In my pre-coaching days, I remember seeing the trailer for Hardball, a movie starring Keanu Reeves as an inveterate sports gambler who, in order to pay off a loan, is saddled with coaching a corporate-sponsored Little League baseball team for underprivileged youth in a Chicago housing project. The trailer stood out to me because it was the first time I ever heard the old cliché (as uttered by Reeves' character), "One of the most important things in life is showing up." After laughing at Reeves' delivery, I thought, "Oh please. Really? Showing up is one of the most important things??! REALLY?!"
Fast forward 11 years...
I have a very good friend I'll identify here as G. We've known each other for a long time. I consider her one of my best friends. G is one of the most warm-hearted, tough-minded, talented women I know. I would walk through fire for her, and she for me. I know without reservation that I can go to her for anything I need.
Recently, I did turn to her in a moment of need. I made two specific requests of her. G immediately responded "yes" to both.
And then nothing. Radio silence.
Now, my automatic response to this situation is to go away and figure it out on my own. To know and accept that this is where she's at, and realizing that if I am to love her and be friends, it means accepting her where she's at -- at the expense of my own needs. Because I know that she loves me. She wouldn't reject me, unless my need is... completely unreasonable. This thinking, of course, leads me down the path of lessons learned from my adoption: I'm not allowed to have needs because no one will listen to me. Nobody cares.
And, as G has so clearly proven in these instances, I can't count on anyone.
So, from this place -- the place of knowing that I can't count on anyone and being "OK" with it -- I emailed G to hang out socially. She responded with, "I am so humbled that you still want to hang after I prove that I am so unreliable."
And then, again, nothing. Radio silence.
At this point, I'm pissed. I'm beyond pissed. I have taken it all to mean the very worst about her and about me. I don't know how I'm going to talk to G without just exploding or saying something I'm going to regret. Maybe this means the end of our friendship? Maybe it just means I can't rely on her and this is the ceiling in our relationship? Maybe it means I really am unreasonable and asked too much of her?
After a good freak out (and a good cry), I took a breath. I slowed down. I stopped reacting and tried to respond to what is rather than what I was imagining the situation to be. I realized that having needs is not a bad thing. Opening myself up and being with my disappointment and anger and sadness is part of the game I have chosen to play. I also realized that holding people accountable when they've made a commitment is actually in service of their greatness.
So I called G and left a message, telling her how hurt and angry I'd been and how I needed to share it with her because I valued our relationship. We met up, and I felt like I was dying. I felt my chest constrict. I felt shortness of breath. I felt fear so great that I couldn't hear anything. I thought I was going to black out. But I was committed to following through on sharing what was going on with me. I took as deep a breath as I could and shared with her what I needed and how I felt she'd let me down. At first, G responded with a variety of reasons why she didn't follow through, and admitted that I wasn't the only one she'd let down recently. Then, she confessed that she "didn't feel it was my job as your friend" to do the favors which I'd asked of her. A perfectly acceptable response, except that she'd initially said "yes." And because she said "yes," I needed her to show up.
As we spoke, I realized that this was not just about her not showing up in these two instances. This conversation was about me showing up for our relationship. By sharing what I needed in a non-violent manner -- without the intention of changing her or making her better or correcting her behavior -- I gave us the chance to move beyond the limits we were setting in our minds about who and what we are as friends. I put us both at choice to decide who we want to be in all our relationships. To recognize that showing up for ourselves can and will manifest itself in how we show up for each other.
What if -- truly -- one of the most important things in life is showing up? How do you show up for yourself and what you need? How do you show up for others and integrate what you need with where they're at? What might happen if you showed up and shared the scary, messy stuff in service of your relationship?
I invite you to consider possibilities... while I go watch Hardball.
For more by Christine Sachs, click here.
For more on conscious relationships, click here.
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