The Art of Showing Up: Why Intentional Living Is Essential
Show up for people and show up for yourself—even if you feel unqualified
It’s two-ish in the afternoon, and it’s another work weekday eating alone. I sit in an isolated waiting lounge—for restless toddlers and tired boyfriends—a floor above the recently opened sosyal mall food hall. I hold my warm Bánh mì—toasted to a crisp, a special request—with my freshly manicured nails. I mindlessly snap a photo for my Instagram Stories (close friends content only, of course) with a short copy: “I literally pray for (more) friends every day. Why is it so darn hard to open up?” Was I not this self-professed introvert? I find myself in this fast-paced environment most of the time but during life’s momentary in-betweens, I’m confronted with my alone—and sometimes, it’s just so loud.
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I had a yoga teacher who would welcome us to class by saying “You made it here. You’re on your mat. The hardest part of the class is over.” That was in my early days of practice, when I was still deeply uncomfortable with the discomfort of exercise and I had to psych myself up to come to class, so her words spoke to me. The hardest part of the class WAS over. The hardest part was leaving my comfortable home and my waiting pajamas and the allure of having a beer in front of the TV to get in my car and drive to class. The hardest part was overcoming my own inertia and SHOWING UP. . I think it is really hard to make a commitment to anything worth doing—an exercise program, a spiritual practice, a course of study, a career, a creative endeavor, a relationship, self care, therapy—because anything worth doing will inevitably involve some discomfort. It’s HARD to remain committed to something day in and day out. At some point your motivation for doing the thing to begin with might begin to dwindle, and the discomfort might loom larger and larger, and you might be tempted not to show up, to stay home and have a beer in front of the TV, to choose inertia. . That’s when the real work begins. And the real work is mostly showing up—for your work, for your partner, for your spirit, FOR YOURSELF—again and again and again AND AGAIN. But it’s work worth doing, because when you do, you might find that you ever-so-slowly… imperceptibly but surely… transform.
Show Up For People
How many times did you bail on a friend, let’s say, during the last three months? Ah, the never-ending glorification of busyness—I am guilty, too. When sleepless nights and ungodly work hours have become badges of honor, it’s difficult to actually say no. It’s easy to confuse much activity with a purposeful life. Flaking out on plans has become socially acceptable because let’s face it, it’s so easy to just send out a text message last-minute (regardless if you’re making up the excuse or not.) We are a culture that has all the means to communicate yet intentionally disconnect from one another—alas, the worn-out paradox.
Hear me out: Every time I do show up, I never regret it. Just the thought of seeking out other people may cause one discomfort—especially when you like keeping to yourself—but I cannot emphasize how important it is to nurture relationships and, ultimately, be part of a community. When I take the time to respond to messages, reach out and simply be present, I realize how I need people and how they need me. We’re all preoccupied with making things and living out our best days, but when I make that extra effort—that really isn’t difficult at all—I sustain the relationships I have.
(Now, demanding for other people’s time is for another discussion—something I actually learned the hard way.)
Show Up For Yourself
My dream job was served to me on a silver platter, but all I could feel was a distressing mound of anxiety. I spent the past four years with a completely different job title and job description, and I was suddenly faced with this possibility. I asked, and I got the answer; it was simply up to me to welcome it with open (and grateful) arms. Well I did, and here we are.
Most of the time, you discover the extent of your abilities when you actually show up—trust me. If I said no, out of fear—or my impostor syndrome—I would not have seen this side of me. The seed you plant today may not bear fruit tomorrow but along the way, you’ll see it bloom; and it shows up in the most unexpected places, it just does. Judge each day not by the harvest, but by what you plant.
“You’re tired but you’re walking in your purpose,” my good friend told me a few weeks ago on a random lunch out. I reached out, squeezed her hand, said thanks—and then tweeted it, obviously. This season is new, and all I can say is it finally feels like I’m catching up to the person I planned to be. It took a while but we’re here.
Living with intention means being purposeful with your actions, which not only affect yourself but the people around you. A few months ago, I would cry every day when I walked home from work because I was so lonely in this new season. I had to let go of some relationships that were no longer serving me, too. Today, I survey all the new-old friendships and beautiful things I’ve created—out of that pain—and see God’s faithful hand in all of it.
Here I am, meeting with another friend for dinner. I almost canceled while thinking of all the work I still have to finish but I didn’t and I won’t—I need this.
Art Alexandra Lara