Anne Lamott talks about ‘showing up for life’.
Do you ever feel you don’t fully show up for your life, that you hold yourself back for some reason, and paddle in the shallows of your life?
We usually think that showing up for life relates to saying yes to the big stuff. The career change, moving in or out of a marriage, a business, or a new city, or perhaps the decision to have a child. You put a lot of time and energy into making these decisions. Maybe you carefully weight up the pros and cons, or maybe you make these decisions quickly and intuitively. Either way, you know it’s a biggie as you commit to it. You are aware that you have made a decision.
But showing up for life is also about the small stuff, the everyday stuff. You don’t consciously make decisions around these small things, you go with the flow, or you stick to routine, or you repeat the way you did it last time (because you are busy, or tired and that requires the least thought or effort).
But much of life’s real joy is found in these small moments, happiness comes in small bursts while we do everyday things. And perhaps sometimes they deserve a conscious decision too.
However, sometimes I find myself letting those mini-decisions slide by me, without a moment’s thought.
Often I say no to things that scare me. I am quite a scaredy-cat. We were recently in a bug zoo with the kids. The guide offered to pass me a huge hairy tarantula. “No way”, I was adamant, shrinking back from the scary looking ENORMOUS monster. My husband is particularly phobic about scary creatures, but he stepped forward, happily telling the group how terrified he was.
Afterwards I thought “why didn’t I hold that spider? Yes. It would have been scary, but I should have done it”. Just a tiny example, but had I held it, I guarantee I would have remembered it, probably for my whole life, with a fascinating mix of pride and revulsion.
Look at it from another perspective: as a mother it’s easy to assume the full mental load of thinking ahead for everybody else. You take on household responsibility, so you always have a shopping list, an activities schedule, a meal planner, and a school timetable jostling for position in your head. Sometimes the ‘how to be an amazing mother’ beliefs are also competing for space, adding another layer of ‘should’. When the bedtime routine gets held up, you groan, as you know the ripple effect that is likely. Tired kids tomorrow, big day planned…
So when the kids propose a ‘midnight swim’ at 8pm just as I am ready to hustle them off to bed, my instinct is to say no. I don’t want to supervise a second run of showers. I don’t want to get them to bed an hour late. I don’t want to deal with wet hair on pillows. It would just be easier if they went to bed. I could clock off and call it a day on mothering. Captain Sensible was in control of my mind again. Luckily their Dad stepped in and said ‘Great idea!’
As they leapt joyfully into the pool, I caught myself “why on earth am I not part of that?”. So in I went. And it was completely lovely. You never regret a swim. Yes, my blow dried hair was all ruined, yes the kids got to bed late, yes the routine was out the window, yes there was even extra mothering time thrown in. Was it fabulous? Was it memorable? Hell, yes!
So perhaps saying yes will become my theme for the year. I am going to show up for life, for the small stuff too. It’s not all about the big projects. I will be ready for small opportunities to say yes. I am going to get my damn hair wet and participate more. Captain Sensible is going to take a back seat more often.