Years ago I asked someone what his definition of a ‘real’ man was. His thoughtful response was, “Someone who shows up.”
I loved that so much I’ve never forgotten it.
Over the last while I have seen that there is very little that cannot be resolved or healed by just showing up and staying open. Open to listening, opening to hearing, open to connection, open to changing…
Many years ago when my dear friend’s mother died I wanted to be there for her and offer reassurance but I didn’t know what to say. Words just felt pointless in the face of this big experience. I felt stupid just hanging around not saying anything but I also didn’t want to leave. I remember it well, just sitting there quietly as people came and went, offering their well-worded condolences. My condolences to the family had been pathetic. I felt awkward and inadequate, like I should be doing something. I tried to be useful but otherwise I just sat somewhere near her offering my presence. Months later she told me of her own accord that it meant the world to her that I had just showed up and stayed.
When partners argue and have differences of opinions, what makes the difference between them separating or staying together is often whether they hang in there for the conversation. If they turn towards each other in the times of fear and pain their relationship strengthens and if they turn away from each other during stressful moments their relationship weakens.
When groups in communities have conflict, the most healing thing they can do is talk. Get together and talk. Talk and talk until there is nothing left to say – and then just sit there in silence. Then come back again and again to talk and to listen and find a way together. In other words, show up for the conversation and stay and stay and stay… The willingness to show up for the conversation is often more healing than the actual conversation.
When you make a mistake, or try your best and meet rejection, or you don’t manage to do something you promised to yourself you would do, the thing that hurts most is if you turn away from yourself. If you don’t stay for the conversation with yourself.
When your child misbehaves or is being difficult and whiny, turning towards them and showing up for their difficult time will bring the fastest resolution. It will also bring the most love to everyone involved.
When we show up; when we show up and stay; when we show up again and again and again we are saying, “I care. I am open to connection with you. I am committed to this relationship.”
Take a moment to imagine hearing that from someone. Read those words again and feel it.
How does it feel? Notice what happens in your body in response to that message. What thoughts pop up to support or negate that?
It is a vulnerable place to be in when you reach out to connect, or when someone reaches out to connect with you. It is a delicate tendril of care reaching out from one to the other. The heart needs to be open to be able to reach out like that. That is why its healing potential is so great. As I tell my two boys when they excitedly imagine what the most powerful weapons might be, “There is nothing more powerful than love. You already have that ‘weapon’ in your artillery.”
When you find what you perceive to be an enemy – be it your own unwanted behaviours and desires or your partner’s or your child’s or the governments – shoot at it with love. Turn towards its pain. Open your heart and show up for the conversation. And keep on showing up.
Read the lines again and try saying them to yourself. Often.
“I care. I am open to connection with you. I am committed to this relationship.”
(A little note to those who tend towards co-dependence and will show up over and over to someone who repeatedly hurts, abuses or misuses that vulnerability: This showing up I am describing ALWAYS includes YOU. When you open your heart to connect you have to be present for that. This means your needs count. You do not put the other’s needs ahead of your own. That will never result in real connection or healing. That simply results in setting up a user-provider relationship which diminishes both parties. Showing up for a difficult conversation is in fact showing up for yourself.)