Monday, February 1, 2016

Just Show Up


I have a confession.  I don't have a high opinion of myself.  Sure there are a lot of things I think I do pretty well.  I'm not naive enough to think that I'm the best at anything, but I'm all right with that.   For a long time, I had this recording running in my head that would always be in the background.  But on some occasions it would get so loud I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing.

The recording was a collection of all the not-enough's.  The you're not smart, tall, pretty, talented, coordinated, thin enough's.  Then I became a mom, and the recording now had a second track called who are you fooling, you don't know how to, discipline, raise, feed, care for kids. Creating a familiar harmony of doubt in my head  no matter what I was doing.

I looked to other people to make me feel capable of any of those things listed above. Especially my mom.  And the only thing I realized is that there is a boat load of people doing the same thing.  How many likes does a post get, how many people notice my outfit?  How many letters can I get after my name?  (For the record,  I only have two and B.A. can stand for Bad Ass too.)  But when you work in academia, it's a big deal.

But when you go to bed at night, alone or with someone, none of those things matter.   When I'm laying in my cozy bed with my warm husband to my left, and each of my boys mummy tucked, and their cute, healthy bodies are cooking under the heat of three blankets and flannel jammies, while my dog is in the corner snoring louder than my husband, nobody cares or will remember how I made a typo in sending out a mass email.  Or how I accidentally slammed my son's foot in the door because he wasn't moving fast enough.  So why should I?

When I lay my head down at night, I take an inventory of the way I feel and if I did all I could do that day to make someone feel loved.

That is the one thing I am really good at.

I have one huge empathetic muscle, and it didn't become strong by sitting at home on my couch watching Netflix.  Although, at times that sounded more appealing.

After my Dad's accident, I had hundreds of people tell me they were praying for him.  I would say thank you and go about my day.  But it wasn't until recently that I realized that I hadn't prayed for him.  Not once.  I was overcome with guilt and thought, how awful, that I hadn't stopped to pray for my own dad.

Before I could add that to the long list of things that make me less than everyone else around me.  I realized my prayer was done by showing up.   Prayer to me is an action.

Showing up isn't hard, you just knock on someone's door, and say, I'm here.  I don't have any reason to be here, but here I am.  You don't have to have a prerequisite to show up.  So, okay maybe it is hard. Maybe you feel like you are imposing or that you will look like an idiot.  But that is when you have just to turn down the volume of your doubts.  Or bring wine, that is always a good idea too.

I suffered from severe postpartum depression and people unexpectantly knocking on my door kept me alive.  And that isn't an exaggeration, it's the truth.  Had they called ahead of time I would have told them I was fine, so I'm glad they didn't.

What I learned from that experience is that sometimes you need a depression ambusher.

I have had four close friends lose one of their parents this past month.  I thought about calling or even texting, but I couldn't come up with the right thing to say, so I showed up and sat with all of them.  Or if I couldn't go to their house, I just listened to them.

In their time of grief, I never heard any of them say,  that her mom didn't allow her to get a toy, or that his mom lost her temper once and said things she didn't mean. Or that her dad grounded her for talking back. What I did hear is that they wanted just one more day with them. Just one more hour, or minute, just to tell them that one thing that needed to tell them.  But now they can't.

But they can tell me, and I'll listen, because that is what I'm good at, and that is why I just show up.  Have you ever noticed that dogs do that?  When you are feeling down, they just walk over and sit at your feet, not saying a word. Dogs know the healing power of sitting in silence together.  Obviously they can't talk, but sometimes I think people should take note that words can get in the way.

I feel so blessed to have my parents.  Back in November, I wasn't so sure I was going to have both of them for long.  I was scared and didn't know what to do, so I just showed up and had some of the best silent conversations I have ever had with my family.

You learn so much about people when you step outside of yourself and your insecurities and just listen.  Listen with your soul, not just your ears.

What I know is that there are no words that are going to make anyone feel better when they lose someone, face a tragedy or are drowning in depression.  So why even try?  The best thing you can say to someone is nothing, just show up, extend your arms for a hug and allow what happens in the silence. It can be more comforting than any words ever could be.

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