Showing up is everything, but not the only thing

Showing up is everything, but not the only thing
Photo, "Liane Bed," by Richard Riley. Used with permission of a Creative Commons license, which you can find here"

Sometimes when I’m behind on my work and feeling bad about myself, I hide under the covers. Literally. Sometimes I read. On really bad days I watch Netflix for hours. In other words, I don’t show up.

Not showing up means I get further behind on my work and feel even worse about myself. Yesterday started like one of those days.

But, I did get out of bed and didn’t hide, read or binge-watch Netflix. Instead I showed up.

I showed up in an outfit that was almost exactly what I wore the day before and my hair was rumpled. I didn’t pack a lunch or start a load of wash before I left the house. However, on the way to work I did notice the sunlight, even though I was late, and took a few moments to be grateful for it.

Showing up didn’t solve all my problems. I started the day around a “3” and ended up at a “4.” I still feel stressed and overwhelmed and anxious and all of the things that keep me in bed some days. I felt like I worked hours to cross off just one item on my “to do” list.

But showing up meant spending one-to-one time with four or five students and being there for a phone call from another.

I promised myself I’d do some writing, even if it’s below average and boring. I was inspired to do so (hence this blog) because of a colleague who stopped by yesterday, a person I usually say “hello” to in the hallway and with whom I’ve exchanged very few sentences.

But yesterday, we talked for 45 minutes about work and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t shown up.

He teaches art and he told me in passing that to succeed as an artist, you have to do art. The antidote to a block is getting busy, not doing good work, just doing work.

That’s harder than it sounds, of course, when you’re in the throes of a block. It’s easier to stay in bed and feel bad.

But I think he’s saying the same thing that I am. Showing up is everything, even if it isn’t the only thing. It’s a “necessary but not sufficient condition,” as my philosopher husband would say.

Maybe you’ll show up and paint a crap picture. But in the act of showing up you’ll give yourself a chance to do more. That crap picture also plants seeds, to mix my metaphors.

I am still behind, but a little less than I was yesterday morning. I still went to work in twice worn clothes with rumpled hair, but because I showed up I did some things I couldn’t have done while on the couch watching Netflix.

So, to my colleague in art, thank you for the nudge I needed to write at least a few words.

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