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The Love You Didn’t Realize You Had, Turns Into the Attention You Seek

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The Love You Didn’t Realize You Had, Turns Into the Attention You Seek

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John Michael’s newest Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise column, “The Love You Didn’t Realize You Had, Turns Into the Attention You Seek,” is about facing and embracing all that life offers.


Understand that I don’t mind being the center of attention. I used to say, “Letting go of this is something I am working on.” But that might be improper phrasing because I’m not consciously “working” on anything other than loving myself and others. And even this may not be doing any good, but it’s how I use my mind.

However, I can feel myself evolving over time. Meaning, I experience noticeably less anxiety each year and noticeably more peace. So, as I grow, the ego games I play—like seeking attention—lessen as well.

I was at a coffee shop recently, where I am a regular. I was having three or four conversations at once, dancing around the place and showing off, making people laugh (either out of courtesy or for real). As I was leaving, I mentioned to a barista about me loving being the center of attention which is when it actually dawned on me that that was what I was doing. He replied with a smile and some sarcasm, “Yeah, you’re usually a stay-in-the-background kind of guy.”

I enjoy acting and public speaking, possibly as a healthier way of drawing attention to myself. I was evidently processing this because that afternoon I had the thought, There is no audience. As a person essentially seeking an audience my entire life, this thought shook up my psyche a little and I’m still processing it.

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I am aware enough now to understand I’m not seeking an audience or attention, really; I am seeking love and acceptance. One of my recent Hobo Metaphysics is: “The love you didn’t get, turns into the attention you seek.” I’m going to refine that now because, looking back, I was far more accepted than I realized. So: “The love you didn’t realize you had, turns into the attention you seek.”

“You’re afraid there won’t be love and acceptance there, and there may not be, so bring it there with you,” is another recent Hobo Metaphysic. As I love and accept myself more deeply, in other words, love and acceptance is what I find most places I go. Not me and my audience, just us.

If there is no audience, is there an actor? I’m not sure yet, but as best as I can tell, there are groups of people, not separate from each other, having experiences together. Any actor will tell you that the audience often determines the quality of the acting.

The best shows come when the audience is participating as much as the actors. The more deeply we participate in life, the deeper we experience life and our very self. Also, we grow deeper in wisdom the more we participate. Drawing attention to myself keeps my focus on me and I learn less about others, and I touch others less emotionally, and I am touched less emotionally by them. If I am focused on me and I draw them into focusing on me, it’s simply me showing off.

Humans, including me, try and avoid difficult and scary emotions, people, and situations. Trouble is they find us anyway. Instead of trying to avoid difficulties, embrace them.

The more deeply we participate in life, the deeper we experience life and our very self. Also, we grow deeper in wisdom the more we participate.

There is an interesting verse in the Koran about how God didn’t tell people to create Monasteries, that is something we did on our own. I take this to mean that God doesn’t want us to separate ourselves from our communities to worship him. He wants us to participate in life.

I must admit, I like to make people laugh. I wrote last week about some recent gain; I fluctuate between heavy and heavier. I participate in local open mics. I tell jokes, often about my weight (“this isn’t fat, it’s fat muscle”), I read my poetry, or I sing my songs. I noticed that, if I can get people to laugh right away, I feel confident and relaxed and my set is more enjoyable for me and, I assume, the people participating with me.

Several times over the years, while at the mic, something might not go right emotionally for me. Either people aren’t paying much attention to what I’m saying, or I will unintentionally say something that makes them uncomfortable. When that happens, I can feel myself taking flight, or crawling into my shame hole. The audience isn’t separate from me during these moments, either. They sense I’m ashamed and grow uncomfortable along with me, possibly feeling shame via empathy. Neither of us can wait for me to get off the stage. Eye contact is rarely made.

When I’m neither the actor nor the audience, when I am aware that I’m both, the more I learn and the more wisdom and love I can bring to a situation. One of my first Hobo Metaphysics was: “There is no separation between you and God, you only think that there is.” That statement is me riffing a little on Buddhist teaching: “There is no separation.” No me, no audience, just life experiencing itself.


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John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.