The Power of Showing Up

Me dancing in my “gangster pajamas”

I tap-danced on stage in front of people this weekend. This was the second time I did a parent/child class with my kid and the recital was this weekend. It was a good experience, although I’m a terrible dancer. I joked with the other moms and dads about being the worst in the class so they didn’t have to be. There were three parts of the dance that I simply forgot every time, a train step and a heel-heel-toe-toe combo and a shuffle-hop-step. I’d try to remind myself before the dance started about those three parts, but it didn’t matter. When they came up, I was surprised and just kind of standing there wondering what everyone else was doing. I don’t know why. I generally have a pretty good memory but, I guess, not for dance. I was also frequently on my left foot while everyone else was on their right. I never did figure out how to flap even though there was a lot of flapping in the dance. If I hadn’t been paying money to take the class, there’s no way they would’ve let me anywhere near that stage, but it was a good experience all the same.

After the recital, everyone congratulated me and commented on how brave I was to get up there and perform. Some said I was really good, but I know they were lying. It was really a good experience for two reasons. One is that I got to spend a lot of time with my kid. But the other, and this may sound weird, is just that I did it. Despite being scary and me being bad at it, I showed up. We don’t think about it a lot, but the simple act of showing up is a big deal.

It took some prodding to get me to this realization. Every time someone tried to compliment me on the performance, I brushed it off. I was unwilling to take a compliment. Several replied to the brush-off with the observation that they wouldn’t have had the guts to do it. With the help of my girlfriend, it struck me, I did show up. Yes, it was in large part for my kid, but it was good for me, too.

There are a lot of areas in life where showing up is an accomplishment. Anticipatory anxiety is real. Also, there are all kinds of things that we’re bad at or just simply don’t wanna do. A few weeks ago, my girlfriend threw a party. She said it was a small party, but there were probably twenty people there, which isn’t small at all in my book. I was going to meet a lot of her friends for the first time. I had a ton of anticipatory anxiety. I kept thinking of reasons not to go. Parties aren’t really my thing to begin with, and, literally, the only person I would know at this one was the host. But I went anyway. I showed up. And I’m glad I did. Her friends are very nice. I got some good food. And, I think, it made my girlfriend and me closer.

Even with this blog, showing up matters. We’ve been pretty spotty the past couple of months. That’s mostly because life is life. Not showing up, aka not publishing new stuff, obviously lowered the readership, but that’s only part of it. It’s not like we get a ton of readers even when we publish regularly. Showing up is good in and of itself.

Courage is too strong a word, but it’s good to show up because it takes something akin to courage. In an Aristotelian sense, showing up allows us to practice a virtue. That’s where its worth comes from. Showing up helps to make us better people. And, although it may not seem it, that’s a big deal.

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