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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

Tell The Truth

Yesterday after repeating a final namaste in my yoga class via Zoom, opening my eyes, and adjusting to "reality," my teacher read what she calls a random "note" that, more often than not, hits home. This was no exception:

Tell the truth: Integrity is the key to living an authentic life.

An "authentic life?" I repeated. "Authentic life. I like that."

As soon as I rolled up my yoga mat and stuffed it into the closet, I sat down at my computer and did a quick Google search. I wanted to know how others defined an authentic life, an authentic self. This definition popped up at the top of page one:

Your authentic self goes beyond what you do for a living, what possessions you own, or who you are to someone (mom, brother, girlfriend). It is who you are at your deepest core.

And, I wanted to add, how comfortable you are when you share or act upon your core, your truth.

To be truthful, I haven't always been secure in sharing my truth. I don't know, probably because I was afraid I'd hurt someone's feelings or, worse yet, that they wouldn't like me anymore. Pretty basic stuff. I'm sure a shrink would have a heyday and put me on the couch for years. What happened in your childhood? Did your parents encourage you to express your feelings or did they lead by bad example and sweep all kinds of important stuff under the rug? Were there family secrets that you didn't discover until years, decades later? Well, maybe, maybe. But at this point, who cares? Either we get in touch with our deepest core and are comfortable in telling our truth, or we will have to come back around until we get it right.

I'd prefer not to have to do a repeat performance.

This past summer, I celebrated my seventy-fifth b'day. Celebrate is a bit of a stretch. Four friends sat with my husband and me outside on our bluestone patio and ate a cake that I'd bought from a bakery recommended by a friend. The big bash I'd planned with loads of friends, music, dancing would have to wait: Covid had put the kibosh on my party.

Not so fast. As it turned out, the evening was one of the best, most authentic ones I've spent in some time.

I must have been a bit giddy from the generous fills of margaritas made by a friend whom I fondly call "Juan Agave." I announced that we'd go around in a circle, and each one of us would tell what we thought was our best quality, the trait we'd honed over the years, the one that felt the most authentic.

I launched into how I'm a good listener and how sharing someone else's joys and fears without telling them what to do or how to feel connects to something deep inside. I didn't use the word core, but I could have.

My dear friend who sat to my left was next: Unabashed, she said that everything about her was authentic; there was nothing that wasn't real, nothing that she didn't love about herself. Now, my friend is pretty terrific; clearly, lack of confidence is not an issue.

As we went around the circle, the words loyal, responsible, and entertaining, as in making others feel happy, were tossed into the mix. By then, the margaritas had undermined any attempt at serious conversation; we wanted to have fun, kick up our heels, give thanks for our time together in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

Fast Forward 8 Months and the "note" given to me by my yoga instructor who is wise beyond her not-yet fifty years. (I guess all the meditation and postures and healthy lifestyles do pay off.) You know how badly you feel when, after months of getting along swimmingly with a partner or family member or friend, something goes wrong. It hurts. It smarts. It feels lousy. Your neck is tense. Your stomach roils. You can't believe that you didn't speak up, that you let something slide and fester, that, instead of stepping up to the plate and speaking your truth, you took a ball four and walked. (It's baseball season, after all.)

I'm not one to point fingers, believe me. I have lived this scenario more times than I care to recall. But here's the thing: every time I'm afraid of being my authentic self because of some fear or another but I take a deep breath and as calmly as possible express what I really feel, the result is always, always better. Instead of throwing gas on the fire, I pour water--warm, soothing water that miraculously puts out the flames.

And life is good again.


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