“Is it selfish of me to long for my husband’s presence? I pour out my presence on him all day long. And if I get one minute of his presence a day, I feel lucky! Am I just a self-absorbed person to want that,” my client asked as she wiped away tears after she could no longer blink them back?
I understood. I hear the longing for the presence of another from people in my office every day.
“It’s not selfish at all. As a matter of fact, it says a lot about your love for him,” I said softly as I leaned toward her, seeing that deep longing within her.
For some reason it made me think of a popular TV series from long ago called “The Waltons.”
I can’t remember if they opened the show with the scene or closed it. But in the scene, the lights were all going out in the house, and they were saying good night to one another until the last one said: “Good night, John boy.”
It reminds me of being at my grandmother’s house, where everyone went out and sat on the front porch in the evening. Stories were shared, laughter was heard, and there was a sense that everyone was present.
I miss those days.
I have the beautiful privilege of practicing being present all day long with my clients. But I too, at the end of the day, long for the presence of those I love.
We all do.
Why am I writing about this?
Because I believe presence is one of the most healing things to any person, any situation, and any relationship.
I believe that practicing presence speaks louder than any words that could be spoken. I shared about this with my new client.
1. What your presence says about you.
“I know you long for his presence,” I commented to my client about her husband. “And my prayer is that someday he will be just as present for you, as you are for him.”
“But in the meantime, let’s look at the amazing things that you, being present for him, says about YOU.”
First of all, research tells us that the more we are present, it creates these benefits:
- Greater happiness
- Higher pain tolerance
- Stress reduction
- Decreasing the impact of stress on our health
- Improving our ability to cope with fear and anger
- Less distracted than others
- More resourceful in solving problems
- More predictable than those who are not present
- Greater emotional mastery and emotional maturity
- Higher energy levels
- More self-motivated
- Remarkable listening skills
- Higher self esteem
Here’s what research tells us about YOU when YOU are present:
- You live life more fully than others who are not present.
- You find joy in simple moments that others miss.
- You have a deeper connection to yourself, to others, and to God.
- You love deeply.
- You respect thoroughly.
- You truly have the other’s back.
“Does it help knowing what your presence says about you,” I asked my client?
With great humility, and a little smile, she replied: “Well, thank you. I mean that. But I don’t stay present to make myself look good! I just love him.”
With admiration, I assured her that I believed that.
But I also affirmed that she deserved the great benefits that come along with it. And that I would continue to hope and pray that he would honor her with his presence.
Part of what inspired me to share this with her is that I recently had a visit with a functional medicine doctor. Just trying to do everything I can to be as healthy as possible and ensure long-term health and vibrancy.
After discussing various facets of my life, he commented, “Your presence is your saving grace.”
I looked at him curiously, and he actually shared and pointed me to the research of the health benefits of being present.
I took that away with me. I knew he meant that with a stressful schedule and life concerns, that the power of practicing presence is what has all my lab work looking stellar.
For that I am grateful.
2. What your presence says to others who love you.
My client almost whispered in a wistful tone, “I only hope my presence says something to him.”
“It does,” I assured her. “And even if it doesn’t seem that he notices, it speaks far louder than the words your presence conveys!”
What does our “presence” say to the others who we love?
- I value you.
With the ‘busy-ness’ that comes with all of our lives, we have to actually choose where we practice our presence.
Those who are honored with your presence know that with all the choices you have, that your decision to be present with them shows that you value them.
We all long to be valued. It’s normal. It’s part of being human.
NOTHING shows how you value someone more powerfully than being “present” with them.
Countless research articles helping parents build self-esteem in their children reveal that spending time with, and being fully present with your children increases their sense of value. Then their self-esteem blossoms as the result of feeling valued.
We are no different as adults.
The next time you are aware of someone being fully present with you, breathe it in, and receive the upgrade they are investing into your value!
- I respect you.
Let’s look at the definition of respect:
A sense of admiration for someone or something due to their abilities, qualities, or achievements; noting and accepting their differences; and caring about their well-being.
The very act of deciding to spend time with someone you love, aligning your heart and your brain and focusing in on the moment … certainly indicates a sense of admiration. And speaks highly of them being worthy of acceptance, even though you may have differences. Focusing in on their well-being with your presence is a great way to show your respect.
- I care about you.
Your presence says I am here with you. I’m making time for you. I’m being fully available because I care about you. I’m interested in you. I want to know more about you.
- I’m here for you.
When you are fully present, and fully available, the other person instinctively discerns that you are there for them.
What a gift!
So many people are “there … but not there …”
Meaning that their body may be present, but their mind is not there. Their heart is not there.
Often, they are more connected to their cell phone, or sports, or (you fill in the blank) … than they are to you and for you.
But since putting away your cell phone, turning off sports, or stopping (you fill in the blank) is a prerequisite for presence. They know beyond any doubt that you’re saying, “I’m here for you!”
- You can count on me.
In Dr. Brene Brown’s groundbreaking work on the anatomy of trust, she uses the word BRAVING as an acronym for the requirements for trust. The “R” in BRAVING is for “Reliability.”
She says: “What reliability is … is you do what you say you’re going to do over and over and over again. You cannot gain and earn my trust if you’re reliable once, because that’s not the definition of reliability.”
When you are present consistently, it says you are reliable, and you can be counted on!
My client took all of that in, then said: “If I am the only one present, and it speaks all of that to him, I need to just continue being present.”
I expressed my admiration, but also told her we could speak of ways to invite his presence.
3. Inviting someone’s presence.
People who are not present may not be “absent” intentionally.
There are only three possible scenarios when it comes to “presence:”
- There, but not there
I think it’s fair to say that, like my client, we all long for those we love to be present with us. Fully present.
However, “presence” does not always come naturally to everyone. And those we are unaware of the power and importance of presence may not even understand that when you say you are lonely, it means you are longing for them to be present. Intentionally present. Fully present.
Let me share a few ways you can invite them to be present.
- Eye contact. Even though they may not often glance at you, making eye contact with them continuously (not staring) invites their presence.
- Physical touch: Reaching out and touching someone’s arm or giving them a hug invites their presence.
- At this moment … questions. (Example: “At this very moment, what would you do if you had all the time and money in the world?” Or “At this moment, what is the best thing we could do to make our evening together fun?”)
- Ask fun questions: “When was the last time you sang in the shower?” Or “If we were animals, which one best represents you and which one best represents me? And why?”
- Ask meaningful questions: “What do you feel like your mission or purpose is in your life during this season?” Or … “What are the top three things on your bucket list?”
Just inviting them can often lead someone who loves you to begin growing in their ability to be present.
Dr. Diana Hill says, “When I reflect on the meaningful moments of my day, they are often the times where I was fully present with people—the moments when a client shared her vulnerability, pausing to check in with my neighbor, or reading with my sons before bed. Being present makes life more fulfilling so it’s only natural that we should learn how to be more present in relationships.”
I hope you will practice presence whenever possible. Invite others to be present!
It is powerful.
It is a gift.
It is healing.
And as my functional medicine doctor said, it is my saving grace.
I hope it will be yours too!
“Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself.”