Years ago, my friend and I had a little debate….
What does it mean to show up to your life? For me, it means being present, being here. Aren’t we always here? Well, yes, but sometimes we don’t know we’re here. We’re halfway here, lost in our thoughts, five steps ahead of NOW in worry or preparation. So showing up means that we’re fully here in this moment, paying attention. If you’re like me, you may have learned over time that it isn’t always easy to show up AS YOURSELF. Perhaps it doesn’t always feel safe. Am I enough? Will people approve of me?
A while ago, I wrote this poem about grief. I just came across it and found that it still feels true, so I wanted to share. As Mary Oliver wrote, "Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile, the world goes on..." We're in this together.
I am drawn to (driven to?) productivity, as many of us are. It comes through our culture, this emphasis on doing, doing, doing. It feels good then, to be productive and to accomplish a lot in a day. It feels gratifying, as if all of this doing means something. If I dig way down deep, achieving seems to mean that I am enough-- good enough, hardworking enough. At the same time, this can feel like a kind of tyranny-- that I MUST accomplish a lot, and if not, it could mean that I failed in some way. But what if I’m tired? What if I’m not feeling well?
Now I use this as a practice not just of the body, but of the mind and heart. Can I listen to my own body? Can I honor my own strengths, needs, and limitations? With back, shoulder, and knee tenderness, I am always modifying the poses, shortening them, sometimes doing a totally different pose that feels right at the moment.
I feel sometimes like I have been given a ten-speed again. Opportunities come my way that are justout my my comfort zone, that I need to really stretch to meet. My emotions go all over the place-- gratitude, fear, excitement, anxiety, overwhelm, and then the guilt of feeling negative feelings at all, when clearly opportunities are GOOD!
At first I felt a little guilty about this-- as if I was building protection against someone. But actually, it is simply for me, in support of me and my own energy. Rather than feeling this shield as a barrier between me and the person I'm interacting with, I walk into the situation feeling whole and safe already. This allows me to interact fully and warmly, without holding back for fear of being overtaken or attacked.
That swim seems to me like a miniature model of life. Anxiety crescendos and decrescendos; joy alights and then flies away. Grief goes on and on; overtaking me for a time and then lying low. Those anchovies are still out there somewhere in the ocean; sometimes they're all I can see, and sometimes the water is clear. Things come and then they go.
To ask what I should do next encourages me to use my brain and my judgement to think about what activities are valuable or desirable. But to ask what is required encourages me to be mindful of myself, inside and out. It asks me to scan the state of my mind and body and figure out my actions based on what I need at the moment.