Learning to Love (and Hold Out For) Positive Attention

April 03, 2009

I have been behaving badly. In the past two weeks I have caught myself indulging in said frowned upon behavior: whining, yelling, whining some more when the yelling doesn’t pan out, pointing out flaws without any sense of compassion, being self-involved, speaking either meanly and/or shortly to those around me (and by around me, I mostly mean to C, since lets be honest, it’s a small island). This is not to say I have ONLY been behaving badly. I have been nice sometimes too, I am not a complete asshole, but I have been what my grandmother would refer to as “quite a pill.”

In my defense, I have been feeling defensive. I have been feeling fat and unproductive and lethargic, which has of course led me to be insecure and anxious and low-self-esteemed, which in turn has me banging around in my relationship under the misconception that since I don’t deserve positive attention, I’ll settle for whatever else I can get, thereby returning to my previous deep-rooted penchant for negative attention. DANGER.

So I stomped around and flailed and drove my sweet, absolutely-undeserving-of-this-type-of-treatment, girlfriend crazy on my way to the brink of a total meltdown, at which time (for the first time ever) I found myself with these words for her: I am scared. I am feeling badly about myself. It has me feeling undeserving of your love and attention to the point where, in my delirium, I can’t even believe it exists. I am falling back on an old, and very scary, relationship pattern where the basic presumption is upon the fact that fighting is indicative of passion and therefore you must still love me. And I was astonished.

And this type of bad behavior is all too universal. People believe that  a relationship without discord is without passion and love. People like to lock horns. I like to lock horns. In the past it has made me feel all kinds of loved and reassured and happy. It has not, however, provided for lasting and merry relationships. And the truth is, you don’t need to rely upon negative attention, but you do need to hunker down and take a deep breath because positive attention does not present itself at every moment and may not take the forms that you best understand or desire. Waiting for a true and honest romantic moment is hard, and for those of us who are troubled with impaired self esteem or have major relationship hurts in our pasts, it can seem like the moments between grand admissions of love are ten times as long and anguishing to get through.

It does not have to be that way. You do not need to hold your breath between the I love yous or the you‘re so beautifuls, because they have not evaporated when they aren’t immediately apparent. Have some faith. Hold on tight. I promise you, a spontaneous word of kindness feels much better than a shouted insult, no matter what your previous experience has told you indicated love.