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Standing Tall

It’s all in the posture. If I pretend to be something I’m not or pretend to feel something I don’t, then I’m faking. I’m not being truthful. I’m twisting and bending myself, Gumby-like, into a pose that better reflects the me I’d like to be instead of the me I really am. While I’ve perfected the pose through many years of hard work, my New Year’s resolution this year is to make life easier. And it’s easier to just be me.

I first realized this when I started training in karate again after a rather lengthy “sabbatical” from regular exercise. As I was stretching, a classmate, who had taken no such sabbatical and was apparently darn proud of it, approached me and snidely said, “So, you’re back! What’s it been? A few years? Boy, are you in for—”

“Wow, I know!” I cut him off. “I can’t believe how hard this is going to be for me! I mean, I’ve been doing nothing to keep in shape! I’m a flab ball! And my cardio? Whoosh—out the window! This’ll be torture!”

He just looked at me, shook his head and walked away, deflated. He’d come over to taunt me and had expected all sorts of self-serving comebacks about my current physical status—with which he would taunt me some more while I was dying mid-class—and he got none. I’d decided on the truth because it just seemed easier.

When I first met my brother’s future wife, a psychologist, she was sitting next to me at a family function. I noticed her out of the corner of my eye, watching me. I ignored her for as long as I could, and finally whipped around and cried, “What? What is it? Do I have goo in my hair? What?”

“No,” she replied, “I’m just wondering something. How can you share such personal aspects of your life with total strangers every week? You tell people things that most people don’t talk about between friends.”

“Well, these things need to be said,” I told her, “and what’s the alternative, paying someone like you a hundred bucks an hour? Hahaha.” She was not amused.

So I started thinking about it—why I do what I do—and it kept coming back to the same thing: You write about what you know. And these are the things I know. They may not all be happy things, and they may often leave me in a not-so-flattering light, but they’re all true. I have done every possible thing the wrong way, and there’s no point in trying to deny it. I’ve screwed up, and lived to tell. And I think I should tell.

If we’re comfortable with our mistakes, or our choices, or our looks, or whatever, people can’t hurt us because of them. It’s when we try to hide things, when we’re ashamed of some part of ourselves, that we open ourselves up to a whole world of pain. It’s hard work pretending that everything’s easy.

In the middle of kicking drills, one of my instructors asked, with that little mischievous glint in his eye, “So (hee hee hee), how are you holding up? (Hee, hee, hee.)”

“Well, sir, I’m about 30 seconds away from a stroke, but thanks for asking! I’m sure my breathing will come back, but I’m also sure it won’t be anytime today! Boy, am I paying for that little vacation!” He just smiled, a little confused I think, and walked away. What could he say to me that I hadn’t already said to myself?

Sometimes we’re so intent on the pose that we can’t see how far we’re bending. Maybe, sometimes, people actually do want to hear the truth: “How am I doing? Well, not so great; I did a stupid thing and don’t know how to make it right,” or “I’m feeling pretty lonely today.” Our pride gets in the way of the truth, but if we can’t admit the truth, then we’re not authentic. We’re faking. We’re posturing.

Maybe it’s because I have children who look to me for advice on how to live their lives, or because it’s a new year, or just because I have a bad back. But whatever the reason, I’m finding it harder and harder to bend. I think it just might be better for me to be me, weaknesses and insecurities and flaws and all.

And besides, it’s just easier to stand up straight. 

Maggie Simone is an award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at msimone@twcny.rr.com.

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York