And it really is a ministry. Think about the last time someone in your life was truly present for you. They weren’t talking to you on the phone, doing twelve other things. They were just sitting with you, in real life, looking at you, giving you their whole attention. Think about how that felt. How much support, love and recognition the simple act of being fully present brings to a life...your life.
Someone I admire very much said this yesterday. He talked about the ministry of presence and how he learned it. How he learned it through being present for his daughter as she died from ovarian cancer. He talked about how he learned it through living with his own cancer. He talked about how he now endeavors to show up in his life, fully present for it all, no exceptions.
And I wanted what he had. He has always been someone I admired. Someone who mentored me earlier in my legal career. Who shared my same affliction and helped me get sober and grow my career. He has always been this steady, calm presence in my life. However, I know that like all of us, he too has this other side where addiction and defects roil and rage.
But somehow through all this turmoil and loss, he has found the ministry of presence and began growing that in himself. And when he said this yesterday, I knew exactly what I needed to do.
I, on the other hand, have perfected the busy. The convoluted. The distracted. The too much going on all at the same time. This my life. Always has been but doesn’t always have to be. I have to be willing to give up the jolt I get from things being too busy and chaotic. I have to do things differently, which is never easy and always hard.
But yesterday when he talked about this ministry of presence. I knew that I wanted what he had. I knew that I want to change into a person that brings the calm, not the chaos. That in 2024, the only new intention that I am going to set is to bring the ministry of presence to my life and the lives of others.
It isn’t going to be easy. I have lived 54 years of my life with chaotic productivity and have been richly rewarded for that, with that. I juggle immense amounts of emotional, physical and work related trauma and drama. And going back to practicing law has only made me feel more out of control than ever. I have so much to do, in two different time zones, an entire country separating my two worlds and I can see that if I don’t make some changes in a hurry, this new busyness will eat me alive. And I will miss my life. And the lives of others who are so important to me.
Relationships and work is not there to escape yourself. I mean, a lot of us use them for this purpose. But I realized yesterday listening to my friend as he fights for his life, that it is a choice we all make. To use the circumstances of our life to move closer to others or to use them as excuses to move away, to distance, to drink, to escape from. And I am so very guilty of doing all of the later and very little of the former.
I think for me it has always been because I have this feeling if I tarry too long in the intimate, it will consume me, like a wild fire burning out of control. And there will be nothing left of me, except the scarred landscape of my personage.
But yesterday, I saw another way. This man stood tall on a barren, ash covered landscape. He remained, not untouched, not unmarred, but alive and living regardless of the firestorms he withstood. There he was. Living his life, untethered from the addicts ever elusive delusion that if we just move fast enough and often enough, we can out run the thing we fear most...being really seen for who and what we are.
And what I learned from this man is that moving and running doesn’t really bring anything but more moving and running. One must always do those things because that is the way you have chosen to live your life. But there is another option and that is to practice the ministry of presence. My friend Sam does this. She is eerily present for conversation. I have reaped the benefits of her presence. I see her but I do not slow down long enough to communicate that to her. I know it takes a lot out of her and I think this is what I fear. Giving too much of myself so that I do not have enough left over for me.
But I am very sure, in fact, I am not sure I have ever been more sure of anything in my life, that this whole presence thing is a lot like recovery. The more I put into it, the more I get out of it. And this whole misconception that I have lived with until now, that I must defend myself, steel myself really, against the intimate familiar, is just plain wrong, again, still.
So today as I begin this new day with more to do than I want, feeling out of place and out of sorts due to my time being spent on the East Coast, my home coast that is no longer home, I shall begin with my new practice of the ministry of presence. To be here now, and share the whole of my being, without fearing that I will have nothing left for myself. Because I think I just got yesterday as I heard him talk, that the first person you must always minister to, is yourself. And it is only by giving yourself your whole presence, that you could ever possibly share that ministry with others.