By - Jaclyn Lanae
His wrinkled, rough fingers moved across my palm, tracing my love line toward the base of my fingers. "You're high maintenance." The words hung heavily in the space between us for a fraction of a moment. "You just need to have your ego stroked," he added in an apparent effort to absolve me of the negative connotation. "I just don't see your current relationship working out." Those words were heavy. Particularly so, considering I was in the process of packing up my entire life to move to another continent in pursuit of a love I believed to be infinitely more hopeful than any I'd ever had.
I left the holistic fair feeling as though I were cloaked in shame and shrouded by judgment for the rest of the day. As the sun turned the sky gold, I ignored the mountain of boxes and luggage, changed into sweats, and sat on the steps absently stirring my mug of hot chocolate. I spend less than 15 minutes in the shower and rarely wear makeup, I reasoned. I'm fiercely independent, and I adored my single life, pre-South American boyfriend. I have my own career and money. Me? High maintenance? Excuse Moi?
There's nothing wrong with high maintenance. In fact, I'd argue we could all use a little more of the kind of self-love that is often filed under that label. Regular nail and hair appointments are rare opportunities to show ourselves some love. The half-hour skincare routine to which we adhere faithfully every night reminds us that we are fabulous and we deserve at least this much. "My" version of high maintenance, the one suggested by the palm reader, implied that I needed validation from someone else. That chafed more than the cloak of shame itself.
I've built "independent" right into the foundation of my pride and self-worth. One of the reasons I love who I am as a person. My "I don't need anyone and can take care of myself" mantra had been the glue that held the broken pieces of my heart together after the last failed relationship. I believed it was also a significant part of the reason I felt I could have hope in the new one. Even if I moved my whole life to the southern hemisphere and things didn't work out, I would still be able to find happiness alone. And if the worst happened, I would at least have had the adventure of a lifetime.
But if I was high maintenance, perhaps it would go exactly as the palm reader had said and end in heartbreak like all the others. Sipping the sugary deliciousness from my mug, I pulled up memories of old relationships like files from a dusty box in my mind, scrutinizing each and then tossing them aside. I'd been insecure, yes, but I had spent an incredible amount of time working on that in the past few years, and I didn't feel it now. The last partner hadn't seemed truly happy with me, but that wasn't anything I could control. I hadn't really felt loved. That final thought had not even fully coalesced in my mind when I nearly dropped my mug. There it was—the very point of the aged healer's words. I had needed to feel loved. In my way. With words.
As I stared into the empty mug in my hands, I realized the label was accurate. I am high maintenance. Emotionally, at least. The cloak of shame seemed suddenly to take on the weight of a lead blanket. It wasn't judgment from the palm reader, not even that of a greater society. It was my judgment of myself. I had tried to be the kind of woman that didn't need validation from others for years. In truth, that's where the independent mantra and associated self-work had come from.