Trust in me

Adapt

Thanks to Karen at YSM|ink, I’ve been thinking about trust.

Such a big thing, trust. Such high stakes. Get it wrong, and depending on who you’re dealing with, it could cost you your life. For me, with the expection of one person, the stakes have not been that high, but the risk of being hurt is present with every single person I encounter, and most people I know have turned out not to be worthy of my trust. I don’t think that’s unusual. Humans are unreliable. What we do best is adapt, so nothing for any of us is the same all the time, including our willingness to betray someone else’s trust if it suits us to do so.

In this life, the only two things that are always true are:

  1. Nothing stays the same. This too shall pass.
  2. Everything and everyone ends sooner or later.

Other than that, it’s all up for grabs. What I finally came up with this morning, laying in bed opening to my heart’s reaction to the idea, is that trust is just another expectation, really, and so not something I invest emotional capital in anymore, and that’s okay cuz I was never very good at it to begin with.

Not that surprising, I don’t think, for someone whose first experience of life was loss. Being taken from my mother seconds after birth did not set me up for a lifetime of trust. I have no idea how my baby brain and heart processed those first few weeks of life, but I’m sure trust in anything or anyone was not in the mix. It never got much better, really.

I was trying to think this morning of a single person in my life who had not betrayed my trust and I couldn’t come up with anyone until I thought of my grandmother – my Nana – who I really don’t believe ever let me down. That’s it, though, she’s the only one. Family members…friends…co-workers…nope…not a single person in the parade of folks passing through my 57 years of life has proven worthy of my trust.

Some have been flaming, banner in the sky, heart-deadening betrayals, others much smaller, but all have done damage. Some years ago, one quite recently. Some of the people I counted on the most. Some surprised me, others didn’t. They all hurt, though, and changed me in some way.

So trust is not useful to me. Trust is an expectation that someone won’t hurt me and that’s just setting myself up for disappointment, like all other expectations, because it’s unlikely to ever be true. That’s just not the way human beings are. We think of ourselves first, and ultimately, if it comes down to me or you, I’m going to choose me. That’s simply human nature and to expect something different, to trust that someone is not going to hurt you at some point just isn’t realistic.

I don’t ever feel safe with people. With the exception of my Nana, I don’t think I ever have. Not completely. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop my whole life. But here’s the surprising thing I realized this morning:

I think that’s a good thing.

Does that surprise you? It surprised me this morning as that was not at all what I thought I was thinking or feeling. Hmm…

I have allowed people to hurt me and that’s too bad. I was naive and just so desperate for human connection and validation that I left myself open to abuse. I put my heart in other people’s hands and trusted them not to break it as if it were their own, rather than learning to trust myself and to take care of myself; to stand on my own. It took me a long time to figure out that was a bad idea, and that’s too bad, but I forgive myself for my naivete. I didn’t know better.

Now I do.

The trick is to keep my heart open to connection with other people without expectation that they won’t hurt me. I don’t want to seal myself off from the world because it’s scary and I don’t feel safe. I’ve never felt safe, and yet here I am. I’ve survived being hurt – repeatedly – and lived to tell the tale.

And I will continue to. People will continue to hurt me and I’ll contine to be okay in spite of it. I trust myself. I trust my ability to survive. I trust my ability to adapt and keep going no matter what happens. I don’t like pain, and I’m not looking for people to hurt me, any more than I’m expecting them not to hurt me. I like people and I will continue to be the best friend I can, the best daughter I can, the best me I can be.

Beyond that, no expectations other than life – and people – will be as they should be. We are each here to walk our own way, to learn and to grow. Throw karma into the mix and everything’s on shifting ground. I can be scared and afraid to move, or I can be scared and just keep going, trusting in my ability to adaptThere is no such thing as safety. There is only this life, and taking the risk to live it as fully as possible.

It’s the only way.

The law won

I love you

I was astonished to hear about the college admissions scam, in the way I’m always slightly surprised when I remember that some people who seemingly have everything are willing to risk it all to have more. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I’ve thought about it a lot in the past 2 days since the story broke, and what I really can’t wrap my head around is why the parents, especially the celebrities, didn’t think they’d get caught? Why would you risk going to prison for something that could have been accomplished in other ways? Spend money on a tutor to help your kid bring his grades up, for example. Spend your money on a better prep school. Instill in your child the idea that school is important and that you have to study to get into a good college. Teach them that money can’t buy everything and that some things are worth working hard for.

What it all really comes down to is privileged people thinking they’re entitled to something the rest of us aren’t. Not a new concept in the US, certainly, especially considering the person who currently holds the highest office in our government, but as Americans, that’s just not the way we’re supposed to do things. We’re all equal, right?

Right?

Ask your black neighbor if they’re surprised by this turn of events. Ask a poor child or any person of color, in fact, if they’re surprised by the assumptions of wealthy white people that they matter more then the rest of us.

I doubt it.

I’m not surprised by the attitude – I’ve encountered it personally many times living in a resort community most of my life – but as I said above, I am surprised at the level of risk involved for what seems to me to be a small reward. One day you’re a fairly wealthy actress/celebrity living the dream life, and the next the FBI is at your door. Prison awaits you, and you know that, but you risk it all and go ahead and break the law to get your kid into a particular college?

Wait a minute…what?

Exactly. You had it made and you blew it. Accept that your kid was too lazy, or not a good enough student to get the grades to get in. Accept that you’re like everybody else. Accept that life happens to you in the same way it happens to every other human being on the planet – there are consequences to your actions, and not everything is going to go your way. Life will humble you sooner or later. There will be a reckoning.

I guess maybe you don’t understand that if life has, indeed, gone mostly your way cuz your parents or you paid your way through the hard stuff. But just because karma hasn’t caught up with you yet, doesn’t mean it’s not going to. Sooner or later it’s going to have its way with you and you’ll find out that it’s true for everybody. Karma is an equal opportunity experience. It doesn’t discriminate. It is though, I believe, especially tough on people who don’t quit while they’re ahead.

I have compassion for all involved, cuz they’re going to pay a big price for their cluelessness, and their kids are going to pay an even larger price in some ways. The humiliation is epic. This is an opportunity for self-examination and growth, though, so if they recognize that they will ultimately benefit, but it’s going to be tough sledding until they get to that point. It’ll be painful and that’s too bad, because it really didn’t have to happen, but I suppose most crime is that way.

But I also have to say that it gives me hope to know that laws still matter in this country, even for the wealthy and celebrated, and that karma works. It does my heart good to know that there is order in the universe, after all. Not always, but sometimes, and for me right now, that’s enough. Cuz for 2 years I’ve been watching someone in power run roughshod over our democracy and our laws and it’s made me quite sad and feeling hopeless about the future of this country.

But this week, our laws worked, and someone who thought they were above the law was proven wrong. That makes me happy and hopeful that we might just survive as Americans and as humans going forward.

This week the law confirmed that we are all equal in this country still, and that is as it should be. Thank goodness.

 

Saving the day

There once was a woman named Jane,
Who thought getting up was a pain.

And then it got worse!
A person averse
To time as we knew it,
plotted to screw it!

Spring forward! they said,
It’ll be loads of fun,
The days will be longer,
We’ll get lots more done!

Of losing an hour they thought we’d agree
It was worth it and so they made the decree,
About being sleepy and cranky and such,
Nobody thought we’d care all that much.

They forget about Jane,
Who was slightly insane,
And needed to sleep,
To rest her brain.

And when she found out about the lost hour,
she went on a rampage and feeling quite dour,
she put out a call to all who would hear;
To all fellow sleepyheads far and near.

For death and destruction to all those who say.
Daylight Savings is best! A much longer day!
She didn’t Spring forward, our heroine Jane,
She let out a scream, wailing in pain,

When the bell went off an hour early,
And when she got up she was certainly surly.
She went to the drawer and rooted around
Until what she sought was finally found.

And once in hand, the hammer she swung
Against the alarm which had rudely rung,
And ruined her slumber and made her so mad!
And when she was done she didn’t feel bad.

She got back in bed and snuggled in good,
And realized now that really she could
Sleep as long as she wanted, saving the day,
How it should be, this day, her way.

You can’t save time, it doesn’t work!
She said to herself with a impudent smirk.
It has its own plan and it doesn’t care
What we all think or what we will dare.

Like fooling with time and losing an hour–
Who are we to have that power?
Not me, she said, and pulled up the spread,
Fluffed her pillow and snoozed instead.

Transitions

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There is some spring-ish weather forecast for the end of the week — 52° F on Thursday, oh my! — but it’s snowing today, and I’ll have to shovel the driveway this afternoon so I can get out and go to work in the morning, in the dark, thanks to Daylight Savings Time.

Yee. Ha.

I love Spring, but the transition is hard, what with the industrial strength mud and ice and rain, rain, rain. Winter doesn’t give up easily, so I’m not too excited,,,yet. Last year the worst storm we had all season came in April — two feet of icy snow the consistency of sand that defied shoveling and nearly did me in.

So, though I feel almost desperate for Spring, as I do every year at this time, I know it ain’t over yet. It’ll take a while for all this snow and ice to melt, and it’ll be 2 months or more before the temperature will be above 50° with any regularity, at least 4 months, maybe 5, before I’ll be experiencing one of my favorite so-hot-I can’t-breathe-properly bike rides on the trail by the lake.

I’ll bundle up and get out for short rides on those 50° days, and I’ll enjoy them, but there will be a part of my brain, as always, that is cursing the cold, and asking myself why on earth I don’t live somewhere warmer. The answer to that question is simple – cuz my mother won’t leave this place and I won’t leave her.

Still I ask it, and 100 other questions over and over. They all start with Why, not who or what or how, cuz those are all “doing” words, and I’m limited — by many factors, not just my mother — in the amount I can do to change anything in my life right now, but I think about what I would change all the time.

I try not to — I want to be in the moment, accepting what is — but I forget, and before I know it my mind has fast-forwarded to 5 years from now and what I think I’ll be doing and where I think I’ll be doing it. That is, unfortunately, where I seem to be happiest lately — in the future.

This is an improvement over years past, when what I thought I wanted most was not to be somewhere else, or doing something else, but to be someone else. That is painful beyond measure, and I’m so grateful for the drugs, therapy and time that eased that burden finally.

I’m sitting here now, typing this, watching the snow fall out the window in the hall, and I realize that when I can just get back to the gratitude, that’s where all the answers to those why questions are. There is finally peace in just letting it all be, and allowing the gratitude and relief I feel for simply being able to experience life fully, on any terms, to fill my heart. It is in gratitude that I find happiness and contentedness with what isand where I am and who I am.

Honestly, I find it hard to be grateful for snow, or winter in general, or losing an hour of sleep. If that’s the price of admission, though, I’ll pay it. If I can find happiness in shoveling the drive for the 50th time this winter, then, man, I’ve got it knocked! It’s there if I look hard enough: I am alive, and healthy enough to shovel my own driveway. I have a house and a car that necessitates a driveway, and a job that requires me to keep it clear of snow.

Not everyone is that lucky. Really, I don’t need to go much further that the first one, do I? I am alive. That in itself is a gift — this life — and I honor it by showing up and fully giving myself to every minute of it.

What more could I possibly need?

Still hoping Spring comes quickly, though! What does your forecast look like?

The real deal

I’m tired. My heart hurts all the time lately, and I don’t know whether that’s anxiety or something more deadly, and it scares me, but I don’t know what to do about it. Most days my stress level is through the roof, and I’m sure my blood pressure is higher than my doctor would like it to be, but I don’t know what to do about that, either. I go to the gym, I get plenty of exercise, I watch what I eat, I do all I can to take care of myself. There just isn’t much time and there’s so much to do and to worry about. There is so much that is just not the way I would like it to be.

Stress at work, stress at home. Even the weather is stressful. Winter just won’t quit, and I’m worried about the snow on the roof, keeping the driveways at both houses open, and about possibly losing power this weekend in the predicted ice storm and what I’m going to do with my mom if that happens.

There is no time at which I feel on top of things; no time that I can take a deep breath and just be. I try so hard to embrace it all, to let it all be what it is and be okay with what it is; to keep my mind and my heart open and present in each moment. Sometimes, though, even that is stressful. I find myself thinking ahead or worrying about something in the future and I think Damn! I blew it!

Lately, it’s when I start feeling sorry for myself, and/or beating myself up for not being who I want to be in every moment, that the alarms start to go off. Thank goodness. I didn’t have those limits when I was younger; those red flags that tell me now that I’m headed for trouble, that I’m overwhelmed and sliding down the slope straight into the abysss.

Yesterday I heard the alarms, saw the red flags, and instead of ignoring it all and trying to soldier on, I said wait a minute. What do I need? I sat still and listened, and the answer was: TIME. So I took the afternoon off from work, and got a couple of big things done at home, and I felt better about the weekend and the resulting shorter list of things to do, and less overwhelmed in general, thanks to my decision to take a few hours’ vacation time.

I was not a wife or a mother when I was younger, so I get that I’ve been lucky that my time was mine mostly for the largest part of my adult life. I really try to avoid feeling sorry for myself or heeding the siren call of resentment telling me that it’s not fair that this is the way my life is now.

Of course it’s fair, and more than that, it simply is what is. Never in my life have I been clearer about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Living with and caring for my mother at the end of her life has been the hardest, but best part of my life in many ways. Despite the fact that much of the time lately it feels like it might be the end of my life, too, I know that it is the right thing to do, and the best use of my time and energy right now.

hope it’s not the end of my life, but if it is, at least I know my life will not have been wasted. Major karma between me and my mom, and I feel confident that we’ve cleared that up, and beyond that, honestly, what else do I have to show for 57 years on this planet? Nada, zip, zilch, zero. I was too caught up in faulty brain chemistry to contribute much for most of my adult life. I was becoming who I needed to be now, I guess, and I take comfort in knowing that I made it. If nothing else I was able to take care of myself and stay alive long enough to be able to take care of someone else and for me, that’s enough.

So my challenge is just to maintain my health; manage the stress as best I can, continue to do the things I know I need to do – the gym, eating properly, getting as much sleep as possible – and just keep going. Keep listening for the alarms, and watch for the red flags. Put my needs first when I need to. Meditate. Practice mindfulness as much as I can remember to. Acknowledge my gratitude as often as I can remember to.

I’ve come across several articles and blogs this week about self-care. It’s on all of our minds, whatever path we’re currently on. But writing about it, reading about it, or talking about it is not the same as doing it. Taking the afternoon off yesterday was the real thing, and it made all the difference.

What do you need right now? Listen to your heart. What is it telling you?

The Thing Is

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The Thing Is
by Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

“The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass, from Mules of Love. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2002.


That is the thing, isn’t it? The secret, the very essence of this human life. The moment of your resurrection: To love life even when you have no stomach for it.

To say: I will love you, again.

Life is so hard and it breaks us over and over again, but we forgive and go on. Despite the mind-numbing weight of disappointment and grief for all we will never have and all we will never be.

I will take you, life, I will love you, again. It’s the again that causes my breath to catch in my chest. Yes. Again. I will get up after falling, after being brought to my knees by the crushing weight, and I will keep going. Again.

And again.

As many times as it takes until life is finished with me. It’s the again that matters. We all love life when things are going well; when everything makes sense and you feel like you finally understand and have some aptitude for getting along day by day. That’s the easy part. That’s the part where every gift is wrapped in gratitude and joy fills every fiber of your being.

Then there are the other parts. The times when it doesn’t seem possible to bear another day, another moment, another second of the pain and the slippery, twisty, unapologetic weight of ALL THAT IS WRONG. In your life, in the life of someone you love, of someone you just met or don’t know at all. Sometimes all that anguish just penetrates your skin and inhabits every cell and you stumble. You are unable to carry your heavy heart – the burden of the obesity of grief – another step. The harsh blows life deals all of us cast you to the ground and bruise your soul so deeply you don’t think you will ever rise again.

But you do. It takes time for the bruises to heal and the pain to subside, but you rise slowly, gingerly, carefully cradling your tender heart, and you go on. And in doing so you say to life, Yes, I will love you again.

You forgive life, other people, and yourself and you go on. Maybe you can set the weight aside for a while, maybe leave it behind completely, or maybe you’re still carrying it and it tires you, but you go on. You keep trying. You keep doing. You keep giving.

You offer life what’s within you – all that’s yours to give, all that you brought with you in the hope that it will be of use, be valued, be loved. Sometimes your gifts are welcomed and your dreams are realized; more often they are thrown back in your face in a most devastating way.

You rail against the rejection, the loss, the pain of being tossed aside, of being dismissed by life so casually. You close up like a flower in winter, gathering in your soft petals and tucking them deep inside your center, waiting for the return of Spring, when you will once again risk everything and bloom.

Until then, you wait. Nurture your roots in the darkness and repair the damage to your battered heart. Because you know:

forgiveness
renewal
gratitude

will come again and you will say to your love, this life, I will take you.

Again.

Because that’s the contract. That’s the deal. What we signed up for. No good without bad, no happiness without sorrow, no gain without loss, and no renewal without death.

No courage without vulnerability.

No love without forgiveness.

No life without love.