My son, Max, is almost 9. He’s a great kid, with swooping hair like his dad and a cheeky smile like me. He’s also a smart ass.
I’m talking smart ass of the A+ plus sort, the won-the-award-for-class-comedian, has-a-comeback-for-everything, never-know-when-to-shut-his-mouth type.
There could be a whole blog post in coming to terms with elements of your kid’s personality you’re not so keen on. But that’s not today’s topic. Instead, it has occurred to me lately that Max has not yet learned to be anyone other than who he is. Hence, he is himself—truly himself—in every situation.
For that, he’s kind of my hero. Yes, there is an element of stress to his personality (mostly that he and my husband are so similar and two of those personalities in one house don’t work so well together). Still, I hope he keeps who he is. My sense is that he will. I mean, let’s hope he finds the balance of Max-ness and self-control! But I want him to ride that wave of who he is wherever it takes him, and never show up as anyone else.
I’ve worked very hard these past several years to make sure I show up as myself in every situation, too, whether it’s with a client or with my family. Lots of things contribute to these self-development odysseys—books you read, speakers you hear, and just plain getting older and giving less of a shit about what people say. But as I watch Max be so Max—Max to the max, you might say!—I can’t help but reflect on what made me start the journey back to Judi, like what made me really take it on as a project.
It definitely has to do with Uncle Red.
Uncle Red, aka George Meinhardt, passed away suddenly in May 2011. He was what my dad called “a character”—full of jokes and spirit. He was an incredibly successful businessman, having grown various real estate companies and then starting Star One Realtors in the 1990s. I could fill blog posts about Uncle Red and the funny stories he told! But what strikes me most when I think of him now is something I only realized about him at the funeral, when the priest pointed it out. He started his memorial to Uncle Red by saying something like, “George Meinhardt was the same George Meinhardt to everyone who knew him. There was never a question of who was going to show up.” I so took it for granted, that it didn’t occur to me that showing up as themselves was a thing that not everyone did.
After that day, I started looking around in my life for other people who had this quality of always being themselves—and also noticing the people who didn’t. More importantly, I turned the mirror inward, and thought about to what degree I showed up as myself in various situations. I was doing an okay job of it in places, but I wanted to feel aligned in being me in ALL that I did.
I’ve always considered myself an honest person, but this required a new level of honesty. It’s not that I was telling lies before, but rather, I just wasn’t expressing the fullest essence of Judi-ness. I don’t even think it was fear or shame keeping me less of myself. A little perhaps. But it was more that I hadn’t thought about it. Once I thought about it, I realized that, yes, I did want to show up as 100 percent me. It’s not a coincidence I started this blog that same year. I remember telling my business coach that I didn’t know what I was possibly going to write about that anyone would be interested in. “Just write,” she said.
It was also around this time when I decided it was not only okay to be vulnerable, but also quite necessary. I had put on armor over the years, as we all do—but I didn’t want to wear it anymore. Instead, I wanted to wear honest opinions, quirky takes on situations, and fun dresses that would never be allowed in corporate America. In my mind, I thought I was doing those things. The trick was in really doing them.
It started out as a kind of forced consciousness, but now, mostly, I just am. Judi is Judi is Judi.
Some people are born with a confidence and solidness of person that they don’t know any other way to show up but as themselves, like my uncle. Then, there are the ones who will never stop pretending and never be comfortable enough in their own skin to inhabit it full-time.
And then there are the rest of us. The bulk of humanity, I’m guessing. We have the potential, but we have to strip away some crap to do it.
I have a yoga teacher who makes us do these ridiculously long plank holds. It’s so hard! As we’re sweating and shaking, two minutes in, she will say, “Come down at any time if you need to! But if you can hold it, you must.”
If you can, you must.
Also, it’s really kind of a great way to live.