“Showing up is 80% of life,” – Woody Allen
I came across this quote for the first time several years ago and it struck a chord deep inside me. It resonated because I’ve struggled greatly with showing up for my life. As a consequence, I struggled with showing up for the lives of others when they counted on me for them or they wanted me to be with them. My unwillingness to leave the house came from a deep fear of life and an even deeper insecurity about myself. I can’t even pinpoint or remember exactly when or where I became so cripplingly afraid of life. But I was.
I’d do all kinds of preparation for something but not show up for the actual event. Once, back when I was attempting to go to college, I went through a very involved application and interview process with a law firm in the Bankers Hill section of San Diego. I got the job and they even gave me split shifts to work around my school schedule. It was for a pretty decent hourly wage at that time too. But I never showed up for the first day of work. Just didn’t go. I was too afraid I wouldn’t be able to live up to the opportunity. Another time I missed a whole semester of school (San Diego City College) because I was too paralyzed by fear, insecurity and lack of confidence to walk out the door on the first day of school. I remember holding my son, Charles, who was 2 or 3 years old I think and sobbing in my front hallway because I couldn’t get out the door. I slid down the wall just sobbing and holding him. I just couldn’t face school, class, expectations. I had to call the babysitter I had lined up and paid for by social services to tell her I wasn’t coming to drop off my son and I wasn’t going to school this semester after all. I’d registered for classes and everything. Both of these instances occurred when I was in my early 20’s and still married. Don’t even get me started on the ways that I mentally “checked out” of my marriage, while simultaneously emotionally and socially clinging to a young husband who was silently wondering what the hell happened to the outgoing, smart social butterfly he fell for.
This was a running theme throughout my developing adulthood. I missed a dear friend’s wedding after saying I’d attend, and we were close friends. These were just the physical “no shows”. The years of not showing up emotionally or mentally, because there was no true spirituality in my life then. It was painful, this debilitating insecurity and crippling fear that I hid behind, pretending to be a “homebody” that didn’t like socializing. To survive I’d find a small group of friends or one single friend that I could glom onto, taking on their mannerisms, likes and dislikes for an identity. The truth is I lacked so much confidence in myself that I didn’t know how to show up for myself, let alone others. I wasn’t capable of believing deep down that people wanted me around because I didn’t really want to be around myself. Even when I did show up, I got really good at hiding in plain sight.
So what happened? I stopped running from myself and turned to God. I learned that God truly does work through other people if you let Him. It turns out I wasn’t as good at hiding in plain sight as I thought. Wonderfully patient friends that I think of as spiritual kin gently pointed out this delusional social camouflage of mine and lovingly placed me in situations where I had to be “seen”. Places where I had to be front and center. They encouraged me as I continued to show up in so many ways. They told me over and over how beautiful I was, how much my presence was appreciated and how I was an important part of the group. I began to feel how amazing it was to be present for God, myself, and others in the smallest of ways. This gave me courage and confidence to show up in bigger ways like volunteering to be of service to my community, stepping up to be with a friend when he was ready to honor his mother’s last wishes by spreading her ashes in the ocean and just simply reaching out to others in distress. As I continued to emerge, I began to attract people in my life, my inner circle that I’ve truly valued and respected. People who trusted me with their emerging true selves.
This past weekend gave me many, many opportunities to show up and by doing so for God, myself and others I am blessed with nearly indescribable gifts. Gifts of trust, honesty, creativity, empathy, joyful tears, gratitude, connection and the greatest of all things, love. Sometimes I forget that today, I do show up. Writing this blog reminds me that while I am human, I also am expanding the Divine in me.