I See You... Reflections on Healing

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I have for so many years been a hound for attention. Look! Look! I would shout at my parents, I’m doing something amazing – swimming in the deep end, landing a cartwheel, singing a song that I’ve gotten down. And what child doesn’t want this?  Seeing someone is an important part of loving them. But the amount of times a parent can do this change with life circumstances. I can’t say how many times I heard Not Now! The message I internalized was that I was too much. In order to garner the attention I wanted, I needed to achieve, to sparkle, to beam. I learned to do that well, and worked it to my advantage. But I also learned that it wasn’t enough.

When the song “Empty” by the Cranberries came out I played it on repeat so many times my brother teased me for years. Despite success in school, holding down a job from the age of 14, and participating in after school activities, I felt invisible. I felt strange, isolated, and intense.  I felt empty. The times I was alone, I sank into lassitude and analysis. And that was often. I tried to figure out what made me feel so disconnected, and then I felt more isolated for spinning my wheels in trying to normalize. I just didn’t see the world the way other people did. I wanted to do more. With my spiritual bent, I truly saw colors I knew others didn’t.

I heard the words people said to me, but I also heard what they didn’t say. In literature, we’d say I read the text, and the subtext. I learned to walk into a room and match the frequency of the people in it to feel included. It was my magic. I’d blend into the bleachers at my mom’s softball games, the airport where my dad hung out with friends, work picnics, group hikes, summer camps, parties for people I didn’t know, parties for people I did. I would participate, charm, and entertain. I would shapeshift. And then I would leave and roll into that sense of emptiness. The connection felt temporary and synthetic. I wanted to be seen and valued after the events were done. I wanted the people to be my people. It felt like performance, not friendship. My desire for connection and for attention felt most certainly unmeetable.

What I didn’t know was that the synthetic connection was also, in part, internal. Over time, I stopped seeing who I was underneath the performance. I wanted so badly to be seen, but I didn’t even see myself. The reaching out for attention has spread wide into a reaching for meaning, for understanding, for a place to belong in the universe.

As if I don’t already have my own place in the universe. As if I were incomplete. As if I didn’t matter unless someone else saw me and told me so.

Here’s the point. Attention is love. Pure and simple. We all need it, performers or not. It’s what happens when two or more people sit together and agree to be present. It doesn’t mean that there is total understanding. It doesn’t mean that there is artistic vision or innovation. It doesn’t mean that there is romance or commitment. It doesn’t mean that there is an immense task completed.  It means that for a snap second, you’re enough.

In learning how to do this for myself, it has become true with the people in my life.   I just finished staffing an amazing retreat for men called Noble Man. It’s part of the Celebration of Being, or COR development, and it blew my mind how much holding space for others healed my need to be held. The men went through such amazing transformation, and I was so happy to witness it, to be part of it, to contribute. I have a newfound respect for the masculine, and hope to continue this work with men so that they can help shift the power structures of the world today. But that’s another blog post. The point here is that I realized the I had the lens backwards. Surrounded by 24 amazing male participants, and a staff larger than that, I understood what I’ve been doing all along - looking deeply, seeing more than meets the eye.

I have asked for attention—for love, for vision and beauty. I still do. But it’s not something to be received. It has to be created, or better yet, co-created. In this year, as I’ve reached into facilitation and spiritual coaching I’ve realized this.  All the times I shouted Look!  I was actually saying I see you, I’m doing this for you. It’s a gift to be able to show up in so many places, and one I’m grateful I can share here with you.