On Showing Up & Showing Love (Even if You’re Too Busy)

Last year, I accompanied my husband Jonathan to the dentist. It was an opportunity for showing up and showing love … even though I was tempted to hide behind being busy.

Jonathan needed a crown on a broken tooth, and – though he wouldn’t say it in so many words – he was a tad anxious about it.

I inferred anxiety based on comments like, “Caroline! What if, when I open my mouth, and they look in and say, ‘Oh, we were wrong. We actually need to take them all out. Sorry! No more teeth for you!’ What then?!”

I reassured him that this scenario was highly unlikely. Then, reading between the lines, I said, “Would you like me to go with you to the appointment?”

He shrugged. “That’d be okay,” he said, after a pause.

Though I wanted to support my husband, I wasn’t wild about going to the dentist on a Tuesday afternoon. I’d be missing prime work time. Plus, I’m still skittish about going to the dentist; as a child, I found cleanings less pleasant than, say, being tarred and feathered. (I’m not the only one.)

Does Showing Up and Showing Love Really Matter?

Caroline and Jonathan, showing up and showing loveEven so, I went with Jonathan. I waited two hours; the time did not fly. The books I brought proved dull. And since I hadn’t pounced on the sole copy of US Weekly, it was claimed.

Given my time as a caregiver at L’Arche, you’d think I’d be a waiting room veteran. But as an assistant, waiting looked very different. What with filling out forms, making sure my housemate had used the bathroom, and taking copious notes, there wasn’t much time to read.

Part of me wished I could jump into my old role: taking notes, feeling useful. And another part of me knew that I was right where I needed to be: present for Jonathan. But being moral support can seem so small, so insignificant. We wonder, Does it really matter?

We forget that the small things do matter. It matters if we show up, if we make an extra effort to be there when our loved ones are grieving … or just a bit worried about getting a crown put in.

Doing Good versus Doing Nothing

As Deirdre Sullivan wrote in her 2005 NPR feature, Always Go to the Funeral:

“I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy …. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.”

Yes. Me too. My battle is usually subtle, ordinary.

My battle is going to the dentist with my husband as opposed to working a bit more. It’s taking a moment to see if I have the energy to keep working instead of just charging ahead. It’s calling a friend even though we haven’t spoken in some time and it might be awkward at first. It’s taking 5 minutes out of a full day to write a note and encourage someone.

That’s our battle: between small acts of love that call out to us and the more practical tasks we’re tempted to prioritize instead.

Love is neither practical nor efficient. It takes time and patience, more than we think we have. In fact, it demands everything. It gets to do that because it is everything.

Love Wins

That night, Jonathan touched my cheek and said, quietly, “Thank you for coming to the dentist’s with me.”

I heard what he was really saying: Thank you for choosing love over practicality. Thank you for hearing what I didn’t say, which was that I needed you there. And for a moment, I felt the peace that comes after a battle won …

The kind that we call victory.


What’s been your experience with showing up and showing love? Join the conversation in the comments!


Caroline’s stories around the Web, January 2014:

NEW! Guest post at Elephant Journal: Our Love/Hate Relationship with … Yoga?

Guest post at Addie Zierman: The Resource Pile

Guest post at The Happiness Project: Before & After: Do A Little Work, Every Single Day

Guest post at GenPink: On Missing Meetings, Hopping Planes, and Choosing Life


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14 thoughts on “On Showing Up & Showing Love (Even if You’re Too Busy)

  1. Oh I just love this post! You have touched on a something I struggle with — especially when it comes to my marriage. But you are so right– our partners need us for the “little things” as much as our children and friends do.

    Just a side note about you – thank you for showing up for me. When you appeared at my book signing, I had to hold back tears. To think you drove all that way to support me. You are truly one Who Shows Up – and that is the greatest gift.

    • Thank you so much for that encouragement, Rachel! And I agree – it’s easy to forget that grown-ups need each other too. 😉 I’m so happy to have been able to celebrate your book launch with you – it was a joy to be there. xo

  2. Diana says:

    Thank you for that word. My mother in law who has alzhiemers is living with us. She can’t be left alone so I am here or she goes with me. I do have some part time help 3 or 4 times a week. My struggle is this is not what I want to be doing right now. I’ve homeschooled 4 kids, and am tutoring 2 in college. I do want to help them!! Just not enough of me to go around. I want to do my mother in law well, not be resentful! Pray that I would keep pushing into God and I will do this well in Him! Thanks!!

    • Wow, Diana, that’s amazing … talk about ‘showing up’ for love every day! I’m so glad to hear that you have some support in what sounds like a very demanding time for you and your family. Sending a big hug your way.

  3. Donna says:

    I am so drawn to the urgency of the getting things done!! But truly the satisfaction comes more from knowing I showed love, rather than checking off a task. Lovely blog!

  4. Ah, that was a quenching post Cari. That SPOKE. Thanks for articulately writing this. It’s a good reminder to choose small acts of love rather than taking the easier route and doing nothing. Love this.

  5. Susannah says:

    thanks so much for this blog post, Cari–it was one that i needed to read 🙂
    big hugs from Switzerland

  6. Dorothy Copps says:

    Loved this! You were there for Jonathan! (the man who likes to lift heavy objects and put them down again) You are such a stellar couple! Since i am now retired from my “job” at L’Arche, i am struggling with how to show up as a long term community member. You communicated so well the intentional way of being………I am working it through in a different way now.

    Thanks for using your God given gift! loveya, Dorothy

    • Dorothy, thank you so much for your comment — it was exactly what I needed to read this morning! (And you made me grin with the “pick them up and put them down again” quote!) As you say, going from ‘formal role’ to ‘friend’ can be a challenge … and it reminds me to thank you for helping me move through so many transitions, both in L’Arche and in life. You are a wonderful friend and ‘family member’ too. Miss & love you. xo

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