Sunday, August 17, 2008

I think it says a lot about me that it's easier and a whole lot more interesting for me to write about questions and than it is to write about resolutions. Whenever I sit down to try to write out some of the things I've been learning this summer, it just sounds so corny. Like the final chapter of a bad self-help book.  And on top of that, as soon as I learn something new, something that feels like a revelation, it seems immediately obvious, as if it had been staring me in the face all along.  Everyone on the planet must know this stuff except clue-less me.  But here is some, mainly because otherwise I don't have anything to write about.  

I have trust issues.  I don't trust much of anyone, and I certainly don't trust that the world is a safe place to be.  I could go into a therapy-style litany of all the reasons why that is true, all the bad things that happened to me when I was a child and along the way, but I'm not sure that's any excuse.  Plenty of people who trust just fine have difficult issues in their past.  I think it just has to do with the way I'm wired.  

But I've been working very hard on the Buddhist idea of keeping an open heart, which involves letting yourself be vulnerable, which means trusting.  It has become important to me for purely selfish reasons-- because when I manage it, when for a few minutes or hours I can drop all my defenses and just be there, it feels so amazingly good.  It's so much better than being hard and cynical and closed up tight like a fist.  But it isn't easy.  It is impossible for me to ignore that anyone can hurt you, even when they have the best of intentions.  Maybe even especially if they have good intentions.  And bad things can happen at any moment.  (Remember the Northern Exposure episode where Maggie's boyfriend was killed by a satellite that fell out of the sky?)  How do you manage this?  How do you stay open and spacious, without feeling like you're leaving yourself exposed to every little awful thing that can happen?  

I have no definitive answers, but some things have helped.  First of all, staying closed up tight doesn't solve the problem.  It might make you slightly more prepared defensively for bad things that might happen, but for the most part, it doesn't stop them from happening.  And you miss out on so much by always being on your guard.  But more important than that, it's occurred to me that the key to trust isn't trusting others, or trusting the universe, or at least not for me.  The key is learning to trust myself.  Yes, this person might hurt me, but I'll be OK.  I can handle this.  Something bad might be around the corner, but I know from past experience that I can get through it.  I'll be all right no matter what.

Ack.  My scared-self is already kicking in again.  It seems so arrogant to say that, like I'm asking to be tested.  There are so many things that could happen that I would not be all right about, that I could never recover from.  most of them involving my children's health and safety.  But the point still stands.  I'm working on it.


  1. There is a great quote from Howards End by E.M.Forster. "Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere. WITH INFINITE EFFORT WE NERVE OURSELVES FOR A CRISIS THAT NEVER COMES. The most successful career must show a waste of strength that might have removed mountains, and the most unsuccessful is not that of a man who is taken unprepared, but of HIM WHO HAS PREPARED AND IS NEVER TAKEN. On a tragedy of that kind our national morality is duly silent. It assumes that PREPARATION AGAINST DANGER IS IN ITSELF A GOD, AND THAT MEN, LIKE NATIONS ARE THE BETTER FOR STAGGERING THROUGH LIFE FULLY ARMED." (emphasis mine)

    My current issue is a kind of hopelessness that leads me to put off starting anything challenging because I don't feel capable of dealing with the obstacles . . . . Sometimes the grocery store feels "challenging" :)

  2. You know, cheery-o, in hindsight it has struck me that neither of us mentioned a protective God who is trustworthy and who will keep bad things from happening. A sign of age, perhaps? :-) because by this time most of us know that if there is a protective God out there, his/her definition of what we need to be protected from is far different from our own, so different as to almost need a different word than trustworthy.

    I've been dealing with the lack of confidence re: obstacles for some time. But I finally realized last spring that challenges are what keep me from losing interest. To try and make life smooth and challenge free is to die a little, I think. For me, anyway. So I plunged off a cliff and signed up to take CHINESE this fall. I'm two weeks into it now and wondering what the heck I was thinking. It's definitely a challenge, anyway. And I have to admit it has perked me up a bit to have to rise to the occasion.