On showing up and being present.


The other month I started watching The West Wing. (I know, I’m only like 15 years late to the game.) I absolutely love it. The characters are so sweet and interesting, and the storyline is incredibly compelling. Even being someone not highly involved in politics, I can’t get enough—it actually makes me want to learn more about government and the democratic process. And it also just makes me think. In one of the episodes I watched recently, President Bartlet said something that I’ve been contemplating a lot since then: “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

This statement, so simple, has been sitting with me since I heard it, and it’s developed two big thoughts for me:

1. Show up. If decisions are made by those who show up, then I better show up. President Bartlet meant that politically, of course, but it goes far beyond that realm. If you want to move forward in your career, in your relationships, in your personal goals, you have to show up. You have to arrive and engage. And politically—well, I live in this city, this state and this country, so I really ought to pay more attention to the decisions made politically that affect me and take a stronger stance.

2. Be present. I don’t think that showing up is the final step, however. I think real discussions, decisions and changes necessitate the intentional act of being present. This can be as simple as putting your phone away during a conversation and actively listening, or it can mean focusing on one task at a time while you work, only having one tab open at any given time. In our constant busyness and rushing around, we lose the ability to focus, we forget to look people in the eye, to listen without also scrolling through Instagram, to let an evening pass without posting a status or photo. And we lose the simple enjoyment of the places we are and the people we’re with when we do this.

Last week, Joanna posted about single-tasking, about giving yourself space to rest. She posted a link to a sermon from Forefront Church about the Theology of Rest. In it, Rhesa Storms said, “We’re picking up cues from our culture about the way we live our lives and the pace at which we live our lives. Rest isn’t a priority, because so often rest is confused with laziness . . . Sometimes, rest isn’t a priority because we’ve incorrectly measured success . . . It is easier to live our lives busy, rushing from one thing to the next, than it is for us to sit alone with ourselves. Because if we allow space in our lives, we may not like what we see. We may be faced with thoughts like, ‘I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing at my job. I feel like a fraud, so I just better put in a lot of hours so that nobody can tell.’ Or we may be faced with something like, ‘I really feel like I’m lonely so much of the time.'”

Slowing down means that we have to face the things in our lives that we don’t like very much—it possibly means admitting that you’re scared of the future, that you won’t get your dreams and that you will, because you don’t know what to do with either outcome; perhaps it means acknowledging that you haven’t been actively investing in friendships and that something needs to change for you to feel part of a community again; or maybe it means facing the fact that you don’t like being still, that the idea of going on a walk without a destination or sitting in the park without a task is uncomfortable, because it makes you feel lazy. And while we may not like to look these ugly things in the eye, imagine the fruit that will grown from challenging ourselves to step outside of our boxes of busyness and distraction and truly show up and be present. Because with presence comes renewed relationships, clarity of goals and, ultimately, a greater sense of peace. It’s finding balance. These things will take work and intentionality—they don’t just show up when you slow down—but that’s the kind of work that changes the course of your life in the best possible way.

So, are you showing up and being present? Are you resting well?


Photo via Pinterest.