We All Want Attention
By Z Zoccolante
He shrugs and gets up from the wooden chair under the trees we’ve been sitting.
“Do you want or need a hug,” I say, as I do with all my client peeps.
“Do you,” he asks, and I laugh.
“Sure,” I say knowing he chooses the hug every time.
He turns. His hand lingers on the top of the chair. “Do you think it’s wrong that I pursue being around women,” he says. In our session, we’ve talked about how he uses female energy as a distraction from his life and the thoughts he doesn’t want to spin round in his head all day.
“I think it’s normal,” I say, “to want attention from females. The difference is what are you using it for?” I go on to explain that we have these emotional holes in us and often we use things to fill them as temporary relief. But the problem is that hole is still there. So maybe we also try to fill it with other things, like our own self-care. Then when we choose to be around women, we are aware of that choice, but it’s not our only choice.
He nods his head up and down in a short staccato.
“We all like attention,” I say, “Just have awareness around it.” I nod back and he wanders to the group clusters near the fences on their smoke break.
My client peeps teach me so many things. As I drive home that night, going into automatic mode on the highway, I don’t listen to music but instead, get lost in the forest of that conversation.
We all like attention, but we gotta have awareness around it otherwise, we can become careless with each other. We can use other people to fill an emptiness in us, and then discard them when we’re a different mood.
I’m reminded of a country song in which the guy sings of a woman who calls him late at night to come over and tells him all the sweet nothings he wants to hear from her. And he says, “The truth in the moment, the moment it’s over.”
I thought about that phrase for days, rolled it over like a sharp stone in my palms, “The truth in the moment.” When we are careless with each other we live only in the moment of us. We may tell people things that have flickers of truth, i love you, need you, want you. As the song says, “Baby I need you. I want to be closer. The truth in the moment, the moment it’s over.”
We are expert liars because in this moment our lies become truth. But the funny thing about truth is that truth lingers with a stake in the ground. It’s not something that can blow away in a gust, shrink under a rock when the sun comes out or when the drink or drug has worn its course.
There is a part of all of us that can love people deeply. The careless part is when we use them temporarily with no thought of these truths in the moment. The momentary truths are what dig into our palms, what stretch out our soft underbellies and open us up in a way that feels terrible later on, when we realize it’s not truth, it’s just the truth in the moment.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a guy in Italy. Me and friends and him were drinking Lemoncello on the patio and he says something like, I can be with her for a year or ten minutes and then I can be with someone else instead.
What is the problem, he said? And I pressed my lips together so I wouldn’t show my fangs. For him, there was no problem and that was fine, but even hearing that felt like a sharp stone being held in the distance.
For many of us, it’s not a problem. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me. Am I the only one who finds it hard to jump from person to person? No. I’m not.
I’m sure I’ve been careless with hearts. I think back on when I was younger, in my own addiction, and didn’t know how to balance what I wanted with what I needed. I think I pulled people in because I could but then didn’t want them too close so I’d push them away. I’m sure that felt bad and confusing, and probably like a tease.
But I think we all feel bad. I don’t think the people being careless with hearts are cruel humans who wish people harm. I think we all have guilt and shame. We all have our own little thoughts we long to escape from and sometimes we attempt to escape into someone else. Sometimes it works, for a little while.
Most of my life has been spent in extremes. Single and isolating, or married, so the in-between part is a strange mystery. There are all these fucked up rules that I know how to play to very well. Be mysterious. Be slightly unattainable. Don’t do nice things for them. Make them come every step to you. Blah Blah Blah.
The things is, I fucking hate games and I don’t want to fuck with someone just to get them interested and then show the real me only to watch them wander away. I’m the girl who will text you back. The one who’s got your back. I try not to hide shit because that doesn’t work out so well. I’m actually nice and kind. And yes, I am a bitch too, but it takes a bit to push me. I am the girl who will walk away from you after trying too hard, but I’ll do my best to be as loving as possible rather than tear out your jugular. I’m still figuring all this shit out as we all are, just trying to do my best.
My client’s question comes back, front and center in my mind. I picture a box, the size of a large coffee cup, square and empty like a black hole. Enter into this box whatever we most desire that we feel we lack. Maybe it’s love, God, connection, safety, stability, all the many things it could be.
We are pretty simple humans at the end of the day, and we all want similar things. Love. Relief. Happiness.
I think about us walking around with this black hole of a box lingering inside our abdomen dying to be fed, searching for anything we think will work to feed this deep-rooted hunger.
I think about how we use people, and don’t even mean to.
The empty box just screams, fill me.
We all want attention but maybe the person we really want attention from is ourselves. Maybe we’d like to love ourselves more. Maybe we’d like our minds to be a safe space to hang out to relax and put our feet up.
I think about the ways in which I escape from my life and I think about bringing more awareness to them.
I think about first doing things of my own to fill the empty box before I go searching in the world.
And maybe that’s the solution. Taking care of ourselves first and then being aware of how we seek attention, how we use distraction so that we can care for ourselves, and each other.
Maybe the empty box will always be there but we are responsible for caretaking it, not just filling it up with temporary things and hurting others in the process.
The kindest thing we can ever do for those around us is our own self-care.