The meaning and impact of trust

“I trust you.”

I have said it to children. I have *not* always said it to friends, in such friendships in which the words were not necessary, because the foundations of the friendships have been created and are renewed with mutual honesty, integrity, good will. I have said it in the sanctity of a bedroom with a beloved. I have offered it in the midst of emotional and challenging conversation, made it a gift entertwined with the feelings of love and generosity in my heart.

I have recently realized that when I say, “I trust you”, to men in a romantic context, it is not the gift my ego has taken it to be, but rather it is aspirational in nature, a wish to cast a transformational spell. It is a plea from my inner child who desperately wants to find a safe place, a nurturing place, with a guarantee that she will not be harmed, wounded. It is a tool, a way to bend reality and create that safe place, an attempt to bind one form of projection permanently into the soul of the person to whom those words are uttered, in order to prevent the other projection, fearful and destructive, from coming true/being revealed.

My trust has been focused on actions, whether bad or good. It hasn’t been trust at all, really, but a belief that a person will do things that are harmful to me or helpful to me. This belief is sometimes based in evidence from prior actions, and sometimes based in desire or fantasy. It is often tethered to projection instead of a solid understanding of who the person actually is, to the degree that such an understanding is really possible. We all project, all the time. It is part of our human nature and training.

Attempting to construct this belief about what people will do or not do is a dead-end road. It cannot succeed in its effort to make us safe. People are not predictable or controllable in that way, by themselves or by anyone else. However, using relationships in which there is a solid foundation like the ones I mentioned above as a model, it is clear to me that we can know and trust another person’s heart, their soul, their intentions, even while understanding that human beings hurt themselves and each other. It is part of our human condition.

When we say, “I trust you,” but we really mean, “Don’t hurt me,” or, “Don’t fail me,” or, “Don’t disappoint me”, or, “You owe me,” we aren’t really trusting, of course. When we say, “I trust myself,” but we really mean, “I’m counting on myself to get all the results I want and avoid all the results I consider harmful to me,” we aren’t really trusting ourselves.

With my kids, I think it’s a good thing to tell them I trust them, but only if how I treat them backs that up, and only if I’m not saying it in a subconscious effort to coerce them into good behavior by establishing an unwritten standard for their behavior. With myself, I think it’s a good thing to tell my inner child, but only as a genuine expression of true appreciation for my heart and soul and good intentions, and a recognition of my follow-through and integrity. With friends, I think it’s a good idea to express the trust I feel as a part of my expression of the love and appreciation I have for them and for our friendships.

In a romantic context? I am not sure. I think for me, at this point I can’t make global statements like that, because I am not fully aligned with them. So I think I have to get more granular and talk about circumstances, specific actions. “I appreciate that you consistently ask me if I’m done talking before responding to what I’ve said; it helps me feel more comfortable with you”, for example. Also, I want to express appreciation for a romantic partner’s heart & soul & good intentions, as I would with my friends or myself.

In addition to that, I need to have compassion for myself, for the fact that I have a hard time trusting men, and be an active advocate for myself and my well-being within the context of a romantic relationship. And I need to remember that in that kind of relationship especially, the person whom I need to rely upon and with whom build trust the most, is myself. It’s easier to truly trust others when we’re not depending on them to do the work we really need to do ourselves.

And of course, taking the risk of trusting someone is good and healthy, as long as we understand that no level of trust is a guarantee of any particular result. It’s an attitude, an extension. It can be a beautiful act of love when it is free of the weight of obligation. Essentially, I think trust, like forgiveness, is given for the benefit of oneself. It cannot be blind, and it must be free.

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Hurry hurry!, patience, play with umbrellas, spice racks

“Rush, rush! Hurry, hurry! Go, go, go! Don’t dawdle! Get a move on! No, we don’t have time for that!” This is the cry of the (possibly overscheduled) parent. Today I had two lessons to teach in the morning, the first one of which was scheduled to begin right at the start of my childcare time. Immediately after the second lesson I had to book out of here to get Hazel to her swim lesson, and then hurry back so we can make it in time for the end of my nanny’s shift. It doesn’t make for a relaxed day, and depending on how I handle it internally, it can be quite stressful, for me and for Hazel. But it’s hard to know what to do, exactly: I have to work; Hazel loves swimming class; we can’t afford more nanny hours, etc. So mostly what I have to do is adjust my attitude, and not worry about being late to class if that happens, just prioritize trying to make the points in the schedule that matter most happen.

Also, I have to remind myself that if I’m not getting what I need in any given moment, I will later. All is not lost. This was pertinent this afternoon. I made the mistake of agreeing to Hazel’s plaintive insistence on having her quiet time out here rather than in the playroom. I told her she was going to have to be quiet and let me have my quiet time too, but of course that did not work. And once I finally had her set up to her satisfaction, the twins woke up 30 seconds later, and poof, there went my down time. I didn’t quite manage not to keep my irritation to myself, and was not too adult in my communication. I sometimes get stuck in the problem rather than working on a solution. Gee, I wonder where Hazel gets that?

My inner dialogue sometimes looks like this, I think:
“Enjoy the process!”
“No!”
“Dammit, relax and enjoy the moment!”
“No way!”
“Oh come on, you’re just stressing yourself and everyone else out. Let it go!”
“Piss off!”

Nonetheless, today was another fabulously beautiful day, and we did get outside for a bit after nap. We hung around outside the house. Hazel brought out a couple umbrellas, and I got to see Emily’s feet walking along under an apparently self-propelled kid’s monkey umbrella. Later, she wielded the big red adult umbrella with impressive aplomb.

The evening’s lessons went well, and now we’re getting the spice racks back up on the wall in their new location. I’ll be able to put the spices back, they will cease to be toddler attractions, and we’ll be able to move the cart around when we want to use the butcher block on top of it. Yippee!

Big storm

I hope that everyone on the East coast will be ok, though of course, I already know that everyone is not ok. I heard on the radio this evening that two people had been killed (I think in NYC) by falling trees. Given that I often get mad when I get hurt or hurt myself, I imagine that my ghost/soul/figment’s response would be to yell, “Dammit, seriously?” And then my ghost/soul/figment would spend a while (possibly centuries) feeling guilty about my poor choice of being outside under that tree in that moment, despite the exigencies that might have led to my presence there.

This makes me think about something I struggled with in getting married, and that I struggle with now, having kids: that is to say, my discomfort with making promises about the future. I think there’s some superstition mixed in there, along with some wariness and a certain degree of analysis of my life as I have experienced it thus far. I know that kids need stability, the assurance that their lives are grounded in a solid foundation, and that they have a positive road ahead of them. And yet, I think that masochistic, sad little scared kid inside me hesitates to make boldly positive statements about the future lest the universe strike me down for my temerity. Possibly I need to offer my own inner child reassurance before I try to give that to my kids; otherwise it might really feel quite inauthentic to them when I try. And possibly I need to spend some time repeating to myself that I deserve a long, healthy life (regardless of whether I get it or not).

There are a few things I have no hesitation in promising, in any significant relationship:  I will always do my best to be truthful, with myself and with my loved ones; I will always aim for clear, direct communication about anything that matters; I believe love to be a verb, and will consider whether my actions are loving or not; I will ground my actions and communications in my values; I will always strive to be my most authentic self; I will do my best to celebrate, support, be present with, and love the people close to me.

I’m sure there is more, but that’s what comes to mind at the moment.

And when I look at my children, I have no hesitation at all in telling them I will always love them. That wellspring is theirs forever. Knowing this brings me peace and joy.