I’ve been thinking about the idea of showing up and what that means, as of late.
My husband and I moved to a new neighborhood in New York last fall, and guys. We’ve gone into full blown newlywed world. I mean, who needs another overcrowded happy hour when you could be dancing with your lover in his oversized t-shirt in the kitchen over a Nutella-based ‘dinner’? Every. Night.
I mean, we’re 10 months in and it’s gotten out of hand. We’ve moved past the standard first-year earmarks – redecorating the apartment, selling each other’s items you finally admit you don’t like, establishing who gets remote dominion and where to hide the good snacks you don’t want to share. We’ve moved onto forms of entertainment. We’ve attempted glamping on our porch, done the breakfast-in-bed-til-noon thing, and created our own rating system for takeout in our 3-mile radius.
And since I met him nearly two years ago, I have had nothing on my mind except one thing: him. My all, my everything. He completely fills the view through my metaphorical windshield. And it feels so good to feel this crazy about someone, about anything. But I think we’re ready. We need friends.
And this new phase of life warrants the opportunity to do that cliche thing and make couple friends. Of course, I keep telling myself, I know how to create a community. I’ve done this before and I can do it again. You show up.
Showing up is a complicated notion because it means different things to different people, and also because it means different things at different phases of our lives. Some days, showing up is getting out of bed. Sometimes it’s being front and center, and sometimes it’s just being there at all.
Maybe you’ve had your own moments when you thought it would be easier to not show up. Maybe you’re afraid you’re unworthy, maybe you feel complacent, or maybe it’s simply inconvenient. Whatever your reasons, each one of us has had occasion to recoil, to retreat – to casually take the back seat to avoid risk and exposure. To not show up.
Let me first say, if you have had those moments, you’re not alone. This is part of the human experience. But also, I don’t think it’s an admission of failure to say that at times, you hesitated. There are lessons to be learned from reaching from within rather than beyond oneself. But I think we can all agree that the opportunity to play an active part in this world has always been worth the risk of rejection.
In fact, if I regret anything, it’s not the mistakes I feel remorse over but the moments when I didn’t take the risk. And in most cases, had the risk I took gone horribly awry (skydiving being the exception, obvs), my willingness to show up would have still compensated for the fallout because it changed me. It made me braver.
As the wise Anne Lamott said, ‘What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.’
So here’s my new mantra. Show up. As my ballet teacher says, ‘I don’t care how off-kilter your pirouette is, you get all the points just for walking up the five flights of stairs to be here.’ Maybe you’re socially awkward or have nothing to say or fear rejection or worse, boredom. Show up anyways. Show up as you are. Show up sleep deprived or in a mismatched outfit. Show up with that hairstyle that isn’t trending or that bold color of lipstick. By all means break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately and well.
You don’t have to have all the answers or have read that newest book, or be 100% ready to take on every situation. Nobody is any of these things. Show up with all your imperfections and ineptitudes and insecurities. Show up against your better judgment or inner rationalizations, despite the criticisms others may place on you. They don’t need to understand your journey, it’s not for them. It’s your story, your adventure. So show up for it.
Wake up, take up space, be present, make observations, take down notes, voice your opinion, be counted for. Uncross your arms. In the face of doubt and fear, invite life in. Walk confidently in one direction. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but keep showing up – even, and especially when, it’s uncomfortable.
This is your perfect grace, your right, your to-be-discovered superpower – perhaps your greatest. And it’s the means by which you will make your mark on the world in a profound way – when you’re not too busy hiding from it, that is.
Photography by Diego Silva.