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.