Show up. Who doesn’t love to show up for a get-together, a meal, or a holiday? Showing up can be a lot of fun. But showing up isn’t always easy. It’s hard to show up for a medical procedure, or test results, or a confrontational meeting with the boss or a family member. It’s easy to show up when things are upbeat and positive, but not so easy when things are difficult. In working with the bereaved for a number of years, one of the questions I ask is, “Do you remember everyone who came to the funeral?” The answer typically is, “No.” I then ask, “Do you remember who didn’t come?” The answer always is an emphatic, “Yes.” They could easily remember who didn’t show up. Why is it important to recall that information? Because it’s often upsetting and disappointing when someone we count on doesn’t “show up.” By acknowledging those hurts, we can let them go. Showing up may not always be possible, but most of the time, it is. It’s a choice, and showing up comes in many forms. We can choose to make the phone call, or not. We can choose to send the email, or not. We can choose to be there, or not. Over the years, do you remember who has shown up for you? Have you shown up?
Be Present. While another version of this quote uses the phrase, “pay attention,” I prefer the Lakota Sioux version. While “paying attention,” one can still remain aloof, but if someone is “present,” I can feel it – it’s an intentional statement: “I choose to not only show up but be fully attuned to what is going on.” Being present is hard because there are so many distractions. In today’s society, technology is the presence-usurper, robbing us of one another. But only if we let it. When the chime informs us there’s an incoming text, email or voicemail, we’ve become habituated to responding immediately. What if we chose to “be present” to the one next to us rather than being instantly present to someone we may not know or who can wait a bit for a response? It’s a choice to be present, or not. Am I being present to those who are important to me.
Tell the truth. This should be the easy one, right? Because after all, we were raised to tell the truth and not tell lies. My husband and I were having lunch years ago, and the waitress, whom we’d never met, told us she was in graduate school to become a therapist. During the conversation she said she had learned “you need to tell yourself the whole truth – not just part of the truth,” or the truth that makes you look good or perfect. This is where it gets hard: Telling the truth is not just the absence of lying; it’s owning your own “stuff,” and recognizing what part you contribute to a problem or situation. It’s telling the truth even when it isn’t popular or convenient. Telling the truth, the whole truth, keeps us honest and humble and self-aware. Am I telling myself the whole truth?
Let go of the outcome. This one is especially difficult for those of us who love control. If I’m good enough, work, study, or pray hard enough, eat only nutritional foods and exercise every day, then I will be fit, healthy, happy and fulfilled. The problem is there are no guarantees, and I can’t control all outcomes, even when I do all the “right” things. The key is to identify what I can and can’t control, and let it go if it’s not within my control, because worrying won’t change anything. For me, this is a work in progress, but I am making progress.
Which of these four directives is the hardest? They are all hard. But I love these because they remind me to continually assess who I am, how I relate, and who I want to be.
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SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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