26 November, 2008

Making up for the last two: A serious post about trust.


"Trust is tough to muster these days, since its perils have never been more obvious: Trust the government and end up in some Godforsaken desert across the seas, launching heavy munitions at sleeping innocents based on bad intelligence. Trust in the institution of marriage and find yourself penniless with three hungry mouths to feed after that dreamy tall-talking bastard skips town for the last time. Trust the stock market and watch your life savings evaporate in a few days, reappear and evaporate again, defying the common wisdom of every investment guru on the planet. Trust in your family and feed on a daily diet of small disappointments as they fail to live up to your enormous expectations of them. Trust your friends and struggle in vain to free them from their favorite bad habits, year after year, until you're all too old and insufferable to tolerate one another's company anyway." --Heather Havrilesky.

I have been thinking a lot about trust lately. Specifically, for the last two months or so. Even more specifically, since 8:05 PM 2 October 2008, when I met someone whom I want to trust more than I have ever wanted anything. No, really. A-ny-thing.

But it's tough, trusting people. Well, tough for me. I can't speak for all of humanity here. But I would wager that most people would agree with me on this. Those that don't must have had very boring, predictable lives. Or have never been dumped on their birthday. Via a four-sentence email. I'm just saying.

Seriously, you guys know what I'm talking about, right? Trust equals vulnerability, and that is really, really scary. You never know when someone is going to turn on you suddenly, like a pit bull from the pound. It seems simple enough at first. Lesson learned: avoid dogs with locking jaws.* But then somehow, after one bad encounter and a few close calls, every dog starts to remind you of that damn pit bull that tried to rip your face off, and almost succeeded. You look at the scar on your leg and remember the hospital and the five stitches and you think to yourself, what if this happens again? Am I ever going to be able to have a dog sit at my feet and know, with absolute certainty, that this creature would never, not in a million years, hurt me? You keep thinking that you will reach that point, but maybe the dog will flinch while he's sleeping and it all comes rushing back to you, and you end up cowering on the other side of the room.

So you get a cat. Not really. I'm divorcing myself from this analogy and returning to the subject at hand.

A lot of bad things have happened to me. I don't care to enumerate them, but know that there are plenty, some worse than others. People, and institutions, and ideals have failed me when they shouldn't have, and made me into the badly adjusted person I am today. I feel a lot like the quote at the top sometimes. How can anyone really let go of their fear and paranoia long enough to have a happy life? Is it possible to not live in constant fear that you're going to lose what you have and never get it back? On the other hand though, if you're too afraid to let something (or someone) into your life in the first place, your chances for happiness are clearly zero. So what is there to do?

I know the answer to that. It wasn't a rhetorical question. The answer is: Let those things (and people) into your life even though there is a distinct possibility that you will end up hurt. Give them a real chance to flourish, not just a half-hearted one (see my post on Alma 32). Learn to ride it out if (Not when? Look at me go...) you do end up hurt. And then keep moving forward.

It sounds so simple when you put it that way, doesn't it?

*Addendum: The "Locking jaw" thing with regard to pit bulls is a myth. I know that. I was just using hyperbole, for emphasis.

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