Criticism

Show Up

Show up even if you have nothing. Nothing is itself something. The honesty of the nothing you bring will be something.

Show up even if you are empty. The opening of an emptiness made the universe, so astronomers say.

Showing up cannot be optimized, measured, or submitted to the algorithm. Show up with your full attention, because attention is the prerequisite of love and without attention there is no love. Attention is your most precious resource. In a world where attention can be bought and sold, protect your attention like you protect your phone or wallet.

Even when you think there is no meaning, show up because sometimes the meaning is in the accident that happens when you find yourself at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Show up empty-handed, without the deliverables. Show up even if you don’t have the clever come-back.

Bring whatever it is you have before you.

Know that you are not alone in thinking you have nothing to bring. On some days, Emily Dickinson had only her heart. I imagine on one such day, she wrote this poem:

It’s all I have to bring today–

This, and my heart beside–

This, and my heart, and all the fields–

And all the meadows wide.

Emily Dickinson. Original Manuscript Can Be Viewed on the Emily Dickinson Archive.

If you find yourself staring into the blank page, let the blank page stare back into you. Listen to its honesty. Listen to what you say or don’t say when you have nothing else to say.

If you are tired, show up tired. Empty your exhaustion with an exhale.

Show up and inhale.

If you find yourself at the doorway of a new year, with nothing to bring to it, walk through that threshold with acceptance.

If you are cold, and hungry, and weary, and hurting, show up with all the coldness, the hunger, the weariness, the hurt. Others have been cold. Others have been hungry. Others have been weary. Others have hurt. Trust that what you bring will be enough.

Bring your difficulty, your imperfection, your clumsiness. Others have been imperfect. Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity was incomplete, after all, which is why he developed General Relativity later.

Show up, knowing you are not the only one who has shown up empty handed to a party. Show up to the meeting, even if you have nothing to say. You have not been the only one who has remained silent, and there is often more to be learned by listening than by speaking.

Show Up Enso. Watercolor. Janice Greenwood.
Show Up. Watercolor. Janice Greenwood.

Trust that you will find something there.

Trust your mind to matter. Trust your mind over matter.

Show up to the difficulty. Small days, small actions, small refusals and acceptances amplify significantly.

In our culture of distraction, where each person invents her own virtues, presence is the rarest of all virtues, and the most difficult to cultivate. The blank page demands presence, but more importantly your life demands your presence. Show up.

Showing up is a practice. Let yourself practice. Let yourself fail. Don’t be afraid to start over. Don’t be afraid of your clumsy hands spilling ink over everything you have written.

There is no algorithm for presence. No measure to this quintessence.

Show up even when you cannot measure how you are showing up, even when you do not have the timer, or the to do list, or the application. Show up with grace and humility; with kindness. Show up with your heart, even if your heart is breaking. Show up because your heart is breaking.

Ask for what you want. Be open to receive. Show up and breathe.

If you cannot sit still, go to the woods, or to the ocean, or to the river, or to the lake. If you have none of these near you, go to your nearest tree. Listen to what it has to tell you.

With patience and grace and peace, ask for the wisdom to come to you. Trust that the wisdom will come.

About the Writer

Janice Greenwood is the author of Relationship: A Poetry Book. She holds an M.F.A. in poetry and creative writing from Columbia University.

She is the editor of Sphinx Moth Press.