Presence like this opens doors, builds trust and safety in a way that allows others to come forward - to open up and give me an idea of what life is like for them, what is going on inside of their experience.
When I stop nagging, badgering, interrogating, and lecturing (which, let’s be honest, NO ONE likes! It is never helps connection or makes anything truly positive happen), love enters in. Hearts open to one another. We can relax into being together and be a little more real…
It comes down to who I want to be and how I want to be. This is where I have agency and choice. I am not pre-programmed or unable to control my own behavior and words. Based on my values (what really matters most to me), based on my story of who I say I am, it’s up to me to do more than just pay lip service to what I say I’m all about.
It’s up to me to actually BE the way I aspire to be. I can also bring in lots of compassion and grace when I slip up (which I most certainly will!) - this is not about perfection. It is about generous compassion for all.
When I step back, silently, and allow myself to observe and see what’s going on, I might recognize the struggle someone is having. I realize that it’s not their fault or choice. They don’t choose to be in this struggle. I can have compassion. I can offer a calm presence for someone who’s feeling a little jangly to regulate with rather than adding to the angst or presenting something to fight against or feel bad about.
I can simply offer my truly loving presence. This allows me to hear how surprised someone is by how well they’re doing. I can hear the self-doubt that lives so close to the surface. I can hear how little they believe in or trust themselves. How they’re finding their way, tentatively beginning to form a new story. Inviting, allowing them to soften to me - to trust that I am a safe place to land. That I won’t use their admissions against them.
I can look for what’s going right, what there is to celebrate, rather than focus on what is missing or what could be. I can follow the rhythm and flow of this group I’m with in this time… not impose my idealized story of what “should” be.
Over the years I have ruined many special events for myself and others by letting my expectations or ideas of how things should be cloud the reality of what and who is here right now.
I’m the one who still feels the pang of guilt over how ungraciously I responded to my sister’s massively generous gift of a handcrafted framed Holly Hobbie needlework (50 years ago!). I was too young to appreciate what it meant for her to pour her heart, soul, and time into this beautiful piece just for me. It wasn’t a toy. I was a brat. And. I responded with the appropriate bratty pout for the rest of the day.
I am the one who hit my friend, Steven. when he gave me a beautiful Breyer horse for my birthday. The gift was more than I could bear. Pretty sure that was the same year - 8-year-old me had some issues…
I am the one who often feels let down after the holiday is over - the days and weeks of build-up falling hollow when everyone leaves. Wanting more. Wanting different. Regret at what wasn’t. Disappointment.
Not this year. This year I chose differently.
I reminded myself in my journaling and asked my husband to help me remember to appreciate what’s here. I stayed present to the miracle we were given in being able to all be together for 2 nights and 3 days, sharing one house, sharing meals, visiting, talking, laughing till bedtime. Wiggling through the tense moments but not blowing them up into more than they needed to be. Staying kind even when I had to have an uncomfortable conversation. Resting gradually in each other’s presence. Honoring the rhythm and flow of this family. Noticing when the “what should we DO now?” anxiety temporarily poked at me… allowing things to unfold organically rather than forcing a reading of The Grinch, a making of the gingerbread house (that is still waiting patiently in its box for when the right time), watching an old holiday show that no one but me enjoys. Let that go. Open to what they want. Invite everyone into something new. Just breathe. Just be. Play the kids’ Christmas music rather than my mom’s old playlist. Be playful, lighthearted, enjoy. Them. For who they are. As they are. As we are. In this moment.
That way of being opened up something in me that still touches my heart. I can almost cry as I soak in the deep appreciation for this precious time with my husband and grown sons. There wasn’t anything too profound in our being together except that it was all profound. To witness the initial discomfort and awkwardness melt away as we settled in to being together. To relax into noticing and allowing each of us to have our own unique ways and needs. To hug, smile, laugh… to really stay in a place of appreciating what was, what is, what’s here, what’s true, what’s real, what’s good and wonderful. Holding back judgment or inclination to offer unwelcome suggestions or unkind observations. Allowing others to find their own way in life in their own time.
Letting love guide the way, be the true foundation for our time together, for our life. The generosity of presence is the truest gift we can offer another being. It is the greatest gift we can offer ourselves. To listen deep within, to remember who we want to become in this next iteration, to show up to what we say we want to create with others, to be sincere in our efforts and digging in to show up in that way. Not expecting it to be easy, perfect, or even comfortable, but allowing the unfolding.
This Christmas I was given the gift of connection with my family, getting to know them in a way I had not before. Together we created the gift of presence. My heart remains full. ❤