I recently downloaded Kalesha Brown’s “How Many Times (Remix) from Amazon’s digital music store. I’ve listened twice in the middle of de-gunking my grandmother’s car. Brown sings:
“How many times am I supposed to cry thinking about what’s happening to me?”
When we think about the passion we invest in a connecting relationship we end up asking, how many times?
I’ve been asked many times why I don’t have a life partner yet. I’m consistently questioned, almost harassed by people who know me.
Why haven’t I committed to a lover yet? Why am I not engaged? Why am I holding off on dating? Why do I only have friends or simple intimate pleasures?
The answer is found among the lyrics in “How Many Times”.
The song paints a palette of lingering desperation. Listening to her plea, I remember the collected, desperate attempts I’ve made to connect with people. And I grieve.
I never truly allowed myself to see bad, toxic patterns. I was so invested in helping them feel needed, wanted, and happy. I never understood how their lack of care damaged my spirit. It’s similar to that “New Rules” song by Dua Lipa.
I’ve had to learn not to let people in. When you’re extroverted and kind, no person is a stranger. Every one is a person you can let in. Surely, they all will devote as much effort to you as you give away.
I’ve given time to men and women who are so self-absorbed with their own stories, their own positions, that they fall short in truly grasping how much I’ve supported them.
I’ve supported family members with money I didn’t have. I’ve purchased gifts with funds I could’ve invested in myself. I’ve fueled cars that don’t come visit me when I’m in distress. I’ve poured coffee for jerks who paid me lip-service only to insult and malign my compassion. I’ve been the cheerleader and therapist to grief-stricken idiots who act as though my efforts are less important than their own ego. I’m still kind and still there. And rarely is a sense of gratefulness reciprocated after the person finished getting my assistance. And I still help PEOPLE because it’s a vocation. It’s a character thing. I don’t know how to be truly manipulative. It’s not in me to be that.
My question is: How many times?
How many times do I get hurt before I take care of myself?
There’s a concept called “relational trust” that I learned about when I started reading the “Boundaries” series by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
They basically state that “relational trust” is a social trust in which a person can be relied on to “handle with care” an emotional or psycho-social tender point while in relationship.
The person with great “relational trust” is able to demonstrative a supportive empathy when their friends or family members share a painfully, trauma experience, and need feedback or encouragement.
I learned that we cannot expect a person that doesn’t have relational trust to not shame a person struggling with trauma. When you get the message that your traumatic feelings are silly, basic, or weird… the person you’re vulnerable to is not in a good enough place.
So when Brown sings about “giving others every piece” only to experience loss and isolation, she is sharing from a place of immense suffering.
How many times will we process the pain of abandonment over again?
Some of us never find the source of the pain. We invest our money in shiny new appliances, fancy new cars, a high-stakes job, a higher education commitment. We believe that achievement can shield us from a loss that only heals when the sufferer decides to confront the heart and soul.
As a disabled adult, compassion is something that I easily give away. Spiritually, I am often committed to helping those in distress. That call is central to why my work in library and information science is still rewarding after nearly two years.
Through my work in the Humanities, I slowly shifted my thinking from “how many times” to “fewer times If ever”.
I learned that human beings will tell whatever story suits their best narrative. They will cheat the kindest person out of valuable time if they feel threatened enough. They will manufacture a story where the facts should be. This will happen as often as is necessary because human don’t always face their deepest fears with the right medicine.
So, it’s pointless to believe that you can love a person into facing hard truths. You cannot. How many times will it take for a woman to understand she’s probably not dating the right man?
The answer is: As many times as it takes for her to learn to place a higher value on herself.
How many times does it take for a gay man to stop choosing a man who looks aesthetically pleasing but has the wrong values? The answer is: It might take a lifetime. How long is the person suffering willing to wait for that man to grow? Who really knows?
How long would it take a disabled man to admit he needs therapy? Maybe never. We cannot depend on emotional vulnerability and the giving of our whole self… to change stubborn people. Some people are literally too self-absorbed to care about how much you’ve given them.
Apostle Paul wrote that love is patient, kind and unselfish. But if we’re honest, we have to be selfish some of the time. We can reverse the desperation and pleading of “How Many Times” and re-frame the question with consistent effort.
We can say that until a toxic friend sees my value… I’ll limit what I share. We can say to ourselves: I’ll be more introverted and less extroverted if that means I can sleep peacefully at night.
We can hope that the person we love matures. We can support them in more calculated ways even if that means calling them a little less than we used to.
We can change desperation into development. Against my will, my English degree helped me learn to be an analyst. And I consistently hunger for meaning. The heart and soul has to be broken before it matures. When people share their lives with me, they reveal experiences. I empathize.
Through that empathy, I’ve evaluated my worth and changed where I invest my energy. Sometimes I am still haunted by the shadow of my old happy, idiotic self. The self that let people tell me that I never had a choice in where my life went.
I was the joyful idiot that loved hanging off status-driven people. Now, the goal is real connection, authentic sharing, grateful people, and understanding gray areas.
I don’t ask myself how many times… I ask myself where is the real story? What are they really saying with their actions, motives, and feelings? When I do this, I am forced to face my human limits. And only there do I emerge… determined to see spirit and heart over surfaces and emptiness.
Some say that I’ve changed because I ask more questions. But if I had a nickel for how many times I’ve been shamed for my personal changes, I could put a down-payment on my own home.
How many times have I doubted my worth ? I don’t have a countable number. But the one thing I’m sure of: I listen well and often. And I’m constantly powering through old triggers. And I’m done worrying about how many times I say “No.”
I’m done hurting myself for praise. How many times will I analyze patterns? As much I feel obliged to…
I question my own patterns… so it’s unreasonable to think yours are off-limits. Humans hunger to be understood, accepted, and included. I’m recovering from how many times I didn’t acknowledge that hunger in my own soul. I am done believing “everything but the truth. ”
Note: Bold lyric in first paragraph refers to “How Many Times” , a music track by Kalesha Brown. The track is available at all music retailers.