Show Up or Die Trying

I've been thinking about what it means to show up for others a lot lately. I show up a lot. My internal programming, set during my earliest years, is to show up for others before myself. I show up. Or I die trying.

There have been periods of my life where I have had to show up for me, us, and our immediate family only: during infertility treatments, during dementia care especially. Those times when life is so hectic you are coming & going and not doing much outside of the task at hand. 

Our last six years have been spent trying to have a baby and surviving 6 miscarriages while also in those early years flying Lois, Todd's mom, to our then home in LA for a dementia diagnosis and treatment plans. Our last 3 years have been spent in one of our 8 rounds of infertility treatments in LA and/or Chicago as we shuffled back & forth and finally made the permanent move to Chicago. We went from our last failed IVF round in Chicago into full-time dementia care when she moved in with us a year ago.

There are times we are so tired, so deep in the bone exhausted that the most we can do is continue to show up for each other and Lois. Sometimes we can show up for our family and friends. I used to struggle with this a lot, and sometimes I still do. When your programming is to put others before yourself, to show up for others before you show up for yourself, the dissonance when you don't can be alarming. I've had to let go of a lot of guilt and anxiety---at what must surely, I tell myself, be me failing at life---in these moments.

Yesterday I got an hour with a girlfriend two weeks after she gave birth to her second child. I hand delivered the baby gifts that have been sitting in our dining room for the last 4-5 weeks. Because you want to deliver the gifts BEFORE the baby arrives because that's when Mama's time is her own. Except that my time wasn't MY own. And every time I walked past those gifts I felt guilty for not showing up for her. Even though we were checking in with each other every other day up until I arrived on her door step yesterday. 

My time isn't my own a lot these days. I struggle with that; especially with timelines and realistic assessments of how long it is going to take me to get something to someone because my entire day can be gone in a blink of an eye, because dementia care.

Showing up requires honouring your own needs and forgiving yourself if you, like me, have programming that tells you you must put others first. And if you can't get across town but you still manage to find 2 minutes (mine are usually in the bathroom these days) to check in on those you love via text when you can't be there in person, then that is showing up, too.

Art by and copyright the spectacular Alex Elle