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Apr 23

Day 23: He just wants attention (So, why not give it to him?) Greed

I am not greedy for money. My relationship with money is wishy-washy. I am greedy for connection and attention.

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LOOK AT ME! I AM ON THE RADIO!!!

At a Wal-mart in Cordele, GA, I asked a couple if this was the correct road to get to the Okeefenokee swamp because the map was unclear, and GPS has not yet been put on my phone. They were delightful folks. We talked about this and that and they told me stories about their Cordele life and spending time at the swamps. They excused themselves to grocery shop at the Wal-mart. Before I got back in the car, I looked at the hundred cars in the parking lots, the drivers going past me on GA Hwy 280, and the speeding rush of humanity on I-75. I wanted to know them all. I wanted to meet everyone in GA and hear their stories.

I realized I was missing millions, billions of people I would never meet.  Countless stories I would never hear hung out of ear range across the planet. So many hands I would never shake; so many hugs I would never give, so many friends I would never have.

It filled me with a desire to meet as many other humans as I could, and to connect with them. I yearned to establish channels of rapport and provide support and kind words to all of the folks I could.

This was not the first time that these feelings and desires had popped up in my life….but this was the day that I became more than just a “friendly guy,” and became a seeker of connection. That is the word I have used since.

Tony Robbins suggests that all of us in life have one question we try to answer and that it drives our decisions. Mine is “How do I connect here?”

Why? There are reasons. I grew up in a two-bedroom home with nine people, yet in my youth I had little connection with my peers. Crowded like, with no real friends. As my daughter once commented, “Jesus, Dad, I knew you weren’t popular, but didn’t know you were a pariah!” It is true…I was a pariah. It took me many years to establish healthy friendships. Most of my friends in my early grades of school were also outsiders, folks on the fringe. Many ended up as career criminals, and some didn’t make it to adulthood. Eventually, I found a best friend who was probably on the spectrum.

The 18th month period that began when I was 14 and ended when I was almost sixteen radically changed my life with disaster and bibliotherapy.  My father passed away and I drifted into a fugue state for several months.  I encountered for the first time the works of Victor Frankel in Man’s Search for Meaning. If you haven’t read it…please do. It taught me that all beliefs fall down and only action, willful action, matters. Then I discovered the joy that is Leo Buscaglia, in his seminal book: Love. I learned that love is the most beautiful action of all. That it is not a feeling or desire. It is willful action to put someone else’s needs above your own. It is sacrificed and it is commitment and it is giving and welcoming and it’s up to us to make it happen.

The third impactful book that came to me was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.  It provided a concrete path to communicate with others and express the love that had been going on.

But none of this is bad…is it? Not so far.

The problem is that in fourth grade I found one friend. I am not talking about neighborhood kids because honestly they still called me a dirtbag, for surely that was my nickname, and I was included in games because they needed another player and it was never a solidarity with most of the kids in the neighborhood. It was primarily school friends who I also hung out with after school.

By eight grade I had developed multiple friends, maybe as many as ten, maybe twelve.  I was still unpopular enough that there is a school legend that I was originally cast as Jacob in Joseph and Technicolor Dream Coat, but I was removed because Jacob’s wives objected to me as gross. I had been told this from many kids during that year, but I never checked. Even today I don’t want to know.

By my junior year of High School I had a lot of friends and even more acquaintances. When I graduated I was actually popular. My secret was simple: try to like other people more than they liked me. In fact, I stopped caring if people liked me and focused on whether they felt liked. It’s the fast way to be liked.

I loved those days and still do.

Life got in the way, and I married someone who was relatively anti-social.  My social life dwindled and I was constantly sad, longing for something I didn’t have. I built a career, raised three awesome humans, and did a lot of yard work I didn’t enjoy. I suffered chronic and miserable back problems. And I always wanted more.

In a Wal-Mart parking lot, I realized I was greedy…I was filled with avarice….for people.

I am lucky beyond belief to know so many people today. I am humbled by this cadre of great friends and associates that beggar my desire. This is because I am greedy for contact, thirsty for connection.

Those around me who are introverts find my contact needs to be attention needs. I do what I do to be the center of attention, not to benefit others. I am just tooting my own horn, and the horns of other things because I am just trying to make friends.

To me, and I try to be as honest as possible, I am a loud guy who talks a lot, loves to hug people, and is sincerely interested in other people. Yes, I like meeting new people. Yes, I like applause. So what? I work as hard as I can to be humble in myself but to have fun doing the things I like.

As a child who grew up with an overriding sense of neglect, I loathe the expression “He’s just doing this because he needs attention.”

Yeah?

Well, then…give him some god damn attention. He’s apparently deficient.

I will always try to give you my attention because that’s how I show love.

 


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