“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.
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?
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 Revelations, about the mystical pilgrim Margery Kempe and her friendship with Julian of Norwich, is now available wherever books and ebooks are sold. Visit her website.