If You Show Up, I Show Up
I am not the best at relationships. I have avoided them for many years. Some of the relationships that I have managed to keep for any length of time have been difficult for me because I’m an introvert. I still have work to do to improve the way I relate to people.
I’m much better than before. I spent many years as one of my friends put it, “hopin’ and wishin’”, only to find that what I really needed to do was actually do relationships. No amount of self-help reading was going to fix my problem with loneliness until I started doing relationships. No amount of journaling, professional help with counselors and therapists was going to help until I actually made a commitment to someone else to be there for them.
I spent many years watching my friends get married, get divorced, fight over kids, money, and property, and I felt justified to be scared. But all that work in therapy, 12-steps, and introspection got me to a point where I began to believe that I was ready.
I did what many people would find ill-advised. I found someone online who later became my wife. She was from another country, another life, and might as well have been another planet. I had many questions, many worries. I cried when I finally realized that in a few short days, someone I had invited to my home, would see me for who I really am. I worried that I wouldn’t be enough. But a recurring voice of reason came through long ago when I first started courting the woman I live with now: If she shows up, I’ll show up.
I had no other way to make it. I had no other way to look at it. I couldn’t control it, and even if I wanted to, there is no love if there is control. Power and intimacy do not exist in the same room. If I had power over someone else, then there is no way to know for sure if that person loved me. I had to use a light touch to assure my wife to be that she could leave at any time. I had no interest in control, I only wanted to see what would happen next. I became willing to believe that what I wanted in life might be something that I didn’t know about.
You see, I had this idea that even if I got everything that I wanted, I had no way to know for sure if that would make me happy. So I focused on her happiness. I made it a point not to make it her responsibility to make me happy. I would find my own happiness, and I continue to do so to this very day. And when I find happiness, I share it.
From the very beginning, I made a point to remind myself that the minute she stops showing up, I’d stop showing up. Literally, my only requirement was that she would show up. If she stopped, she was not for me. She was living in Vietnam at the time and wanted to have an engagement party. That was going to cost some money, but I had some. I had a budget so to speak. I was earning good money then, too. I worried about sending her $1500 to set up the party. But then I thought, if she walks with the money and I never see her again, then she’s not for me.
This idea that if you show up, I show up, has served me well. I have also learned that people who are willing to show up for me tend to be courteous and polite. They tend to be considerate. They tend to want what I want, too. That’s why they’re showing up, right?
So that’s pretty much it. I do that with everyone. If I want to be friends with someone, I just check to see if they show up, return my calls, and spend time with me. If they don’t, well, I’ll move on. There is nothing I can do to make them come back. If someone wants to bail, they’re going to bail and there is nothing I can do about that. If you haven’t heard from me in a while, rest assured it’s not about you. Send me a text, I’m still here.
This philosophy requires faith, too. There are no guarantees. There is nothing to save me. I can only have faith that things will work out and that if they don’t, there will be another one until I settle down with someone.
Nothing is forever. Nothing lasts. We have only this moment and that’s it. The future is not here yet. The past is gone. Whatever I have now, I will enjoy and leave it at that.
If my wife is still here, I’m pretty sure that I have something in me that she wants enough to love me. That’s all I know. I don’t worry about anything else. I try to be attentive. I try to notice. I give compliments. I talk with her about my dreams and ask about hers. I try to be the best man that I can be for her and my kids and after that, I let it go. I just keep showing up to see what happens next.