I have a friend who just celebrated 11 months of sobriety. Since her return from rehab, I’ve watched from a distance, watched her rebuild her life.
She’s written about her addiction in detail. There is nothing glamorous or beautiful or sugar-coated in her descriptions of the disease that very nearly cost her her life.
She’s incredibly intelligent. Brilliant. She’s wise. She’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. And she’s beautiful. But all of these things pale in comparison to the one thing she is, that so many people, most especially myself, are usually not: present.
I wonder, how many of you, like me, aren’t really “showing up” for life.
Addiction isn’t the only thing that will rob you of being present in your life. Other people, depression, fear – these things can cripple a soul just as severely and can devastate a life.
I’m so thankful that there are programs and medications and therapists and faith that can help us keep those things from destroying us. I think my friend would say the same thing.
But she would also remind us that positive changes are made with positive decisions, little ones, that we make every day.
I don’t know why this is so hard for me to remember.
Maybe you don’t have that problem. Maybe you live your life very intentionally.
I simply know that I don’t do that as much as I should.
Living intentionally, showing up for life, is about something more than just existing. Something more than going through motions of expectation and responsibility. And that kind of life, I’m learning, is about more than just pushing through all of the things that are trying to kill you and doing the next hard thing, and the next, and the next.
God doesn’t promise us we won’t have problems, he only promises that His grace is sufficient to face them. I’ve been the first to question that also when confronted with something I just knew was gonna take me out either emotionally, mentally, or physically.
But he’s proven his faithfulness.
And he’s also proven that just because he will not forsake me, doesn’t mean that I get to stop showing up for my life.
We’re on the threshold of a new year. A brand spanking new year. And I don’t know that I’ve ever needed a fresh start more than I feel like I do right now.
If 2016 proves anything to us, I think it drove home the fact that none of us are promised tomorrow. That nothing stays the same. The world, our life, is everychanging.
How do we live, then, in the face of uncertain futures?
We show up in the present moment. We give and receive love. We recognize our lives as the gifts they are and share our time and talents with a world that needs all of the hope, beauty, and understanding that we ourselves so desperately need. But what about when it’s hard? What about when we are confronted with the things in our life that hurt?
There’s a phrase that I keep coming back to from a book I read this year and from my therapy practices: “sit with the pain.” Our impulse is fight or flight when faced with stressful situations or painful experiences. And while that’s a natural reflex, it isn’t the most healthy. We are evolved creatures. To truly adapt in this everychanging world, sometimes the healthiest, though most difficult response, is to sit with the pain. Feel it. Own it. Let it flood our senses. And then release it. It’s a cycle that will have to be repeated, again and again, throughout our lives. But I’m learning that it’s the only way to get to a place where we can be fully present in each and every moment of our lives.
You see, one of the most beautiful things about my friend’s experience of fighting her addiction is that she doesn’t hide from it. She openly discusses it. Remembers it. Owns it.
2016 was a trying year for me personally. I’m not going to get into all the reasons why, I will simply say that I have had to dig deeper this year than I have in a long, long time. Maybe ever. To remain hopeful. To loosen my grip on things beyond my control. And to sit with my pain when I really just wanted to bolt.
I know that at midnight tonight, no magic wand is going to wipe away the fact that I still have a lot of work to do in my life. But New Years is my favorite holiday next to Thanksgiving and Easter because of the hope that it stirs in my soul.
I spent much of my workday yesterday cleaning out 2016 files and starting new spreadsheets. Sounds kind of dull to speak of, but it’s kind of a process I do in my mind this time of year also. But just like those files and spreadsheets, there are also some “unresolved” items that have to be carried over. There always will be. But there are more blank spaces and empty folders than full ones. And that is where hope steps in. That’s where I step in.
I pray that each of your blank spaces is filled with meaning in the coming year. Joy and beauty give our lives color and brightness, but pain and challenges give them depth. And who wants a 2 dimensional life? I certainly don’t.
So my prayer for all of us in 2017 is that whatever the circumstance, we find ourselves fully present in each moment. Whether it means sitting with pain or embracing hope or committing special moments to memory. Let’s not run. Let’s not hide. Let’s not only give thanks for the good and overlook the bad. Let’s soak it all up and let it make us better.
Let us be present.