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The Art of Showing Up

The past few years have been intense for me. I’ve traveled to foreign countries, become a certified English teacher, shattered a leg, had major surgeries, become a registered yoga instructor, opened my own business, fallen in love, gotten married, and become a step-parent. That’s just to name a few major events that have happened in less than 5 years. To say that I’ve learned a lot would be to not say much at all. I’ve gotten a chance to really examine my strengths and weaknesses. While I think I am outspoken, make a strong leader, love fiercely, take chances, and am extremely brave, I also recognize my short-comings. I have a history of intense anxiety and developing a practice for things can be somewhat of a challenge. I’ve struggled with colleagues and friends calling me things like a “flake”, thinking that I don’t care, or that I’m not committed to certain events and practices. The truth of the matter is, sometimes it’s just hard to be vulnerable and show up. Anxiety can take over my mind, meditation seems absurd, and creating a practice is a lot of work for someone like me.

One of the things I love the most about my husband is his ability to show up to pretty much everything. I think all human beings have a hint of anxiety but no matter what he is going through he shows up to work, school events for his son, his friends, and for me. He’s even taken up a yoga practice with me. Not to knock him down, but he is not the typical “yoga type.” He doesn’t eat super foods, meditate, or chant. He often can be found on the weekend enjoying a mixed drink, hanging by the grill, or smoking a cigarette. But if I am struggling internally and ask him to make time to practice yoga with me or go for a walk, he absolutely will. He will show up for me. I once taught a group of yoga on the beach to beginners in Northern Wisconsin and he was the first one to join in…with a cigarette in his mouth and never once complained or asked me to slow down; to wait for him. He simply showed up because he knew it was important to me. He was there for me.

Yoga itself is a practice. It has not been a super-zen or easy journey for me either. When I did my training, it was so short and so intense that I very much wanted to quit. I’ve felt this way more than once in my life. It wasn’t that it was too physically demanding (even though it kicked my ass). It demanded much more than practicing hardcore asanas for up to 12 hours a day, sometimes for even more. It challenged me on all physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. It pushed me to my breaking point and I think that myself, along with other people, when faced with something challenging and somewhat hard, want to disengage. There is a sense of discomfort. Learning anything is hard. Being challenged to your (almost) breaking point is even harder. I had such amazing instructors, however, that I showed up. I was vocal, don’t get me wrong. I remember telling my instructor that I was no good, I wanted to quit, I was having bad days, but I showed up.

Even now that I’m long graduated and feel even a smidgen of unworthiness, discomfort, emotional pain (which others might just call growth), it can be hard to show up to events or appointments. It can be so tedious and silly. If I have a hair appointment the next morning, sometimes I get so anxious just knowing that I have something TO DO in the morning that I will cancel. What I am starting to learn from my husband is, just go. Don’t think about it too hard. It doesn’t matter what you look like, smell like…it doesn’t matter if you’re running a couple minutes behind or heaven forbid you’re not feeling well or looking “perfect” that day; it doesn’t matter if you forgot to brush your teeth, left the lights on, haven’t cleaned the house…what matters is showing up, not only for other people but for yourself. Just like he ran through sun salutations with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, it wasn’t about him, he was helping me.

I think the important thing to remember is that a lot of things in life that you want to accomplish are a practice. I hear a lot of times from massage clients and yoga students that they want to feel better but it’s getting motivated that is usually the problem. To which I say, get inspired. Every time I do not want to show up for something or want to further a practice, I think of my husband and what he would do. I think of my body and how much better it would feel if I just took that class. I think of my step-son and how taking him to a birthday party where I don’t know anybody doesn’t matter because he is going to have a blast. I think of my yoga instructors and how they would tell me that if I feel “crazy” get my ass to class; it will help. I think of the people and the achievements that inspire me.
I know I’m a work in progress but I think showing up is one of greatest lessons, goals, and achievements. Knowing how far I’ve come and who I have in my corner has been incredibly helpful. The practice continues as I will master the art of showing up.