La La How The Life Goes On

Grow Up and Show Up

Posted on: January 3, 2015

I just read a great article on the importance of showing up, and it pointed its long, bony finger of truth directly and unflinchingly at me.

…Show up even when you’re “busy,” because friendships often start by accident, but they are maintained on purpose. Show up even when you’re tired, because you know that your support—if only for a single drink, or an episode, or the first-half, or until you can’t keep your eyes open—is meaningful.

I read this article and recognized myself in the person bailing on plans because of inclement weather. I recognized myself in the person failing to do the work to maintain friendships. I recognized myself in the person who is too “busy” to get together. This is my greatest failing in life (if you don’t count my prescription painkiller addiction and multiple grand theft auto convictions), and it made me want to characteristically bail on reading the rest of the article.

I too often fail at showing up, not because I don’t want to be present in the lives of the people I love, but because I allow perfect to be the enemy of good.

I can’t go to that party because I can only stay for an hour and that’s rude.

I can’t call that person today because I don’t have 30 spare minutes without the kids interrupting.

I can’t attend that funeral because I only minimally know the bereaved and it will be awkward.

All of these seemingly rational and reasonable explanations. But you do this long enough and all of a sudden, you haven’t seen your college BFF in 9 months even though you live 40 minutes from each other.

You do this long enough and all of a sudden your friend is sick in the hospital, unable to speak, and you’re wondering why a quick 10 minute chat was somehow so insufficient and therefore undoable that you ended up with zero minutes and now what?

You do this long enough and all of a sudden you realize all of the things you could have done imperfectly but sincerely for someone in distress were left undone. Those missed opportunities are indeed missed forever.

I remember my Dad’s memorial service. I cannot recall a single word anyone said to me that day. Nor can I recall who stayed for a minute or an hour. But I do remember every single person who showed up at all. I remember each person because when you are numb with grief and walking in a blur, the physical presence of other humans creates moments of clarity. That the departed was loved, that you are loved, that this event, this day, this person, this moment mattered enough for them to show up. And yet I feel like I have to have some inspirational TED-Talk prepared when I go to someone else’s funeral or shiva.

When a friend calls me and says, “I have about 6 minutes to say hi then I’ve gotta go” I never think, “What an ass you are for not clearing your schedule to discuss The Walking Dead with me for an hour!” I’m just happy to have heard their voice; happy to have connected even briefly. And yet I feel like I have to be sitting in some healing garden of tranquility with nothing but time on my hands in order to even dial ten digits and say hello.

When I had surgery and people brought food, I never once thought “Does this person think I’m incompetent? That I can’t cook some basic food?! (even though I actually can’t). And why the meatballs!? I wanted lobster thermidor!” I was just so damn glad and grateful that I didn’t have to stand at a stove for 40 minutes. Because, pro tip, these kids eat every damn day, and are particularly partial to dinner. But in a snowstorm I consistently take too long to check in on our elderly neighbor. She should be first on my list of things to do, since lord knows this girl ain’t shovelin’. But I always wait, worried that she will think I’m infantilizing her or something. “Is Mrs. McNeighborstein happy in the snow or sad? Would she like some cutie wootie milk and cookies in the storm?” And yet I feel like I have to have some compelling reason beyond, “I am just checking in on you because you are a fellow human (perhaps of an advanced age) who lives alone next door” in order to call her.

I could philosophize about why I do this, further investigate my “perfect as enemy of good” theory, attend several seminars and symposia on the chi blocks that may be impacting my life choices. Or I could just decide, today, that in 2015 I am going to be an adult and show up. Because that’s what adults do.

Precisely when every atom in my body is screaming, “Go home! It’s dark and cold and you don’t know this person that well anyway” I will force myself to show up. I might make a friend.

When I make plans (to make plans) with friends and that lazy, entitled part of my brain tells me that friends understand when you can’t see each other and good friendships survive even long absences, I will force myself to show up. I might be a better friend.

When I see the snow come down and Mrs. McNeighborstein’s lights come up, and the over-thinking part of my brain tells me she will be offended by me calling to check in, I will force myself to show up. I might show my kids how to be a better neighbor.

If you invite me, and I say yes, I promise you I am going to show up.


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