That certainly is the question, although not spoken with the same struggle of self that perplexed Hamlet.
A trusted advisor told me that I should be, more than not be. Her challenge was to be more present and vocal in some relationships. This was something I had never really pondered. You are either there, or you are not, right?
Well, maybe that is not so simple. So of course, I put my brain to work. The loud, grinding of gears was my thought process. What is presence? Physical presence is one thing, emotional presence is somewhat harder to define.
Every relationship is different as the degree of closeness or distance, and whether the degree is appropriate or not. Whether you are an extrovert or introvert plays a role in your relationship engagement, but maybe not how you think. Being more outward or inward is not a true sign of self-awareness and effort, but those are key ingredients for being present. Let me clarify: self-awareness is not being focused on exclusively on self, it is being in-tune with self and monitoring your impact on others. To be self-aware, your antenna is up and you are actually looking beyond self. Can you be removed from self and look critically at yourself? This would be a weird out-of-body experience, but yes. That is also a kind of distance. A self-distancing.
When you feel crowded or overlooked, and cannot get it resolved, some people distance. You check out and stop being present. It does not help relationships in flux. Whatever cracks are present, expand and deepen as a result.
If you want to change a relationship, change the way you are. The relationship will follow. So this comment about being vocal was a tough pill to swallow. Then I figured it out. If you want to have more say in steering the relationship, say more. Not just more words, appropriate words. Speak from the “I” perspective and offer up what you’d like to see and why. There’s now more me in be (Figure out what that means).
So, what is happening when you are about to not be? In your head, you have made a decision, consciously or not. It may be how you handle tough situations. Fight or flight. Over a long enough time, distancing may become second nature, a pre-programmed response.
Now, it might be that distance is a way of managing the needed space by one or both people. Being close, does not mean merging with someone and losing self. What is the correct amount of daylight between two bodies in orbit around each other? Depends on the people.
Relationships are fluid arrangements. Even close, family relationships do not stay the same over time, as people grow, move through their experiences and even as their emotional capability changes over their life.
With any relationship you owe it to the other party to be present. Introverts need decompression time, to breathe, and maintain their gyroscope.
We each thrive on differing amounts of interaction and social discourse. The more personal the relationship, the greater need to be present within the boundaries that are mutually agreed.
As this is being written at the start of a new year, I’ll put into practice what I have learned. The year ending has been a real education. We are all lifelong learners, or we should be.