Showing Up; Giving the Gift of Presenced

This essay originally aired on Rhode Island Public Radio as part of their “This I Believe” series.

I believe showing up is one of the most important things we do in life.  Woody Allen says it is half of success.  I say it lies close to the heart of what it means to be human.

Sometimes it’s easy to show up. I look forward to time with friends, University of Rhode Island basketball games and seeing my marina family in the summer.

It’s harder to show up when someone I love has the rug pulled out from under their life and they land hard. I am at the age when some of my friends are facing serious health issues. Other friends are facing the death of a spouse or the end of their 35 year marriage. My grandmother was right when she told me growing old isn’t for sissies. It seems there is no end to the ways those I love end up in unimaginable emotional, spiritual, mental and physical pain.  And it is then I most need to show up.

Showing up means I willingly enter the land of no answers, few words and the ever present possibility that I will stick my foot in my mouth and say something really dumb. I show up with my bare face hanging out and try hard to trust that this is enough, even if I do open my mouth just long enough to change feet. Sometimes I bring a meatloaf.

I believe showing up means being present, listening without judgment or advice and letting the silences sit between us like the love that connects us.  It means shouldering some of the burden of what can’t be fixed.  It means sharing the loneliness and powerlessness that comes when life unravels at the seam.

Showing up means opening myself to their pain and willingly going where it leads them; this is not easy for me. Like many people, l live under the illusion that I am in control of a lot of things.  In truth my only control is over things like whether to have chicken or fish for dinner or to do laundry today or when I run out of socks. 

Yet, I believe in showing up even with all my fears and anxieties. I believe there is value in showing up with my own broken heart and my own powerlessness. I believe there is healing in the silence and going together into the land of no answers.  It is one of the best gifts we can give to one another.  And, from time to time maybe a meatloaf.


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