Over the last several months, I've been developing a deeper appreciation for those in my life who show up. The ones who say they'll be there, and are there. The ones who say nothing and show up just because they know life is hard and want to be supportive even though they can't fix anything. The ones who, even if far away, send messages to check in and offer their love and encouragement.
Those are the people you know you can count on because they understand the importance of relationships and what it means to be invested.
We all get caught up in the "I was so busy, I couldn't bother to send a 30 second text…" excuse, but if and when life tears that person away, we then fall into, "I wish I would've made more time…"
There's another kind of showing up I've been learning about too.
How many of us have had this conversation with a co-worker, a family member, a child, or a significant other?
"Yeah, I hear you."
"Right, but are you LISTENING to me?"
I'm a self-proclaimed multi-tasker extraordinaire. The problem? Sometimes when someone talks to me, I hear something, but I wasn't actually listening; which means I heard sounds, but I didn't pay attention enough to figure out what the meaning of those sounds were.
That's an issue because if I'm not listening, I'm not learning- I'm not learning what it is that needs to be taken care of, I'm not learning how to understand, I'm not learning how to respond, I'm not learning how to navigate what's between the sounds.
But what's more important is that if I'm not listening, I'm not present, and if I'm not present with someone I say I care about, I'm showing them that I don't care enough to understand what they're trying to communicate with me.
We all do it.
Think: "Hey, how was your day?" "Eh, I've had better..." "So, what's going on for dinner?"
In that brief transaction, the expected response was, "good", and if the questioner wasn't listening, they didn't realize the expected response wasn't given, and then missed an opportunity to show up. That "things've been better" could be as small as "I clumsily spilled coffee all over my clothes this morning" to a bigger, "I just found out my friend just died." Of course, the tone of voice would give further indication, but if you're not listening, you're probably not noticing tone of voice either.
And no, I'm not exaggerating. I've seen these things happen. It's no wonder people feel lonely and disconnected.
Imagine how different the person answering would have felt if the questioner would have been listening and just simply asked, "what's going on?"
Whether it was coffee or a friend passing that caused the answer, the questioner emotionally showed up and totally changed the dynamic and course of the interaction.
Sometimes it's not as bad as someone dying. So many days people simply have hard challenging days that wear them out, and all they need is for someone that cares to emotionally show up and ask questions to which they're listening for the answer.
With our vast array of technological gadgets and apps meant to network and stay in touch, we've somehow gotten worse at actually creating and maintaining meaningful connections.
I'm not saying we shouldn't show ourselves some grace. There are definitely days where we're barely keeping our own heads above water, but when days roll in to weeks into months into years, it becomes a larger issue of where our priorities really lie.
"When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?"
Being present isn't just about being physically there. I have friends who show me they are with me no matter how many miles are between us.
What matters is that we show up, in person and/or in our attention- how we listen and learn from what we listen to. It's not about always knowing what to do or say; it's about genuinely wanting to understand the people you love.
Each seemingly insignificant encounter adds up to whether we draw someone closer or push them away. When we show up, we build trust in our relationships in priceless and profound little ways.