Showing Up

Years ago, an attractive  man from Colorado contacted me. He wanted to get to know me better. I told him I wasn’t interested in the long distance relationship thing (see “Surrendering the Bennies” article on my site if you want more details on that). He persisted. He said he could live anywhere at this point in his life. He often traveled to different places, and better yet, to different dimensions. He was writing a book about the human heart. He sent me photos of him and his paintings. They wore down my resistance. After a very energized and promising phone conversation, we planned a meeting. in New York. He said he would call me in the next few days to touch base and let me know the details. He didn’t call.

About a month after the scheduled weekend, he did leave a very friendly message, without a trace of remorse or even reference to the fact that he had fallen off the face of the earth.

He called again the next day, still no apology or mention of that weekend, just reminiscing on our great conversation and wanting to reconnect. At this point, I was pretty hip to the fact that the farther away I was, the more interested he was. So, to nip it in the bud, I sent him an e-mail saying, “It’s great that you can travel to different dimensions. If you can’t show up in this one, it’s not worth much to me.”

Please don’t mistake this for an article about how men fail women. Women have trouble showing up, too. Woody Allen says that “80 percent of success is showing up.” It seems so simple, and yet, what exactly is showing up, and why for so many of us can it be so hard to do? I define showing up as bringing an integrated presence to the situation at hand, whether it be a job, friend, commitment, emotion or a meal. You would think that with all the technology we have, people would be better at keeping their word and appointments, getting to places on time, speaking up and being more considerate of others. But as I get older, and our opportunities to communicate broaden, I marvel at how many people disappear without a word. We are “just sooooo busy,” so much of the time, barely able to show up for ourselves (showing up for ourselves — that’s another blog post).

For people traumatized by the ones closest to them, intimacy is a terrifying prospect. But to have the kind of community we are all searching for in our hearts, we need to be able to show up for each other. Most of us are a little crippled in this area, there’s no shame in it. But there can be a game in it. Here is a list of the levels of showing up as a human being. Select which one you are, and this month — return a phone call that you’d normally let go, apologize to someone who you wronged, go the extra mile at work — strive to be a level higher!

1. The Flake: 
This person might genuinely like to show up for others, yet seemingly he cannot. It doesn’t matter whether he is unemployed or chronically overbooked, he has some odd block against returning calls, remembering plans, calling on birthdays, etc. People may like his company, but he quickly gains a reputation for being unreliable. He may lose friends who feel personally rejected or continually disappointed. He usually has a problem expressing or even feeling anger, and much of it is unconsciously turned inward.

2. The SuperFlake: 
This advanced version of the Flake is emotionally stuck in college. She does not have space in her spaced-out brain to hold any details that do not pertain to her immediate needs or to having fun. Often deeply wounded or severely addicted, ironically these hipsters can make life look so cool, hip and easy! Doesn’t return calls or show up on time, avoids important conversations and confrontations with intimates.

3. The Frosted Flake: 
A glossy version of the Flake, this person has worked hard at flake-reform. She has polished her underlying fragmentation and learned to be skilled at showing up for people and places that are of great importance and interest, albeit usually a little late. She is almost always very busy, but makes it look as though she is interested and available. With a Frosted Flake, you might have the vague senstation that you are somehow being manipulated. If you are not at the top of her list, the Frosted Flake might not show up, but if and when you address it with her, she will probably apologize.

4. The Adult: 
The Adult takes responsibility for the distribution of his energy. He honors his words and commitments. He strives not to say yes when he means no. When an adult breaks a promise, he is able to acknowledge the impact it may have on another. Adults return calls within a reasonable amount of time. They apologize when they are unable to respond, slip into Flakeville, or anytime they agree they have made a mistake.

5. The Super Show-er Upper: 
This person is a mensch. She is an Adult who has space inside herself to think of others without prodding. Unless it’s business or of some urgency, she isn’t concerned whether her calls are returned immediately, because she places them without conditions. She can bring a pot of soup to a sick friend, or give honest feedback to someone who has rubbed her the wrong way. Super Show-er Uppers do not allow unfinished business or built up resentment to cloud their intimate relationships for long.

If you know someone who is a level one or two, pass this on, I’m sure they could use it!

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