Surviving Mondays and Showing Up

Showing up by mail
Showing up by mail

Let me just start by saying that I am generally a morning person. And I like to think that I’m usually a pretty optimistic person. Maybe not a Susie Sunshine, but definitely a glass-half-full kind of girl.

But…there are some mornings that are just downright brutal and some days when everything – absolutely everything – feels wrong. And if you know me – or happen to live in the same house as me – on one of those days, well, my apologies.

Last Monday was one of those days. It came in with a low, angry growl. After a busy and exhausting weekend – that had come on the heels of a busy and exhausting week – just the thought of the endless errands to run, the mountain of laundry in the basement, the annoying work projects that weren’t going to write themselves, the countless emails to return, and about a million other problems big and small made me want to pull the covers over my head, call it quits on Monday, and go back to sleep for, oh, maybe another day or two or three.

And I probably would have, too, if it weren’t for these kids of mine with their never-ending demands for things like breakfast and clean clothes and school lunches. So, against my better judgment, I dragged myself out from my duvet cocoon and started a countdown on the number of hours until the day was officially over (15 and a half in case you were wondering).

As soon as my feet hit the floor, I deemed Monday to be a survival kind of day. Just make it through, I told myself. No jump starts on new projects. No overly ambitious goals. No lofty expectations. JUST SHOW UP.

The laundry got done, a few emails were returned, and those annoying work projects –though still annoying – somehow got finished. I let a few of the errands slip through the cracks and played dominoes with Teddy instead. I called a friend. And when a neighbor asked how I was doing and caught me when I started to say “fine,” I instead answered with an honest “Eh, today kind of sucks.”

I didn’t save the world or stop world hunger or make a million dollars or write the next great American novel. But I did show up. I wrote a little, got dinner on the table, and made my kids smile a couple times. I showed up and tried to be honest and kind. I showed up and checked a few things off The List, helped a friend, and finished the god-forsaken laundry.

I suppose when the sh*t hits the fan or it’s just another brutal Monday and what we really want to do is crawl back under the covers, maybe then all we need to do is grit our teeth, be brave, and show up.

Maybe showing up is all we can do.

A close friend of mine recently found out that she has breast cancer and just like that our conversations have turned from celebrity gossip and work hassles to biopsy results and chemotherapy schedules. She has been thrust into this new landscape and, while our friendship has been through a lot of things, it has not been through this. I don’t know what to say or what to do. I don’t know what she needs from me or what she wants to hear. But I do know that if I wait to find the perfect time or the perfect thing to say, days or weeks or months could go by. And I also know that relationships aren’t built on big, grand gestures or saying just the right thing at just the right time; relationships are built on showing up again and again and again. Because when we love someone, showing up and “the right thing” usually go hand in hand.

I don’t have any answers or know exactly what to say or do to help my friend, but I do know that I need to show up. So I call her and sing silly songs, even though it takes every ounce of energy not to break down in tears as I do so. I text her and ask a lot of questions, trusting that she’ll tell me to back off if she doesn’t feel like talking. I pray and I say “I love you” and I listen as best I can.

There are times when showing up is really freaking hard, but sometimes it’s good enough. Showing up takes guts and courage and a tiny leap of faith; it takes love and kindness and humility. We want to perform these big, grand gestures to show people that we care. We want to write poetic love notes and spend long weekends reconnecting with old friends. We want uninterrupted hours to spend refining our craft, whether writing or painting or cooking or photography. We want pretty and clean and neat.

But the thing is, life isn’t pretty or clean and neat. It is messy and chaotic and unpredictable, and if we wait for pretty and clean and neat, if we wait for just the right time or we wait for the perfect way to show our love, we might not get the chance. We have to take what we can get, and seize the tiny moments. We have to show up.

Showing up is doing what we can, when we can. Showing up is not an end point, but a beginning; it is not settling for second best, but acknowledging that something is better than nothing as long as it is done with kindness and love. Two of my nieces live several hours away and I don’t get to see them as much as I would like, so we’ve starting writing letters to each other. We are showing up. My husband sometimes works late at night, getting home after the boys are in bed, and he slips little notes under their bedroom doors for them to read in the morning. He is showing up. My friend has been dealt a pretty crappy hand, but she is hugging her husband and rocking her baby at night and going to her doctor appointments. She is showing up.

And here’s what I’m realizing: We don’t need to conquer the world every day; some days it is enough to just show up and leave a place better than we found it. We don’t need to solve everyone’s problems; just show up and make someone’s day a tiny bit better. We don’t need to say the perfect thing in the perfect way; we just need to show up and say what’s in our heart, even if we stumble over the words and there are tears streaming down our cheeks as we say it.

And isn’t that just the best news?!? We don’t need to wait for the perfect time or until we have all the answers. We don’t need to wait until we can make some big and grand gesture or until life “settles down” or until Monday is over. We just need to show up. Now. We just need to do something, anything, with a little love and a lot of kindness.

Because life won’t wait for perfect or pretty or just the right time. So we might as well show up for it now.

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