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An Innocent Man

It wasn’t a typical Saturday. But it was somewhat reminiscent of my hours leading up to doing a live television program; or conducting interviews with a popular celebrity under the hot lights of a studio set. I woke up early and refreshed because I had a film crew coming to my home to shoot a video about my book, Live Your Playlist, and the journey of that story. While I’m perfectly capable of doing my own hair and makeup, special moments call for special treatments. And so, I turned to my hair and makeup crew from my TV days to make me glamorous! Somewhere between the under eye concealer and mascara, my makeup artist pointedly asked, “So, do you have a man?” I swear that question is never ending. But I’ve known him long enough now that it never bothers me when he asks. I told him that I’d been out on a few dates. He knew enough about my dating history to know that I’d been put through the ringer a couple of years ago. And so he responded, “Anyone who goes out with you will have to go through a series of background checks before they pass the test!” He was kind of joking, but not completely. I laughed, and then argued that his theory wasn’t true. But I understood the point he was trying to make. This man who is a master at painting on faces was suggesting that I would be skeptical of every face that came into my life until they proved themselves trustworthy. Fool me once? Maybe. But a second time? Hopefully not.

I believe that I’ve learned enough about human behavior to see through most disguises, no matter what face someone puts on. My makeup artist’s theory may sound harsh to some people. Almost unfair. Like a woman filled with skepticism. (Although men have been burned in relationships too, so even guys might feel the same way). But none of those words - harsh, unfair, or skeptic - describe me. (Except when something sounds too good to be true, then I’m definitely a skeptic). The exchange between me and the man putting on my face definitely got me thinking about how we can project baggage from our past onto our present and future relationships.

If you read my blog regularly, and know about my book, you’re aware that music has a powerful effect on my thoughts and emotions. I think that “playlist therapy” has the same effect on all of us. It helps us work out those moments in life that weigh heavy on our minds and in our hearts. Do you ever have a day when you play the same song over and over again? When that happens, the melody and lyrics are speaking to you. The songwriter is giving you words that you can’t formulate on your tongue, but that you can feel in your soul. I remember when I was a teenager, I would often call into one of those evening radio programs that took dedication requests. I’m sure I opted for a sentimental love song by Phil Collins, or a hair band classic like “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” when making a dedication to my crush connection. Sometimes, lyrics are simple and straightforward. And others are special gems written by one of the greats who are able to capture human emotion in a profound and beautiful way. I came upon one of those songs the other day. It wasn’t a #1 hit (although it did peak at #10 on the Billboard charts). And it perfectly captures the truth of how people project pains of their past relationships onto new ones. Have you ever made someone suffer the consequences of another person’s mistakes? I have. So when I listened to Billy Joel sing “An Innocent Man” the other day, I put his song on repeat. I let the lyrics sink in. I dissected them. And then, I let them marinate a little longer.

You’ve had your heart broken. And you’re afraid someone will do it again, so you stay guarded. Your wall is made of thick concrete. Someone betrayed you, and you’ll be damned if anyone will ever do it again. So you choose to trust no one. You had someone make promises to you. Promises that were broken. And so you’ve decided that you will never believe in promises again. Someone let you down. And it rocked you to your core. Maybe it almost broke you. And while you figured out how to put the pieces back together, you decided that you would never let someone get that close to you again. Does any of this sound familiar?

I recently took inventory of the great loves of my life. There weren’t many. Two, maybe three. These were people who I thought would be in my life forever. And when things didn’t work out, I’m sure I uttered beneath my breath, “I wish I never met you.” That’s the dramatic finale when one is left brokenhearted because of course we want to wish away our pain (which includes the ones who caused it). But now that I’ve had distance from those relationships, I don’t feel that way at all. I’m grateful to each one of them. They taught me what it felt like to love; how to learn from mistakes; what a healthy and unhealthy relationship looks like; what is worth compromising and what is a hard limit; and how to be a better person (when I wasn’t always a great one).

If you’re feeling stuck, work on becoming grateful for your past experiences. If you’ve truly learned from them, they’ve made you a wiser person. And if you’re hoping to move forward, be cautious about overly projecting your past. People aren’t perfect. And sometimes they mess up. But there are a lot of good people out there too. If you use the lessons you’ve learned from the not-so-innocent, you’ll have an easier time recognizing the innocent.

Andrea Vecchio

About the author

Andrea Vecchio (@andreavecchio) is the founder and author of Live Your Playlist, creator and host of the digital series Driving Cleveland, motivational speaker, life strategist, and Emmy-nominated television host.

3 comments on “An Innocent Man”

  1. Karen Reply

    Certain songs just speak directly to you.
    ” the melody and lyrics are speaking to you. The songwriter is giving you words that you can’t formulate on your tongue, but that you can feel in your soul”
    Great thoughts.

  2. David Reply

    I believe we all have songs that touch us, speak to us and provide a connection to our feelings and emotions. Mostly because we all have the same feelings and longing for love, compassion and acceptance. It’s our human nature. I’ve found comfort in the lyrics, for a time. Eventually, I’ve found what you have found: my expectations and the expectations of my partner don’t always match up. In time of conflict, it becomes difficult to let go of our attachments to our expectations. That’s usually the time the relationship turns sour. We begin to feel many things, including being unappreciated. It’s taken a long time for me to learn that each of us just wants to be heard, respected and loved. I’ve found it’s pretty easy to love someone, it’s much more difficult to be loved the way you want to be loved. That one lesson has provided me with great loves in my life. I truly believe very few people set out to create pain and suffering in others. The pain and suffering I’ve experienced has usually come from my unmet expectations, expectations that were never fully expressed to my partner. That put them in an unfair judgment from me. The relationship just spiral’s out of control because my partner is experiencing the same feelings.

    Too enjoy the company of another, without the judgments and expectations takes a great amount of effort, but every time I practice dropping them from my mind, every experience is more meaningful, more fulfilling. And oddly enough, the songs have a different meaning. Phil Collins, I don’t care anymore, sounds like an angry, bitter song. Now when I hear it, I hear a song of regret. Regret for not taking more time to work with expectations and judgments he had in his marriage.

    Maybe we can all take a moment to pause and try to understand the other person first, before we allow ourselves the belief that we have been wronged. I don’t know. I can only smile when I’ve made a mistake!

    David

    • Andrea Vecchio Andrea Vecchio Reply

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts David!

      Seeing a situation through someone else’s eyes is so difficult when we’re consumed by our own feelings (understandably so – it’s just human nature). Communication and respect are keys to healthy relationships. You shared many great points in your email. It sounds like you have a healthy approach. And I agree, Phil Collins has some of the best relationship tunes! Thanks for reminding me. I’ll have to add him to my playlist :)

      Andrea

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