how to show up for your life
I recently read a post over at The Daily Love about the importance of showing up - for your life, your dreams, your ambitions. It got me thinking.
The instruction on TDL was to show up daily for our dreams. I like this. And I agree. Be present with and for yourself. Be consistent, have integrity, do your thing daily.
But the instruction opened some questions for me too.
I don't know how it's done now, but when I was growing up, our teachers kept big brown spiral bound leatherette books on their desks. The books contained ledger sheets, the ledger sheets contained names and next to the names so many tiny boxes, one for each day of the school year, to be filled with checkmarks or codes which signified Present, Absent, or Tardy, Excused or Unexcused.
There were big social rewards, prizes, and public acknowledgements for having a Perfect Attendance Record - that is, showing up every day and never being Tardy. I think it was OK to have a very occasional Excused Absence for something like going to get your allergy shots or attending your grandmother's funeral. A Perfect Attendance Record was an admirable social accomplishment, something for which both teachers and other kids admired you. It was unlike the accomplishment of a Perfect Report Card, for which teachers and parents loved you, but which made you an object of suspicion and sometimes scorn among your peers.
In case you haven't already figured it out, I had a perfect report card and a very spotty attendance record.
I was an anxious child and a misfit, and I had a very difficult and often chaotic home life.
Showing Up Daily and Not Being Tardy was pretty much out of reach for me. Straight A's were not. I was smart, and I loved to be lost in books, and homework was something I could control.
For many, many years beyond my childhood, my life reflected this formative experience with Showing Up. Showing up for personal accomplishments and creations was easy. I made amazing, straight-A stuff.
Showing up in simple ways for other people, or for powerful social structures, was way harder, because of a difficult and often chaotic inner life; the ghost of my childhood home life.
Through deep healing, I have begun to learn how to show up in all the important ways in my life - I've taught myself the simple consistency and discipline that leads to the equivalent of a decent attendance record, which in turn makes the wheels of life turn more smoothly; my bills are payed and I've met my deadlines. And I feel blessed that I learned very early in life to show up daily for my inner work and creativity, for imagination and contemplation.
I believe showing up in BOTH of these ways is key to a well-lived and artful life.
I also see that my own particular journey is perhaps not the norm. I think many of us learn early that getting all the boxes ticked in that big ledger can bring a measure of ease, and some nice social rewards. So we may go through life efficiently showing up and ticking the boxes and reaping the rewards, but then also wondering about a lack of spaciousness, an absence of passion, a subtle sense of disconnection which haunts us despite our apparently thorough consistency and integrity.
So, here's my advice: by all means tick the boxes. Keep your word, pay your taxes, do your job in the world. Do it mindfully, and with love. This is essential. But don't make the job of ticking the boxes SO BIG that your life becomes small.
Showing up is essential. But just showing up won't get you there. Be discerning about what you show up for. Be mindful of how you show up, and why. Here's what I want my Showing Up to be:
I want to practice a kind of showing up for life that opens me to the spacious beauty of being, not a showing up that distracts me with more ambitious do-do-doing.
I want to practice showing up for the true vastness of my dreams of possibility, not for the binding ambitions of my ego.
I want to practice a showing up for others that opens my deep heart of compassion and allows the pouring out of my true gifts, not a showing up that merely adds lines to my Resume of Good Deeds.
I want to create a consistency that is gorgeously rhythmic, not numbingly mechanistic.
I want to create an integrity that reflects a wholeness of heart, not just an ability to connect the dots (or tick the boxes.)
I want to practice a showing up that is deep, soft, and forgiving.
How do you want to show up for your life?