I was sitting at the table reciting our upcoming family schedule like a drill sergeant. There was my two-and-half-year-old son running around the table, my year old daughter throwing a fit over everything she could think of and my husband with zero expression on his face. He put down his lunch, looked me in the eye and said ‘I miss you’.
This was about four years ago. When I write it now I can think of how far we have come since those earliest days of parenthood. But at that time we were a mess. Two kids in and we were floundering for free time, a moment where someone wasn’t crying and a total loss of peace in our home. We were both resentful and, for me, it came out in the form of anxiety around every corner.
From this difficult time in motherhood and marriage I have learned these five things:
- That marriage counseling is worth the money
- I am more capable than I let myself believe
- I will mess up this parenting thing, but it will be okay
- That if I don’t believe in my value as a mom then I will always feel like nobody else does,
- and, as I reflect back I see how desperately I needed to SHOW UP for my life.
For a long time, I’ve been focussing on showing up for life by ‘living life on purpose‘. After so many years of restlessness and monotony, I started making lists of goals I had for myself as a woman, friend, mom, and wife. I started doing ‘stuff’. I started to define the life I wanted to live and started showing up for my life. After living for decades on auto-pilot, this shift has been life changing. For the first time, ever in my life, I’ve felt brave, present and like I was living MY life true to those things I value, enjoy and love.
However, as I’ve worked on living life on purpose, I’ve learned that living purposefully is so much more than a bucket list.
Here is what I think it means to really SHOW UP for YOUR LIFE.
STEP ONE TO SHOW UP FOR YOUR LIFE: Pay attention.
Four years ago, if I was paying attention I would see that I was someone who nobody wanted to be around. I would have seen that my kids didn’t need me to fix everything, but just needed me to be there. I would have seen how my anxiety was pushing my husband away. I would have seen I wasn’t being a very good friend. I would have seen how unhealthy I was in my approach to life.
But, instead of paying attention I was diving into distractions. Keeping the schedule full. Keeping my mind on myself and the flaws in my life. Keeping my eyes down on my phone. Keeping my lips closed tight and my heart closed tighter. Keeping my distance from the people who needed me to show up.
As I started to take responsibility for how I was acting, how I was spending my time, and how I was viewing myself I realized that I hadn’t been paying attention. I was missing out on so much.
As I started to live ‘life on purpose’ I realized how important it is to simply pay attention.
I learned that when you consistently pay attention to things they will change you.
Try it. Pay attention to how you feed yourself, to the story your kids tell, to the way your husband describes his day, to what your girlfriend is talking about over coffee, to the taste of your food, to the hum of the dryer, to the perfect little moments in each day, to the lyrics and the layers of your life. Write it down to help yourself get into the habit.
The first step to showing up is to put away the distractions (*cough* the phone) and pay attention.
STEP TWO TO SHOW UP FOR YOUR LIFE: Listen closer.
When you start paying attention to what is happening before you, you can sink in even deeper and pay attention to the why.
I think we all struggle with this ongoing narrative in our brain that revolves around what others are saying and how it all connects back to our own life. We are all innately ‘self-focused’. When you are really listening, you turn this self-based narrative off and you are brought into someone else’s narrative. It has helped bring me out of myself.
If you are a parent you know how much your kids just need to be heard. Even if you can’t fix it, they just need to know they are heard. If you are married you know the simple act of acknowledging everything your partner says is respectful and kind. Listening is the basis for communication, for connection.
Listening closer helped me see what people in my life needed me to know, what they were struggling with, how they wanted the world to know them. Listening closer also helped me to spend time thinking about how their actions and words were making me feel and to how I was acting based off those feelings.
At this point in my life, I don’t think I have all the self-awareness or discipline to be a really great listener. But I have learned that listening closer is one of the most simple, selfless things you can do to care about other people.
STEP THREE TO SHOW UP FOR YOUR LIFE: Act brave
I will say that I’m still working on listening. I’m still working on it because I know the next step is scariest. The next step is what you do with this information. I know it requires bravery. To speak up, to step up, to move, to volunteer, to share, to change.
It is hard to act brave, in an effective way. In a way that genuinely helps someone versus a way that just makes me feel better. Being brave isn’t smiling and offering your condolences. Being brave means saying ‘me too’, it means getting your hands dirty, it means putting your heart out there, it means offering real practical help.
I know some women find they can be braver with helping others before they are braver with their own lives. I did this the opposite way. I feel like I have worked hard on being braver with my own life – digging into my weaknesses, sharing my story, creating things, trying things, replacing the word ‘more’ with ‘enough’, humbling myself to change my habits. But now that I’m listening, this isn’t all about me. I have someone’s pain, someone’s troubles, someone’s story. How can I help, ease, support, share, open up, change my mindset? How can I be braver in meeting the needs of those around me?
For me being braver has meant fighting for my marriage, humbling myself with my parenting, being a more honest and forgiving friend, being an open door when I really just want my space, doing something I think will help my community even if it means putting myself out there for criticism.
Show up for your life: for yourself, for those around you.
This is my mission, to work on these three steps and SHOW UP for my life.
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