I haven't spoken or written much about my previous relationships. Although, if you have ever been to one of my concerts, songs about exes certainly make their way into my repertoire. I think I have written more songs about love and heartbreak than anything else (except for maybe depression and how much my life sucked).
When it comes to talking out loud about previous relationships though, I get gun shy. There's a million reasons, the least of which is that I have a child to one of them. I can't air that laundry publically without it impacting my son. So I don't and I won’t but there's more to it than that even. For me, relationships are two sided (obviously that's the very nature of a relationship). I am keenly aware that there is my perspective but I am also aware of the perspective of the other person. Here is the true crux of it: I was a shitty person to be in a relationship with. No one like to admit that out loud.
The fact is, that even as a child, I was obsessed with boys. I wanted so desperately to be liked that I would do almost anything to get attention and it certainly didn't get better with hormones. Good God, add hormones to a lack of self esteem and a desperate need for attention and love and it’s like the emotional version of an apocalypse. Life at home by the time I was a teenager was next to excruciating for me and in my head all I wanted was someone to rescue me. Hell, I named a song ‘Rescue Me’. I thought if I could just get the right man to love me then maybe he would sweep in and take me off into the sunset and life would be grand.
Oh how it doesn't work like that. It couldn't work like that because no matter who I dated it wasn't enough. I was this gaping vortex of neediness. I needed to be wanted. I needed to be desired. I needed space. I needed to be needed. Need need need. More needs that one man could handle and the attention span of a goldfish. It was all about me and I hated myself. I hated my past. I hated my life and I hated myself. I was ashamed and so to cover that up I needed people to like me. Men were a whole lot easier to win over or manipulate if you want to see it in it’s full truth. I knew how to get the attention of a man. It wasn't healthy and it wasn't substantial or even remotely good for me or for them but I was so full of neediness I was blinded to what I was doing to myself or doing to those around me. Let alone to the poor men who actually did fall in love with this broken, fragile creature who would love on them one minute and hate on them the next.
Women on the other hand, were a threat. I was scared shitless by women. I always felt inadequate and unworthy of friendship (and my behavior matched that perfectly). I was like a loaded gun pointed at any relationship because I did not see a man in a relationship as completely off limits. I just saw another opportunity to get attention. To compete. Even if I didn’t even like the man. Far out, typing this makes me almost want to vomit. It’s a hard pill to swallow, that kind of truth. It disgusts me really and there’s no amount of sugar coating it that’s going to make it easier to spell out or admit but it’s there, in my past (thankfully not my present), and while I don’t like it, at the very least at least I don’t have to live it anymore and truthfully, I didn’t know better. I was young, I was damaged, I had never been taught to get healthy forms of love and attention and I was like an addict, willing to do almost anything just to be told I was not a worthless waste of space. Sober I was able to be led a little more by my conscience and to not take any action on these thoughts and attention seeking behaviours but add alcohol and self control was something I simply didn’t possess. All I can say is thank God I gave up drinking when I did. It has so far saved me (and others) from another decade of hell. I was 23 when I got sober, and with it came a different way of operating.
The truth was that no amount of attention, love or otherwise, from another person could ever fill the void I had in me. I had to learn to love myself. I had to learn to like who I was, to value my strengths and accept and be gentle with my weaknesses. That also came with a willingness to work on myself and become a person that I was proud of and that took time, effort, commitment and an openness to the possibility of change.
At some point I have learnt that I am simultaneously enough, AND not finished yet. I’m imperfect, unpolished, damaged, scarred and broken and beautiful. I am human. With an infinite amount of purpose and positivity to offer the world. With the capacity to help and heal and connect and build. With an ability to grow and learn and do better. I have ears to listen, eyes to see and a heart to love. I’m not finished yet, but just as I am, I am enough. Worthy of love, worthy of looking after and worthy of investing in and nurturing. Just like everyone else is.
As I have learnt this, and ‘uncovered’ this truth in my life, and let it sink into the way that I operate and how I process my own thoughts and feelings and the world around me, it has unravelled a lot of the old, damaging, behaviours. My worth is no longer tied up in the attention I can get from strangers. Not even close. My worth is not built on what I can do to impress people I don’t know or care about. My worth is built on a more solid foundation and I am much more nourished by being respected and loved by those who really know me (faults and all) than being desired by those who don’t.
It’s kind of like candy, when what you really need is some healthy food that’s going to build your strength and nourish you. You’re hungry, the cravings are there, and if you keep taking the quick fix, you don’t understand why you keep crashing down from the sugar high and needing another one 15 minutes later. You just know you’re craving something that both doesn’t last and fills you with remorse and more disgust in yourself. But once you begin to be truly satiated by something more substantial like self respect, kindness, and real sustainable love and you can let that in and digest it, you stop trying to live off candy and making yourself sick.