In my practice of slowing down, noticing, and getting to know myself, I am forever thankful for friends who listen and hold up the mirror when I can no longer see clearly. In examining my periodic discombobulations, there are patterns of unspoken expectations, fantastical and wishful thinking, plus unnecessarily evil self-talk–all dark indicators. Only recently, on a call with a dear and wise friend, was a simple truth uttered that staunched my tears with a deep understanding.
“It’s because you always show up. That’s who you are.” What to some might be a welcome compliment, was to me a statement of purgatory. It led me to the realization that I carried with me the hope, often expectation, always an aspiration, that others also felt the burden of this responsibility.
Those teachable moments in my life that I have written about in the past are too often related to showing up, or not. It seems that collecting a pension cheque does not exempt me from continuing to learn and grow – uncomfortable and unpleasant as it is.
There have been times in the past where my obsession with showing up has taken over my life. My non-negotiable commitment has rendered me tethered to a suspended state of caretaking, rubbing moisturizer on an unconscious loved one’s feet when I should be at home with my children, and exiting hospitals not knowing whether it is day or night.
A request for a meeting, invitation to attend, or call for some time together instantly becomes a priority. Nothing that I would rather be doing, or had planned to do, warrants NOT SHOWING UP. I become flexible – a Gumby figurine bending and swaying away from me. A knowing soul has suggested this tendency is called self-abandonment.
The truth about this trait is that there are components that are self-serving, that feed my ego. To be needed. To make a difference. To matter to another. Such compelling chatter casts the vote to discard details of my life in order to be available to another. Only now do I understand the cost of these choices.
The tariffs include reliance on approval from others. The loss of self-knowing and nurturing. The gradual merge into disempowerment. And the vague and glassy-eyed response to questions about preferences, interests, wants and needs.
The differentiator for me in the ponder of the pros and cons of being the one who turns up is understanding my motivation. And in taking into consideration my beliefs and values that define “the right thing to do.” Without regard as to whether or not I really, really, want to.
I attend funerals to support the people who are grieving and to show respect for the deceased if I know them. I will myself to the social norm events . . . baby showers with oh and ahs over the seventh pink terry sleeper. Old fashioned bridal showers with uncomfortable games and being foolish with strangers. Weddings at inconvenient times and in odd places. Small children’s birthday parties that require sedatives and a drop sheet to participate. I show up to these milestone celebrations because of their importance to those I deeply care for. They are, to me, appropriate acts of selflessness.
My power comes back to me when I discern, with the lens of service and love for self, what is the highest and best use of my empathy and energy.
I know that there is a healthy blend of give and take. I know that a pause and consideration precludes the obsessive need to be available and accommodating. I know that the opposite of self-abandonment is self-worth.
At least, that is my experience.