There is one night in my life I remember vividly, when I allow myself to remember it. On this particular night in my late 20-something years, I had spoken a piece of advice to a client during a therapy session that circled around back to me like a boomerang. “At some point,” I said to my client, “you will need to make a choice to live.” My client was not suicidal, and my advice wasn’t flippant. Like many people…myself included…she had experienced so many losses back-to-back that it was hard not to feel like an anvil might fall from the sky at any minute. What I was giving voice to…where she herself was pushing…was to show up to her life, exactly as it was and live it.
My client reflected back to me a few months later that this was the transition point in her grief work. What she didn’t know is that it was for me, too.
That night, as I drove home from work, I wondered if I was willing to take my own advice. I had been going through the motions for a while, healing from a relationship break and the deaths of several close friends in rapid succession. I was walking in circles, playing it safe and following a familiar pattern without really seeing what life offered if lived more deeply.
That night, I bought a dozen beautiful, multicolored roses. It was a decadent spend on my tight budget. I placed them in my favorite vase. I took them upstairs to my spare room that defaulted as a closet/storage room. I made enough space there to spend the night on a few cushions, with lit candles all around me and my roses next to me. I waited and watched through the hours of that night, taking each rose and naming the people and events and experiences that had made me feel real and alive. I took in their essence and held it in my heart as powerfully as I could. I cried and laughed and cried again. I had been so numb and distanced to my own emotions. I realized that night how truly good it felt to be painfully human.
At some point, my eyes tired and I drifted off. I awoke, sleeping against one of my cushions. The daylight began to stream in my windows. On that morning, I breathed in the day and decided to show up to my life. I breathed in the possibility of great love, great pain, great risk, great reward. That was the day that I decided to live, to truly and deeply live.
On my way to work, I took my roses to the park and dropped them one by one into the stream that flowed toward the Niagara River. I released them, knowing that the stories and lives they symbolized lived in me. They could go where they needed to go, and I could go where I needed, too.
I showed up to that day, and I have been showing up every day since. That means I have been showing up to pain, loss, oppression, people letting me down, life’s darker days and challenging moments. It also means showing up to hope, love, opportunity, growth, and the grace that appears when light bursts through the cracks of my brokenness.
Showing up is what forms us. Showing up to this day allows us to be divine learners of what is known and unknown, seen and unseen. I still have moments where I ask, “is it worth it?” Without hesitation, my soul answers Yes as I remember all that has formed me, and all the potential each day holds.
Showing up is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. It is also the heart of advent, the long anticipated gift of God showing up to this human life and saying a Divine Yes each day to what unfolds.
In response to the AdventWord global advent calendar project with the Society for St. John the Evangelist. Today’s word: #ShowUp. Follow the worldwide advent calendar at: http://www.aco.org/adventword.cfm