Showing Up and Being There

Last year's table (not so different this year)

Showing up is 80% of life.–Woody Allen

Do you ever feel like you spend most of your time showing up, without really being there?  By “being there,” I mean paying attention, being involved, feeling and enjoying that particular moment, not racing ahead in your mind to the next thing to be done.

The first time I realized someone else felt that way was years ago when I first saw “Annie Hall,” which I still think is Woody Allen’s best movie (although “Midnight in Paris” is a contender as well).  The scene where Annie and the character Woody plays are in bed, and at the same time she’s sitting on top of the bureau observing–I thought, “That’s it!”

Journalists and novelists are like that, I think, and photographers as well.  Have you ever spent so much of an event taking photos that you don’t really take part in what’s going on?  I have boxes and boxes of old-style physical photos I took in countries all over the world when I was traveling with Ron and on my own.  I look at them now and think, where was that?  What was I doing?  What was I feeling?  The camera becomes a way to create distance and put up a wall.  I think psychologists call it “compartmentalizing.”

I’ve gotten somewhat better at “being there” over the years.  Yoga class helps a lot.  I used to smirk when the teacher said, “Be here now,” but now I know the teacher means “Stop your mind from running in circles and feel where you are and how you are moving.”  Easier said that done, but it can be learned.

I think Twitter is yet another way to not be here, and texting can be as well.  Have you ever wanted to strangle a teenager who is sitting right next to you, not listening or participating in what’s going on, and texting as fast as they can to a friend?  How about the dad who can’t put down his Blackberry or iPhone?  Is every email that important?

Sorry to be such a curmudgeon.  I’ve been guilty of all the above at one time or another.  But it came home to me that being there, really being there, can be fun sometimes.  One of my friends brought his guitar to the party I gave the other night and lyrics to Christmas carols and songs.  We all sang and laughed and banged rhythm instruments for hours.  And I didn’t even realize until the next day that I didn’t get out my camera or my phone and take any pictures of the group and the party.  I was too busy having a good time!

That’s really a good way to “be here now.”

We’re Having a Party

Tomorrow I have my Christmas party.  I’ve had one ever since I moved to my present location in 1996.  It’s less elaborate now than in my earlier years, but still involves decorating for Christmas, 10-12 friends, and more food than any of us need.

But that’s part of the holiday spirit–fun, and excess, and not being prudent or circumspect.  I’m baking a pecan pie, and tomorrow a tomato-ricotta tart.  I have smoked salmon, shrimp, cheeses, vegetables, and pate.  And, needless to say, lots of wine and other drinks.

My friends are bringing appetizers and desserts.  The real treat, however, is that one of them brings his guitar and we sing Christmas carols and Beatles songs.  Okay, it may sound hokey, but we love it.  How many chances do we all get to sing out loud?  When do we get to laugh, and tell stories, and dance?

My cat is exiled to the basement until the food is gone (he can’t be trusted).  Then he comes up and socializes, too.  Even he feels how warm and fun it is.

It’s not that all inhibitions are loose.  That’s not it at all.  It’s that we love and trust one another, and this is a party where we feel warm and happy together.  I love it.  And I’ll do it as long as I can.

Peace out, my friends, and may you all have a happy party in your immediate future.