Learning, adapting, evolving. We may bundle those activities into a package labeled “reinvention,” but I prefer to think of them as natural elements of living a life. I consider them essential to “showing up.”
We show up in our moments of joy. We show up when our children need us. We show up when we’re conscious of a disconnect between who we’ve become and who we want to be.
But nothing’s quite so simple, is it?
We do what we deem appropriate in a balance of self, family, and community. We’re conflicted. We’re tired. Life is hectic and priorities are always shifting.
Circumstances set us back – an illness, a job loss, a family member who requires our care and attention. A relationship ends, a marriage falters, an addiction holds us in its grip. We lose ourselves, or we lose our grounding.
Recovering from Setbacks
Who else remembers the expression “keep on truckin’?” It used to make me smile with its jaunty optimism, not to mention its practical bent. I’ve long preferred it to “get back up on the horse” because frankly, the horse analogy seems less applicable and much less empowering.
Some falls in life teach us what we shouldn’t pursue.
But keep on truckin’? That one fits me. It has oomph, vitality, momentum.
This doesn’t mean our setbacks don’t cause us to stall or even stagnate for a bit. It’s only natural to lick our wounds when we’re hurt, and if we’re smart (and able), we explore what knocked us down in the first place – our own choices that are ill-advised, risks we take that simply may not work out as we hoped, and the psychological baggage we carry that occasionally pulls us away from our better angels.
Sometimes it takes a helping hand to get us going again, and we’re grateful when that assist shows up; we dust ourselves off, we learn our lessons, we keep going.
If we’re showing up in the lives of others, we may be the ones to offer that hand.
Do you get pulled off course? I do.
Is your time and focus fractured too often? Mine is.
Do you find it easier to help someone else with their issues than to face your own?
To say that I’ve been distracted in the past weeks is an understatement. I’ve been splitting my time (and concentration) among several competing areas, while simultaneously immersed in paperwork pandemonium, not unusual during April, and likely to continue each year until my youngest is out of college.
In other words, I’m showing up elsewhere – as a parent – on tasks that need my attention. The consequence is less time for many aspects of my work, writing, and personal life, which I alluded to recently as a disappearing act.
Revving Up for Starting Over?
Lately I’ve communicated less in social media. I’ve grown emotionally distant from friends. I’ve been busy, I’ve been distracted, but it’s something more, though I’m hard-pressed to identify it.
I haven’t shown up in the lives of others, but I’ve been mucking around in a murky soup of showing up for myself. I’m trying to figure out who I am at this moment, who I want to be (if not “this me”), and how I might get there – wherever “there” reveals itself. I’m trying to make sense of the world and my place in it. This isn’t the first time; it won’t be the last.
Is this a prelude to a more significant reinvention? Damned if I know!
Am I starting in on that “starting over” topic again?
Maybe. My engines rev and then they idle. I tell myself I’m free, and I realize I’m not. I’m moving forward, and I’m stuck, stuck, stuck.
Then there’s my introspective nature, my desire to examine, my tendency to be self-critical – all of it, thankfully, offset by the capacity to dream. I’m formulating a new sort of showing up – for myself. I’m trying on what that might mean.
Easy Come, Easy Go, Not So Easy
In some ways, showing up for ourselves is easier when we’re younger.
Trying on a new country in my twenties was a piece of cake – at least for me. I was single. I was responsible only for myself. I was energetic, with an abundant appetite for adventure. I didn’t have a dime, and it was utterly irrelevant. Isn’t this part of the beauty of youth – our vitality, our hunger, our ability to travel light?
If I showed up in my own life more at 20 or 30, I also did so with little self-consciousness. Those were days before cell phones, days before tweeting our every move, days before posting selfies with a few flicks of the fingertips. We showed up in the moment with the commentary of our running thoughts and inner voices, taking snapshots with our eyes and lodging them in our memory.
And when we took those images, we were often looking outward – which does not preclude an inner journey, but one that was for ourselves rather than public consumption. And so we documented with our Nikons and our Polaroids, and noted our impressions in a letter, perhaps an email, or a personal journal.
The result, in my opinion, was a greater capacity to experience important moments – and all the rest – as we went about the business of living.
Marriage and Family
Flash forward to marriage and family. Showing up takes on another complexion. Our words, our attitudes, our actions – all impact the lives of those we love.
So we show up – happily, expansively, wearily, mechanically. We deal with relocations, job changes, money headaches, compromises. We encounter challenges and manage them as best we can; we learn, we adapt, we keep on truckin’. We show up to keep our relationships thriving. We show up to raise our children. We power through the conflicts of a colicky baby and cranky customers, packing school lunches and packing bags for a business trip, writing out checks for the PTA and bigger checks when it’s time for college applications.
“Me” may get lost in “we.”
But we keep showing up.
Evolution Versus Reinvention
I have mixed feelings about the word reinvention, though I use the term when it suits me. My dilemma is partly in the fact that I’ve reinvented so much in my life that evolution is a more suitable description. Change, as the saying goes, is the only constant.
And in the light of change – the time, at last, to genuinely give it space to roll around in my mind – I’m mulling the relationship between change and showing up. I’m asking myself this: If all we do is assess, process, absorb – but we don’t act – are we engaging in reinvention, or simply stewing in our own juice? Are we going through motions? Are we stuck in fear?
I ask myself why I am where I am, why I am who I am, why – in my own mind – I continue to fall short.
I know the “reasons” that come into play – some are outside my control. But I’m convinced they don’t comprise the whole story. On some level, in particular since my children left home, I’m struggling to show up in my own life.
We show up with our presence, our hearts, our words, our silence, our stepping forward, our stepping back. We show up with our support, our contrition, our hanging in.
Sometimes we show up in the lives of others, compensating for not showing up for those closest to us. Sometimes we need to sit back and let others show up for us.
Not everyone shows up – for themselves, much less for others. They may do so in a minimal fashion. They may turn their backs entirely.
That’s not an accusation; it’s an observation.
Sometimes it’s a matter of selfishness. Sometimes it’s a matter of survival. I don’t pretend to know the justifications, aware there are times I haven’t shown up, and looking back – I wish I had.
Where Am I? Right Here. Where is That? I Don’t Know.
I didn’t start this morning writing with any particular intention. The refrain of “showing up” has been looping through my mind for days, and I needed to see where it might lead. I hoped for clarification. I wondered who might be traveling the same journey. Perhaps these meandering thoughts reflect where I am – not unhappy, if somewhat off-balance; not dispirited, if intermittently melancholic; not adrift, albeit uncertain where to pinpoint my place in some grander scheme.
Is this a conversation about mindfulness? Maybe, but it feels like something more. Mindfulness that spurs action. Mindfulness that acknowledges responsibility.
And so I write to find answers or at least, more helpful questions. I write to locate myself in changing context. I write to motivate myself for whatever comes next as I struggle to imagine what that is. I write from the knowledge that I’m in transition, that I have constraints, that I wish to clear my own way of obstacles. I write because it’s my way of showing up – learning, adapting, and evolving.
But there must be more: we never know what time is left to us. We want it to count for something. Our showing up must have meaning.
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