The Life-Changing Magic of NOT Showing Up by Mary Sharratt

Feel motivated now?

“Showing up is 80 percent of life.” This oft-repeated maxim, attributed to the now disgraced Woody Allen, has become a modern cliché.

Recently the variation of this sentiment that’s making the rounds is, “The hardest thing is showing up.”

While many people I respect have used this phrase at some time or other, I think it’s perhaps bandied about too much. It’s become an all purpose way of blaming ourselves when things aren’t going the right way–we’re told we just need to show up and things will get better. We will succeed. We might even end up running the world!

However, I’ve reached the point in my life where every easy, feel-good cliché needs to be unpacked and re-examined.

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m actually pretty good at showing up. It’s the path of least resistance, thus helping me avoid the guilt of not showing up. When I commit to something, I COMMIT! Without commitment, I wouldn’t have written eight novels. I wouldn’t have been married for 32 happy years and counting.

You see, I’m from the Midwest, descended from a long line of Middle European peasants and farmers, ingrained with a strong sense of duty. I also have a deeply ingrained Catholic guilt complex.

For me the hardest thing is showing up over and over and OVER to realize that, despite my best efforts, what I’m showing up for isn’t working. The realization that I’m showing up for a situation where I’m not seen or heard. Where my showing up is just taken for granted because I’m a woman and that’s what women are supposed to do–show up!

Showing up by itself is not enough. We have to show up with boundaries and discernment, and continually ask ourselves, “Is this working for me? Is this healthy for me? Does it serve my highest good? Do I find happiness here?”

What if the most radical thing we can do as women is NOT show up?

After all, women are the main consumers of many products, services, and industries. What happens if we stop showing up?

Church attendance all across the Western world has plummeted because women in their child-bearing years, once the mainstay of congregations, are turning away. You see, we have better things to do than prop up a crumbling, misogynist institution that preaches that we are eternally second class.

Oops, I forgot to show up!

What if we stop showing up for people and organizations that take us for granted and leave us depleted, disrespected, and diminished, and we just stayed home in our pyjamas and read a good book instead?

“I was all set to mansplain, but the wimmens didn’t show up!”

What if we didn’t show up for social media that spies on us and then sells our data?

What if we stopped showing up to buy brand new items of “fashion,” every single season, even though they are poorly made of hideous artificial fibers by underpaid children in Asian sweatshops?

Just imagine the global female population suddenly not showing up for the people, institutions, and industries that take us for granted?

What impact would this have on political parties that pay lip service to women voters without really listening to them or prioritizing women’s rights? How might our not showing up challenge the kind of divisive political tribalism that shuts down older women by screaming “Karen” at them if they dare to express an independent opinion?

The power of NOT showing up is one of the biggest powers we have. The power of saying, individually or collectively, “This is not acceptable. I’ve had enough.”

The power of not showing up is HUGE.

Every woman must discern for herself what’s not working, what’s broken beyond fixing, what’s soul-destroying, and WALK AWAY.

What if we all valued ourselves enough to NOT show up?

Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history. Her acclaimed novel Illuminations, drawn from the dramatic life of Hildegard von Bingen, is published by Mariner. Her new novel Revelationsabout the mystical pilgrim Margery Kempe and her friendship with Julian of Norwich, is now available wherever books and ebooks are sold. Visit her website.



Categories: Feminism and Religion, General, Resistance

Tags: ,

23 replies

  1. I think you’re totally right, Mary – religiously, and often unthinkingly showing up for things has let patriarchy and Big Business off the hook for too long. As women, we’re mostly still asleep to how they fool and manipulate us and withdrawing our presence and purchasing power is the most powerful thing we can do.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Wow, what a post! Showing up has it’s good points, I think… but what you say about not showing up is equally important “Every woman must discern for herself what’s not working, what’s broken beyond fixing, what’s soul-destroying, and WALK AWAY. You remind me that my choices to do just that are sane and healthy! If it’s soul destroying – time to get out.
    As a naturalist I have struggled with the direction we are traveling in – the loss of so many species … but today, though I continue to write nature columns I choose only subjects that interest me and I no longer focus on “saving” anything because I don’t think we will make those life affirming choices. Just yesterday a determinedly positive woman told me”lots of monarch butterflies have been seen” as proof the species is doing better. Instead of responding that we would continue to see some migrating for awhile before the species goes extinct, I simply kept my mouth shut. WALKING AWAY from denial I can’t break.
    Walking away requires discipline, I think, as well as letting go.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Sara — It’s amazing that I just finished a zoom meeting talking about climate change and how to get people to respond to it, and then I see you writing “walking away from denial I can’t break” when it comes to that very issue. I think denial takes many forms, and your friend talking about seeing more monarchs is the form of hope, which is easier to deal with than just sticking your head in the ground about global warming. When a person tells me something uninformed, but hopeful about climate change, I ask them what they’re doing to make sure that their hope materializes, and follow up by saying that it won’t happen unless we all pitch in to stop climate change (or at least slow it down). The harder type of denial is when people are fearful and overwhelmed by global warming and just refuse to think about it. Then we need to guide them through their grief to the understanding that although it’s scary and urgent, we can still do something about climate change, and we better if we want our children and grandchildren to have a livable world. Of course, we all need to “conserve our personal resources” when it comes to issues like this. And if it’s time for you to walk away, then knowing that is also life-affirming.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nancy, perhaps I wasn’t clear This woman refuses to acknowledge any climate change problems -ever. But others like me acknowledge and write about this complex issue honestly…what I cannot abide is this false positivity which is denial….we can’t guide anyone through grief if they don’t acknowledge it – and I personally don’t think I can guide anyone through their grief, although I surely can and do witness for them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Re: grief – I was thinking about the workshop we’re going to offer at First Unitarian this fall that helps people look at the reasons for their denial, experience their grief, and hopefully come out the other side, possibly to work to stop climate change. I agree that it’s not something we as individuals can easily do (or maybe even do at all as individuals). And I think I was responding to what you wrote when you said, “[T]hough I continue to write nature columns I choose only subjects that interest me and I no longer focus on “saving” anything because I don’t think we will make those life affirming choices.”

          Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for reading, Sara, and for your activism and engagement!

      Like

  3. Love what you’ve said here. There is such a power in selecting where to give our energy to, and I love that you’re re examining cliche’s. Sometimes they’re just so ingrained, I find myself hearing one and just nodding along like yeah, that’s common knowledge, everyone knows that, without giving it all the thought I should be giving it. There have been so masny times in the last year because of changes going on around me where I feel like I’ve thought about a subject and my opinion only because I think of myself as a thoughtful and critical person… only to find out later that I really hadn’t delved deep into my feelings on the matter at all. It’s wild, and I think a product of feeling exhausted with all there is to think critically about. Have you ever found yourself there? Really fighting to wake up and engage more again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Thanks for these words of wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, indeed, we’ve had enough–more than enough–mansplaining and decisions made for us by men who think we can’t make our own decisions. Good for women for not showing up in churches that demean women. And yes, let’s all walk away from the awful politicians (and their parties) that demean and ignore us. Why don’t all the women who live in Texas move out?? For starters, stop showing up at stores and malls? What on earth did the governor of Texas mean when he said Texas is going to eliminate all rapists? Why don’t people who don’t show up to get vaccinated understand that they’re the ones still (mostly) spreading the virus?

    Ahhh, Mary, I bet my background is similar to yours. I grew up in a suburb of St. Louis. My ancestors were German and Dutch peasants. Boy, was I taught to be responsible and to show up! How can we teach today’s women to be responsible to womanhood and not to what men want them to be and do?

    Thanks for writing this. You got me angry at 7:00 in the morning. But I showed up here to read today’s post. Bright blessings to you and your work and your husband and your horses. Keep writing!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Mary, I love your post! I think boundaries are a MAJOR issue for women, who have been socialized to have more porous boundaries in order to care for the people in their lives. This is both a positive and a negative trait. Positively, we can create much more intimate and caring relationships because of this early childhood training. But negatively, we tend to forget about ourselves in the process. Years ago, I realized a groups’s greatest weakness can become a source of strength. Think of the supposed “passivity” of (East) Indians and how Gandhi turned that into satyagraha, passive resistance to British rule. Turning our caring back on ourselves and on our feminist sisters has been and will continue to be how we can turn our weakness into a strength. And that involves personal discernment, over and over and over again. As you wrote, “Is this working for me? Is this healthy for me? Does it serve my highest good? Do I find happiness here?”

    Liked by 7 people

  7. THANK YOU!!!!
    Just…Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mary, you are so right. I have been working on this for years. I am a “spoonie,” The term is for those with an illness or disability that leaves them with limited energy. We look at it as if we have a few spoonfuls of energy so we have to allocate those spoonfuls wisely. I agree that women have been expected to show up to help, even as we’ve been taken for granted, and so we should stop showing up to the institutions that drain us or ignore us. Thank you for your wise and insightful words.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. YES! Thank you for a brilliant post! I have been training myself not to show up every time it’s expected. I am the oldest sister, it’s been mayhem at times when I stayed away enjoying JOMO to the fullest.

    Like

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