighter step and a promise to me to tell people and show people who he is on the inside so that they would know. And if they knew, then there could be no other way to feel about him than to love him. Same applies to the rest of us. Sometimes, the truth of who we are is harder for others to see because we’ve gotten so good at masking it. The truth of who we are is our Divine Self and all anyone could ever feel when they come in contact with our Divine Selves is love.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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Between the Fight and The Forgiveness

So Labor Day weekend has come and gone and it feels like a wasted weekend because so much of what we had planned did not happen. A trip to D.C. for a friend’s wedding was reversed due to the ridiculous traffic on I-85N. We made it from Atlanta to the Mall of GA in close to 2 hours (which should only have taken 30 minutes) and decided to turn around. We didn’t make it to a cookout yesterday with some awesome friends  due to not being able to get our act together. Read: passionately discussing marital issues so that going somewhere together just didn’t happen. And then a lukewarm Monday in which David, our 7 year-old, planned and ran a Labor Day Camp for him and his sister very effectively while the parents remained between the fight and the forgiveness. The time between the fight and the forgiveness always feels like wasted time.

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden. 

A little over 8 years ago I made a promise to join my life with another person’s and to accept, love, and respect him throughout the journey. Yes, I knew, because I had heard often enough, that marriage is hard but I also believed I could do it. We could do it. I still believe it can be done and I still believe we can do it. But wow! Hearing something and knowing it are two entirely different things! I had no idea just how hard things could get and how easily they can slip from great to dismal in a matter of seconds. I wonder if the allure of marriage is more about the challenge or the actual belief that we’d be spending our days in each others arms or longing to see each other after a long day’s work and then moving on to the blissful days in which we anticipate and then share in the parenthood of beautiful, perfect little children. I wonder, sometimes, if I had known the truth about the hard parts of marriage, would I have chosen to dive in? No, I’m not bitter. This is simply a moment in time for me and captures the moments between the fight and the forgiveness.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

I shouldn’t have to, but I will clarify, that all is good and as it should be in my marriage. We are two people who committed to being married and continue to be committed and have every intention of staying together ’til death do us part. I love Brian and Brian loves me. We’re married. And this is simply a part of it. If I’m going to tell truths about who I am, I have to be able to tell truths about all parts of my life and marriage is one of them. I feel the need to share my truths about the hard parts of marriage because I believe I might figure out something through my writing. Or maybe you will help me figure out something. Or maybe I’ll just feel better when you tell me that I’m not alone. If you’re married, it’s quite likely you already know this and completely get what I’m talking about. If you’re not married, it’s most likely you don’t believe you’ll ever get yourself into such a situation because you’re only going to commit to being with someone who, like you, is above all this. And if you don’t plan to be married, well, hey….love will find you in other places.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

So here’s my truth. The hard parts of marriage took me completely by surprise. I did not expect some of my reactions to various situations. I’ve always thought of myself as a level-headed, carefree, easy-going, forgiving, sensible and loving human being. Oh – also witty and funny. So it took me completely by surprise when I found myself behaving in ways that were the complete opposite. I know, I know. Some of you who know me well are utterly shocked by this truth about me. But really, I actually possess the opposite of all the beautiful qualities I know are mine. Strange. It’s as if my mate…or my marriage…is here to teach me,  and humble me in the process, that I am human. And being human means that I possess all the qualities that any human being can possess. I know I possess all the qualities because I always have a choice. I’m still learning this one, but I ALWAYS have a choice to be forgiving or to punish, to be patient or to be frustrated, to be kind, or to be hurtful, to be angry or to be understanding, to be loving or to be fearful. I can choose either one. I have chosen all of the above.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

What I have come to learn in the 8+ years of marriage is that there is an ebb and flow. There are ups and downs. Highs and lows and in-betweens. I fought this hard at first. The lows took me by surprise and there was a time I would be in the lows and not be able to imagine ever getting out of them. I couldn’t see that it was possible to get past the ugly. Or maybe I mean get through the ugly to see the beautiful again. A very beautiful person started a movement that I sometimes believe was just for me, to See Beautiful and it is a message, a calling that plays in my head constantly. When it came to the hard parts of marriage, however, seeing the beautiful through the hard parts was next to impossible for me. But then, we got back to the beautiful parts. Somehow we were able to get through the ugly and back to the beautiful. And it felt so good again to be there. Despite the intensity of the hard, the soft place to land turned out to be in the same place – the same man. Over time things have gotten easier because I know, while I am in the dark, that the light will shine again. That there is an other side. There is a soft place to land. It is possible to get back to us again. and that the hard parts were actually necessary. The soft place to land is worth the pain. In the ebb and flow of marriage, I am learning to have faith and there is a different kind of being in the hard parts because I know that the pain, the discomfort, is temporary.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

Learning that the beautiful and the ugly parts of love – are simply a part of a Divine Design. A Divine Design to teach me how to be more human. It is a hard lesson for me. While I know it and can understand it in my head, I have a much harder time knowing it in my soul when I am in the middle or the ugly. But I am slowly but surely learning that the ugly is just as necessary as the beautiful  in the journey into Love.

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

I am learning that I am in the heart of God. And while I am in the heart of God, I can only learn about my true nature. I am learning that I can always choose love. That I can choose love because it’s all there is. Even when I am at my worst. Love is always there as one option. Even when choosing love seems like the hardest thing to do. Love is always a choice. Love is always the right choice.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

Turns out even my marriage is a spiritual journey towards the Divine. Towards the soul of all our souls.  Towards Love. Turns out we’re all the same and time is not wasted when times are hard. The hard times are simply markers, reminders that I’m on the road and moving towards something greater…a more human self. A more Divine self. And despite being in between the fight and the forgiveness, I still give thanks for another day of loving and a prayer for my beloved in my heart and a song of praise that I get to know this kind of Love in my life. And gratitude for being spared the knowledge about the hard parts of marriage before choosing it because, had I not chosen marriage, I might never have known Love like this.

Here’s hoping he doesn’t read all this until AFTER the forgiveness. Because, you know…who needs vulnerability in between the fight and the forgiveness….

Jokes aside – I have to post this before I think twice about it and decide to hide a truth.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

*The poem quoted throughout this post is from Kahlil Gibran’s book, The Prophet, which is a favorite of ours and one we quoted throughout our wedding book. How prophetic it has proven to be in our lives!

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Inside Out

That’s the most clever title I could think of for this post. And after getting to the end of sharing some truths of who I am here, I debated whether or not I wanted to post them on my blog. A little voice is talking at me and trying to convince me to save this sap for my personal reading. I recognize that voice from having seen this YouTube a while back.

So here goes…

There are so many ways to grow up. My four year-old told me that when she grows up wants to be a pediatrician and a veterinarian and also a mommy with babies and dogs. I say go for it, sweet little girl of mine. Growing up can be about what you choose to do in your life and who you have in it. Growing up can also be about independence and freedom from the constraints of your parents.

For me, growing up has meant and still means living my life from the inside out. There is an outside and an inside to each of us. The inside is where our soul is – where love is in its purest form. It’s the essence of who we are – an essence of God. Our outsides are a little messy – they are Band-Aids and scar tissue and masks and armor we put on to heal or protect us from the world when we learn that sometimes we can get hurt. Often, the outside is where many of us live from and the only parts of us that others ever know.

I believe our life’s quest is to live from the inside out. I know this is why I started this blog. I’ve spent much of my life listening to people and trying to understand them and hear their stories and learn about how their stories shaped and molded them into the person they are in the moment I am with them. Through their stories, I hoped to see their insides. I have always longed to know their insides. While I certainly admired and noticed their shoes and clothing and accessories (can’t help this innate passion), I have often look into their eyes and words to see if I could see their insides, their souls. Even when I was a shy little kid, I listened intently and tried to look into their eyes when I thought they wouldn’t notice. And I noticed a lot – sad spirits and fearful spirits and open, vulnerable spirits and tired and despairing spirits – some of whom told the most jokes and laughed the loudest. It’s not easy to live inside out. It’s a bit scary.

I know this from experience. I was a painfully shy child up until the ninth grade. Before that I followed my older sister everywhere and tried to be in her circles and and with her friends as best as I could. I didn’t think I was capable of making my own friends. I paid close attention to my sister’s outspoken, adventurous, spontaneous and very big personality and admired her while being wholly taken by her. She was, and still is, cool in my book. I, on the other hand, had quieter ways and while I could be a very loyal and fun friend to the (very) few I made, I spent most of my young life filtering and checking and doubting and disguising my insides because I didn’t want to be too sappy or too sensitive or too self-absorbed or too emotional.

But living that way eventually catches up with all of us, I believe. At our very core is pure love and for some of us, fear creeps in while we are going about living our lives and stifles our love selves. No, that’s not a typo – love is our self. Love is our spirit. It’s God. God is love. Love is at the center of each of us. So this is what my new journey has become – a quest to live life from the inside out whatever that means in the moment. Life is a quest to start from love. To approach every interaction, work, relationship, decision, everything starting at love. Growing up has been a journey of love, a series of lessons on how to love more and better and wisely. It’s a journey deep into love….or spirit…which is really my simple religion. We are all spirit and spirit is all love. Those masks and Band-Aids we gather while living wear us down because love, spirit, God just cannot be contained. I love this quote by James Baldwin:

My life’s journey is simply about taking off the mask so that I can live and love freely. And the beauty is that only love can do that for me. and it’s already there. It always has been. I have to love from deep within and I have to live from the inside out. That’s where the real love is. And here’s another great quote by James (I can be on a first name basis with him on MY blog):

Growing up is hard, no doubt. I find myself constantly digging deeper into my thoughts and actions and decisions and word choices. The hardest part for me is noticing how often I fall short in my quest to live from the inside out. How often I speak words out of fear rather than love. How often I simply forget to start from love. And I realize that I am still growing up. Still learning to love. Still learning to live from the inside out. The battle and the war has always been within me. The enemy is right there on the outside, constructed by fear. The answer is right there within it – love. I will grow up. I will win. Love will come out from the inside and win. Love always wins.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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Golden Jubilee

When I was eight years old I sat in a church pew behind an old (whatever “old” looked like to an eight-year-old) couple and delighted in the fact that they were holding hands. I stared at them from behind the entire one hour of mass (and Catholics know I mean exactly and only ONE hour) and dreamed about the kind of marriage I would have one day. I decided that a test of how good my marriage was would simply be that my partner and I would hold hands even when we were old. I spent that hour in a fantasy of marriage. Everything I imagined during that hour was beautiful and perfect and exactly the thing that was worth searching and waiting for in my life. I knew that I would not settle for anything less. My marriage was going to be that kind of perfect and my partner and I would want the same things. It all was so simple then.

Mummy & Daddy Wedding Photo

My parents on their wedding day, July 7, 1963.

I also used to think that my parents’ marriage was just a little less beautiful and perfect because it began as an “arranged” marriage. Growing up as a Goan in Africa and NOT immersed in the traditions and culture of Goa, I was less inclined to learn and abide by that part of who I am. For me, the stories that appealed to me were the romantic stories in which love began with a chance but divinely intended encounter in which one fell deeply and madly in love with another person and then spent the time between then and a wedding in pursuit of the moment of vowing eternal love for each other at the altar. Beyond that, a perfect and beautiful marriage consisted of continued love and a quieter passion, some disagreements and simple solutions to them all. So the idea of my parents having come together through an arrangement was never quite appealing to me. How could such an arrangement be romantic or fantastic in any way? Real love and marriage had to have some spark and mystery and passion from the start.

I have often heard that in Western cultures, you marry the one you love but in Indian cultures, you love the one you marry. I get this now and I understand that no matter how love begins, whether across a crowded room when you lock eyes with THAT person, or in a smaller living room in which your aunties introduce you to a “good” person with a “good” family, when and how love begins is not necessarily an indication of how beautiful the marriage might be. My parents were introduced in a tiny living room by their aunties and the story they tell us is of how my mother was asked to serve the guests tea and she, not in her own space and not used to this task since she was the youngest girl in her family, unknowingly spooned salt instead of sugar into the tea and offered her potentially future husband a cup – which he drank without a complaint.

Prior to that fateful day, the search for a wife for my dad, whose family had come from Tanzania was nearing its end at 170 days of the 180 that were allotted. Meanwhile, my mother had made a pact with God and was on day 80 of the 90 day “ultimatum” she had given God. The pact was that if a suitable man did not show up by the end of the 90 days, she would go on to become a nun. She meant it (and at times I wondered if she regretted not simply heading to a nunnery without the pact). With only 10 days left of their time limits, their meeting and consequent union was, in every way, a marriage that was wrought with Divine intervention and the universe had certainly conspired in their favor.

They were both a bit shy and equally anxious and a little bit of love had been stirred into that salty cup of tea that was just enough to spark the beginning or the middle of the Grand Design. The wedding happened seven days later and three days after it my dad got on a ship and headed back to his home in Tanzania to wait and prepare for his new bride while her paperwork was put in order for her to move across the ocean to a continent she had never set foot on. For my mother, it was the beginning of a lifetime of blooming where she was planted (but that’s for another blog).

The fantasy and romance I dreamed of in that church pew when I was eight was quite different from the reality of what I witnessed of marriage everyday through my parents’ union.  I learned many things from watching my parents being married to each other – some lessons I fought and some I tucked away as treasures to be opened as needed.

Theirs was a no-nonsense approach to life and decisions, and verbal and physical displays of affection were rare enough that I strain to recall any. My parents did seek out new and exciting experiences and always made time for our family to be together  or with friends. They even took two big trips, sans kids, to see new parts of the world – a first for the kinds of families they were born into. What I witnessed was a no-frills approach to family life and a simple acceptance of the arrangement that was marriage. Fantasy it was not, but beautiful it certainly was. It took me many years to see this.

Their marriage was beautiful in the way that life is beautiful. Beautiful in the way that life is beautiful because it is a perfect blend of hard and joyful and happy and sad and skips and trudges and sometimes hanging on by a single thread because that is the thread that saves you and the most essential one that you had to notice – which is why all the other threads had to get cut. The hard parts of marriage were in plain sight – the hurting, the forgiving, the surprises, the laughter, the unexpected and the acceptance and commitment through it all were always in plain sight. The marriage I witnessed was, indeed, beautiful.

My parents on their 50th Wedding Anniversary – Golden Jubilee
July 7, 2013

Fifty years after that wedding day, on July 7, 2013, I, along with my four siblings and my new family, sat in a church pew behind my parents and witnessed them renewing their vows. This time they had chosen their words and vows to one another. This time THEY, not their aunties, had chosen to be there. This time they knew ever so deeply what marriage was. They held hands and their words expressed their gratitude and commitment to each other in simple but heartfelt words. It was the first time we heard them say, “I love you” to each other, but it was certainly not the first time they had felt it.

And this time, in this church pew in Goa, I was filled with a similar delight I had experienced many years ago in the way marriage can be. This time, I also knew that a true test of how good my marriage is, would certainly be that we continued to hold hands. But this time, I understood far more deeply what it took to continue to hold hands through all that marriage is surely packed with. This time, I let go of the fanciful fantasy of marriage and saluted and honored the fifty years of marriage that my parents completed. Fifty years of doing this thing called marriage. Fifty years of sticking it out. Fifty years of hard and joyful and unexpected and occasionally hanging on by the one most important thread and knowing that it is the one thread that binds you to each other. Fifty years of daily commitment to continuing to do it together. Fifty years, five kids, ten grandchildren, and friends and loved ones too many to count.  I was wildly and fantastically honored to be in that church pew celebrating my parents’ 50th anniversary and grateful to them for being my constants through the ups and downs of our lives. Happy 50th  and very appropriately labeled, golden jubilee to you, Adrian and Clementina Fernandes!

Many years since that hour of fantasizing in the church pew when I was a little girl,  I sometimes catch my parents holding hands. And knowing more clearly what marriage has been for them, I have a deeper respect and awe of their ability to hold hands and pass the test of marriage I had set for myself through all of life’s servings of beautiful and hard and joyous and unexpected and routine.

My parents at Sahakari Spice Farm in Goa July 16. 2013

It’s no wonder, too, that I secretly catch my breath every time my husband reaches for my hand. Little does he know…

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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All in The Family

family-quote

I’ve been out of town in the beautiful city of San Francisco for the last four days and away from my kiddies and I can’t express how wonderful and hard it has been. The first two days weren’t so bad because the kids were with their Daddy, but then he left to join me in San Francisco and that’s when it got really hard. I don’t like it when our family is apart. It just doesn’t feel right. We belong with each other. It’s hard to believe that just 8 years ago our family did not even exist and now I can’t even remember what it was like not to be a family. Well let me clarify that with some truth – I do remember free time and NOT knowing what it was like to lack sleep and to have lots of energy and sleep in on weekends, but I don’t remember what it felt like NOT to love Brian and David and Kaya and to NOT love them as a unit. It just doesn’t seem real that there was a time when we were not a family. I think every one of us has felt this un-rightness the last couple of days. Over the last two days together in San Francisco, every time Brian and I passed other parents with young children, my heart ached a little bit and I became even more aware of the emptiness next to me and the yearning for a little hand to hold as we walked.

The separation of our family has had me thinking about families. I believe that families are of the Divine. I believe this to be true regardless of how well or badly the family works. Each member – no matter how she or he arrived – is chosen for a very specific purpose. I believe that our families are formed to help us become more like our Divine selves. More like the image of the Divine Spirit of which we are created. We are chosen to be together. I believe we each come to this planet in little packages prone to quirks and habits and tastes and interests and personalities that are designed to offer lessons to the people around us.

An example of this – my entire childhood right up until college, I believed that I knew a whole lot, dare I say everything. I was very literal and had an answer or comment to just about everything. This side of me showed up the best for my family members because I was shy around most other people. I’m guessing this not-so-endearing personality trait was a repeated test for my family members who often gave up trying to convince me of things or explain another perspective. So I’m not sure what lesson they learned other than patience and the ability to love even the less-than-charming pieces of me.

Fast forward to this new family I’m in now and I hear my dearly beloved son at age two telling his Granddad that he knows everything and what he doesn’t know, he just hasn’t thought of yet. At age seven he is still going strong and has an answer and comment for everything. The first time I became conscious of myself in him was humbling. It went something like this, “David, give it up already!” And then to myself, “Wow! He sounds so familiar.” And then, “Uh oh! He sounds just like ME! And it’s not pleasant at all! Oh no! So THAT’S what it was like for my family!” Very humbling experience. Fortunately, I am offered the opportunity to atone for my lack of consideration by loving my son through this stage and gently trying to teach him how others experience his amazing, unlimited knowledge of answers and comments to everything. If you should be so lucky as to experience this side of him, please be gentle, too.

There’s another kind of family that we are sometimes offered in our lives. This kind of family is like a bonus family (maybe because you need more teachers in your life). I was lucky enough to be reunited with some of these family members during my time in San Francisco. This was a family of loving, kind, gentle people who matched our family perfectly and from the moment we all met each other when my family moved to Zambia in 1979, it was as if we had known each other our entire lives. We barely needed time to ask the getting-to-know questions before we were playing and talking and laughing and singing (really, our families did this without a karaoke machine) together. Our mothers would spend hours talking and giggling and their four kids and our five kids got busy with all kinds of silliness. Our families took our first trip to Harare, Zimbabwe, together and we still reminisce about our ridiculous and dangerous behavior in the hotel room when the parents left us for an evening. Something about locking ourselves in one room and walking along the outside window into the room next door – definitely higher than the 3rd floor of the building. Don’t judge the parents – they were awesome parents in the 1980s. Perfectly reasonable for those days to leave 8 kids ranging from 7-16 in a hotel room, I’m sure. As much time as we spent together, I’d say our families practically grew up together in Zambia. But, as often happens with family, we eventually got separated and spread out as life happened to us. We now occupy a total of seven cities on three continents.

Needless to say, I was looking forward wholeheartedly to spending time with my other-mother and her daughter and family in San Francisco after not seeing them for about 10 years. And I was not disappointed. In fact, my heart exploded a little when I finally arrived at their home at 11:30PM to see a table laid out beautifully for dinner with me. I teared up a little bit then and remained on the verge of joyful tears the whole time I was with them. My heart was that full! So full that I could not contain the tears. Every minute with each family member was precious and I saved the feeling in my little heart for days I know I will need it. I felt so loved and treasured and cared for by each one of them. Being kissed goodnight on my forehead at night by my other-mother was almost more than I could take. And then when Brian arrived and they met him for the first time, they wrapped their arms around him and welcomed him into the family as if he had always been there. As is he’d always had a place there.

That’s what it feels like with family. Like they are and always have been a part of me. That’s why it’s not easy to remember what it was like before my little family was a family. That’s why it matters how we develop as a family. It matters what traditions I pass on or create with this family. It matters that I tell David and Kaya that they have to take care of each other and that we make decisions based on whether or not they are good for the family and the world. It matters that we love each other through the delightful parts of ourselves and also through the not-so-sparkly parts of ourselves. This is a place where we learn how to be in the world. This is the place where we must learn how to take risks and then whether we win or fail, we still love. This is a place where my children will learn how to love and be loved. It is a place where our spirits came together and it is a sacred space.

I am typing this post from over 10 0000 ft off the ground in an airplane, while my family is scattered between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. I cannot wait for the world to be right again when we are reunited. While I am grateful for this opportunity to notice the sacredness and Divine design of families, I am so ready to wrap my arms around my kiddies and smell their hair and feel their little hands in mine. And when the four of us are together again, we will have to celebrate and notice that we are together and the world feels right again.

I often ask myself how I got to be so lucky to have these particular people in my family. And it is a question to which I have no answers nor comments.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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