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On showing up

This joke came to me courtesy of a friend:

A couple showed up for counseling. The woman relayed her list of issues: feeling disconnected, lonely, unloved, taken for granted, and so on. After listening to her, the counselor jumped up, knelt down before her, took her hand, gazed deeply into her eyes, and said, “You are the love of my life!” He then turned to her husband and said, "Your wife needs this kind of affirmation regularly. Can you make it happen three times a week?" The man replied, "Well, I can drop her off Mondays and Wednesdays, but Fridays I fish."

This ridiculous story conveys something important. Some things—such as cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, doing the taxes—we can farm out to others. But if we want a real relationship with someone, we can’t farm it out. We need to show up and put in the time.

Ernest Hemingway is purported to have said, "The art of writing is applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." In other words, show up. Don't wait to be inspired. Show up. Don't wait for the muse to show up, because the muse is waiting for you to show up. The same is true in our relationships. If we're waiting for a better relationship to show up before we make a commitment to show up, we're going to live with love's version of writer's block.

If we want a career to progress, we show up to work. If we want our golf game to progress, we show up to the driving range or the course. If we want our piano skills to progress, we show up to piano practice. Likewise, if we want our relationships to progress, we must show up. As with careers, golf, or piano, the more we show up the more progress is made. My golf game has not progressed in decades because I don't golf more than once or twice per season. Relationships don't progress either if we show up to them only occasionally. Secure connection with another person—a sense of being appreciated and cared about—requires a consistency of showing up. We know young children need their parents to provide that kind of consistency. What's less appreciated is that adults need it too.

The man in the "Fridays I fish" story seemed to want a better marriage without actually showing up to the relationship. In what relationships do I need to show up more consistently? And what are some concrete steps I can take to make that happen, even if I fish Fridays?


Kevin Anderson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, and speaker who lives in the Toledo, Ohio area. His latest book Now is Where God Lives: Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul is available at Amazon or

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