How Much Attention Do You Need?
Here I sit, at the end of yet another relationship that did not work, post-breakup pity party in full effect.
Damn it, why me? Another one gone, why me again? I am a good person. I treat people so well. I lift them up. I always honor them and their path. I see their darkness — hell, I see everyone’s darkness yet I judge no one, ever, so why can’t I find love? Why am I not worthy? Why am I still alone?
These last few weeks have been filled with many, many tears. Cries to God and my entire Spiritual Board of Directors, “Help me! Show me the pieces of me that still need my love and attention. Show me my walls and my blocks to love. Help me tear them down. Make me more vulnerable, more open, more loving of my self so I can truly open to another who has also done their work and is genuinely ready.”
I learned long ago that the truth at the end of every relationship is “You attract what you are, not what you want.” I learned that if I am calling in another lesson instead of my life partner, that means I still have lots of work to do on myself to prepare for the partner I have 100% unwavering faith whom the Divine has in store for me.
Yet I’m still in pain, unable to surrender to the spiritual truth, knowing that this suffering is of my own creation in every way, shape and form.
Yeah, all these realizations suck. They are painful for sure, but as I sit in my self-created suffering at the end of every attempt to genuinely connect with another, I find the truth. I find my walls, my obstacles, my work that still very much needs to be done inside of me.
Ultimately, I find the gifts given to me by the other. Ultimately, I find me, returning home, yet again, to the depths of my darkness, and I find the great gratitude that goes with that incredible gift.
In all my love trials and errors since becoming single seven years ago after a 14-year-long emotionally abusive marriage, I can finally say that I am just now, only in the last year, able to see the patterns in my romantic relationships and to, finally, honorably, be able to take responsibility for them.
A relationship ends and I try to jump right back in the saddle only to have a few dates right after the breakup, to then realize that I need to grieve and be sad first before I can attempt to partner again.
This time around, as I began to move into that same pattern, I asked myself, “What are you looking for out there when really you are still in the place where you want him?”
The answer to that was not pretty. I denied it the first few times it came to my awareness, then finally,it was time to embrace it, see it, feel it and learn how to fully and completely love it.
Attention. I was looking for attention.
It was just that simple. I wasn’t actually anywhere near ready to connect with someone new. I was feeling invisible to the one I wanted, which made me go out desperately searching for the attention of another, any other: please, someone, anyone, give me some attention! — a very simple, very unattractive truth.
I began to ask myself, “How much attention do you need?” then I began to look at not just my romantic partnerships, but all areas of my life.
There were attention-seeking behaviors all over the place, in so many areas of my life. At first, I was in shock. As I grappled with this shameful, egoistic, childlike need inside of me, I started to give it a voice. I began to poke around that darkness inside of me, then I fearlessly lit a tiny match to take a good long, hard look around.
My closet was full of very old, very deep shame. It was full of me screaming for attention left and right. My inner children were here, the 8-year-old, the 12-year-old. They’d waited a long time for me to hear their cries. This would be an incredibly challenging purge because this one runs deep.
This closet didn’t just hold my dating life, it held my friendships, my parenting, my social media, my body image, my public persona at work and in service, and even some of my writing. This closet was jam-packed full of all the ways I scream for attention in my life every single day.
Behind this door was my larger-than-life personality, my hyper-feminine body, my need to offer healing to my romantic partners, my advice to friends, my sternness with my children, the triggers in my writing, my need to share how I am of service in my community with the promise of every follower, comment and like that comes with the social media culture of our time.
Even my prayers were full of a deep need for attention.
Just like a petulant child who, when without positive attention, will take any attention at all, I found all my screams of “I’m over here. Someone, anyone, please, see me, hear me, love me!”
Good God, what a hot mess this was all around, in every area of my life.
Deeply, deeply grateful to my former partner for returning me to myself and this buried truth that needed my love and attention, I began to digest the magnitude of what I’d found. I began to lovingly hold and comfort the inner children who, feeling invisible for so long, created these deep-rooted patterns in me.
After finally giving the lifelong screaming inner children a voice, I am sleeping peacefully for the first time in forever. I feel my body healing as it reacts to my love as opposed to my need to be seen. My mothering is subtly changing as I saw how my inner children had been ruling my parenting game. The sadness over the end of my relationship, gone. My prayers now full of gratitude.
I finally feel as if my bright, shiny, love-emanating heart is enough. No need to tell anyone or prove it. It just is. I feel a faith that the right people at the right time will feel this deep truth inside me and seek me out. It requires no attention at all. I feel a quiet calm in me and gifts begging to be used without acknowledgment or advertisement. I feel like I am enough, no matter who knows it, I am enough.
No need for validation. Just, finally, after a life of screaming for attention in every way, the serenity of the quiet knowing deep inside of me, I am enough.
Christie Del Vesco is a College Administrator and Professor, a Universalist Minister, a member of the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) Speakers Bureau and single mom. She’s a children’s advocate, a survivor of many forms of sexual violence, and a voice for the survivors who have yet to find their own. Chris is a firm believer that we go through what we do, to help others when they go through the same. She also believes if we would all just “be the change,” we can change the world.