I learned about the art of showing up by watching my parents. They show up for work and other commitments, but throughout my entire life, they have showed up for me. As a kid, my parents were on the sidelines of every soccer game and basketball game, watching me humiliate myself, and yet they never made me feel like watching me suck at sports was anything less than joyful. When I became a musician, my parents sat through every concert, cheering me on and driving me to lessons and symphony rehearsals and proudly watching every show.
As an adult, they continue to show up for me. Every time I've moved, whether they have agreed with my decisions on location or reason to relocate or anything else, my parents have been there, hauling books and helping me unpack. This year, when my beloved cat, Harry, was dying and I had endless appointments, my dad came to every single one, including the one where I had to put him down. At the saddest moment of my life so far, I was so grateful to have my father beside me and my mom checking in and knowing that I was being loved all the way through it.
It isn't just in those tangible actions. My parents show up for me by checking in with me, making sure our time as a family is a priority, by being in my life. While we have challenged and disappointed one another over the years, as happens in lifelong relationships, we keep being there, imperfectly, loving hard, and most importantly, doing the work.
It is quite easily the biggest gift of my life, these relationships.
Showing up is a quality I have come to value in my relationships, above anything else. My two close friends, Leslie and Steph, started a near-weekly tradition of hanging out with Steph's adorable son for dinner. It's mellow and sometimes we show up stressed or annoyed or tired or sad (uh, those qualities are usually me) but that time has become sacred. It's not a wild night out or what others might deem sexy and fun, but it's us, showing up, living life together, sharing in the mundane and the exciting. It has solidified my connections with them in ways I don't think any of us could have predicted. There is a familiarity that comes when you direct efforts towards developing meaningful relationships consistently, and these friendships and that easy connection, are such important things in my life.
Showing up matters. I think that showing up is the thing that defines the depth of relationships. As an introvert who desperately needs alone time, I find canceling plans to be easy. But in recent years, I've become almost fanatical about showing up, and doing what I say I will do. If I say I will be at your dinner, I come. If I agree to watch your kid's dance recital, you can bet I will be there. Unless something serious happens, showing up for the people I love is a top priority. I am equally grateful for the people who show up for me. I am surrounded by them: people who listen to me and care about me and make time for me. It is a gift.
Here's the thing I've been considering lately: why is it so hard for me to show up for myself? I will move heaven and earth to show up for a dinner date, but I find it simple to bail on writing or to say yes to something for someone else instead of taking care of something that will make my life easier. It isn't that I am always selfless -- I'm not. Instead, it seems to be a simple lack of willingness to make myself matter to me.
In recent months, I've found myself asking myself what it even means to show up for me. It feels like a foreign concept. As a teacher, so much of my energy and efforts are directed outwards -- I often feel like I have nothing left to offer myself. But I've been asking: what does it look like to show up for me? Some of it seems easy and obvious: make time to feed myself well, take time to hit spin and practice yoga. Some of it feels more challenging, such as making writing a daily practice, even when it feels like nothing is flowing, or re-committing to a daily meditation practice. Some of it feels downright annoying, like keeping my house super clean so I can focus.
One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, discusses the idea of writing being a practice of keeping your butt in the chair every day, a crappy page at a time. It's about showing up. I feel that so much lately. I've made some intentional changes to make room for this creative side of me to show up lately, and often times, it doesn't feel good. Writing doesn't come naturally every day. Showing up to stand up open mic is humbling and hard. Committing to eating meals that I've prepared and that feel good is much harder than grabbing tacos on the way home.
And yet when I don't do those things, as cheesy as it sounds, it feels like canceling on myself.
I am obsessed with showing up for others because to me, that time and effort is a tangible way of saying, "You matter to me. Our relationship matters to me. This is important." When people show up for me, I feel the same -- I know they are showing me that they love me.
What am I saying to myself when I am unwilling to offer myself that same attention? Like so many things, it is a practice of worthiness, of showing myself I am worth my own love, time, and affection. These days, I know the best gift I can give myself is showing up for me. It's making it to spin class, showing up to an open mic night, taking a long bath after a hard day, writing daily no matter what, investing in friendships that matter, fresh flowers on my table, making myself a nice dinner, reading poems, taking care of me.
Show up. It matters.