Gaining, Losing, & Regaining Trust

In relationships, politics, even our interactions with businesses, there is a level of tacit understanding to trust that the other party will do what they say will do or be who they say they are. We expect parents or a significant other to unconditionally love and not intentionally hurt us; we vote someone into office to serve the country and needs of the people who voted them in; we buy from companies who create products and services we assume to be reliable and consistent.

As a baseline for conversation, trust is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

A:  assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
b:  one in which confidence is placed

Unfortunately, humans are broken and unreliable and don’t always work or react as expected. (Corporations, being made of people, are also inherently broken in many ways.) We do stuff we shouldn’t, and it hurts others. Confidence is shaken, and character may come under scrutiny. When trust is broken or merely perceived to be lost in a relationship, how do you rebuild it? How do we want to be seen and trusted again if we’ve personally done something to lose that? Is there a level of grace and forgiveness we want for ourselves and therefore should give to others along the way?

This summer, I listened to a podcast from This American Life. The episode was titled, “The Perils of Intimacy.”  The lead story was about a woman whose life was unraveling around her and the people she thought she could trust were those behind everything bad happening to her. And yet, she couldn’t get herself to leave the person who did all these terrible things. She wanted to believe he could be trusted; she needed something stable in her life when everything else was chaos. From the outside, it’s easy to say she should have left right as soon as trust was broken. But we all know nothing is as cut and dry as TV dramas portray. Emotional connections are complicated and way more nuanced than we give them credit for. It’s why I suspect most of us don’t or can’t find ways out of unhealthy relationships or bring up issues in a productive manner.

Election seasons are an interesting time in American culture, particularly when we are called upon to choose our president. For whatever reasons, it brings out pretty terrible qualities out of us as a society. We bicker and complain to anyone within earshot about particular people’s faults far more than we call out positive qualities about those we like. This year, many people have lamented that the vote between the presidential candidates from the two major political parties is like choosing between the lesser of two evils. Nobody is content, and we all feel like we’re settling. One theme prevalent this year has been one of “can I trust this candidate?” based on their previous records and actions. Even if the quantity of “good actions” outweigh those of the “bad actions,” we focus on the negatives as reasons why they are unfit. Blame it on the overwhelming volume of negative campaigning and our love of tearing other people down or blame it on the rain. Yet, even the most cynical among us wants to trust our leaders to do a good job. What does it take for them to regain that trust or earn it for the very first time?

We want to put our faith in something other than ourselves; it’s inherent to being human. It would be a tough world to live in if we didn’t trust anybody. Even the most independent people in the world have a need to believe others on some level. Yet, we frequently fail to make strong cases on our behalf for why we should trust each other with anything. We can be awful at keeping secrets, showing up on time, following through on promises, replying to people, and being sensitive to each other.

Many of us have experienced a broken trust, probably first and most commonly by being lied to by someone who you assumed would always tell you the truth. Perhaps your experiences are in not having a faithful spouse or partner or a distant parent or a coworker who took advantage of you. It’s easy to say that once trust is broken in any relationship to want to walk away forever and be done with it. After all, that’s what we’re being told is the appropriate response in storytelling in movies or TV shows: one and done! Who needs a chance for redemption or to receive the grace from you to go, “well, maybe this person was just having an off day or moment?” or even “this person is making strides to change and I should give them another chance even though they made a mistake, right?”

What do you think happens every time you acted in a way that ended up hurting someone you care about? The lies and deceits and broken promises sting. A lot. They feel the same kind of pain too. Even if they are rare to your character, it doesn’t lessen the pain. We don’t want to be left in the cold because of one or two missteps in judgment and action.

We never want that “one and done” treatment back. We know we’re messed up. We are aware we’re going to make someone upset or break a promise but we’ll want a chance to make it better and try again. And it’s even more likely that we’re going to break a pledge many more times in the future. And we’ll want arms wide open waiting to take us back again as we figure out our way.

It’s why I’m trying to be open to the idea of second, third, and 33rd chances. I need to practice forgiveness and grace when trust is lost, even when it’s really hard to do. I need to have faith that the other person’s character is better than a couple blunders. Because I’m no better than anyone else. One day I will mess up again and I don’t want trust in me to be lost so quickly. I will need forgiveness and a chance at redemption too. Trust me.

Empty Fullness

In the pursuit of many endeavors and goals, it is easy to be caught up in the act of chasing what excites you. Adrenaline rushes in, and you tell yourself you can take on a new book right now and knock out a blog post this week and start a new friendship and kick off that initiative at work you’ve been dying to find significant chunks of time for.  But then you look at that list and realize that 1) many of your goals are not related to each other, 2) you are just one person and unable to do it all – at least do it all well, and 3) you’ve lost some of the energy and joy in the pursuit.

In the midst of trying to parallel path multiple goals, stress levels rise and I find myself retreating to comfortable and known pockets of solace. When inspiration lacks, I default to distractions that take me somewhere else. Instead of reading a novel I haven’t yet read, I revisit something I am already familiar with. “Have you seen that new show on Netflix?” Nope, decided to rewatch 30 Rock instead. (But let’s be honest, that is a good decision no matter how life is going.) New music?

All this has left me feeling quite busy and with full to-do lists, but simultaneously disconnected from my world and empty. More isn’t always better.

What’s so hard about where I feel I’m at right now is that I have very honest and heartfelt aspirations for everything I’m involved with now or in what I’d like to also take on, but I lack sufficient space to let any of them grow into what they can be. There isn’t enough room between them all in the garden. I need that negative space not just between my people time, but also in between everything else. Leaving breathing space is important, even critical for me. Any one thing in my life, from a book to writing to even making a new friend, requires the room on all sides of it to let it expand and let me internally explore and absorb it more fully.

Do fewer things better. Chase less, but what I do chase, I must chase with all my heart. Be more selective but savor those choices.  

You Will Have a Hard Time Reading This: A Story About My Handwriting

This year, I’ve told myself I want to do more writing and ultimately share some of my thoughts here on the blog. Some of that writing happens on my computer(s), but the rest of it happens on good old pen and paper with ideas and thoughts scattered across various notebooks. It was there I realized that there was another story on the paper beyond just the words I wrote.

Continue reading You Will Have a Hard Time Reading This: A Story About My Handwriting

The Worth of Storytelling

I’ve never considered myself good at telling a story or being able to deliver an elaborate joke that ends up at a ridiculous groan-worthy punchline. When there is a room of people whose eyes are on me, I frequently clam up and fail to find the right words or style to keep attention and interest in the story. But there’s something else that’s hindering me before I even begin.

I don’t believe my stories have any inherent worth.

I’m not sure when, but in the past, I told myself nobody wanted to hear from me, from the real me. Or perhaps more pointedly, most people didn’t want to hear about me. The story of my life is so unique and specific to my experience that I have very often found it difficult to find the right words. Rarely have I met people who share the crossover of family dynamics, sibling relationships, education, and personal interests Who would understand me? Who would get me at all? So I choose to stay mostly silent. I even have some personal writings from my high school & college days that reference this same sentiment. I’ve long believed my story is not relatable. I guess some things don’t change with time.  

I am comfortable in being a supporting voice & role, sometimes to a fault and the detriment of my needs. I’m more comfortable reacting to what I hear than being what is reacted to. I give the voice of others more weight than my own. What they need to share is more important than what I do.

I’m a better listener than a storyteller. At least that’s the story I’m telling myself.

So what’s been holding me back? I’m afraid that when I do share about me, nobody will want to listen to what I say. What if I speak into the ether, and my words fall flat? What if I bare my soul, and someone makes my story about their story in 3 moves or less? What if they simply don’t care?

The thing is all that doesn’t matter, right? There is a part of all of our lives that will, not just can, speak to someone. I am often scared to open up for fear of not making a connection, which I have associated with rejection.

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Ernest Hemingway

While my writing does connect to private parts of my life, whether or not I’ve publicly written or talked much about what hurts in an open and honest way is a wholly different conversation. I want to keep working towards honest writing, even when it may hurt to put those words and stories out there. I know it won’t be easy, and I won’t post that often with that level of depth, but it’s something to work on this summer.

All stories have worth. Maybe writing more of them down will show me that mine does too.

Train Car Reflections

I chase it blindly
constantly searching for what I think I desire
Craving what I am not yet ready for
Yearning for things I am not equipped to handle

The emptiness is beginning to make itself known
Laws of diminishing returns prove themselves true
What once brought even momentary satisfaction
Is but a faint memory
A quiet echo of a moment long past

Yet I keep looking in the same places
For more of what doesn’t fill the void
Lesson repetition fails to penetrate the surface
How many times will it take
To realize I’m looking in the wrong places

Being a Good Single Friend

Post header image added mostly because 30 Rock.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time recently thinking about the dynamics of relationships, specifically between those who are single and those who are married (or dating for a long time) and the stuff that arises in that space. The obviousness of give and take and compromising is a given, but to stop the conversation there is too simplistic. Perhaps I first need to take a closer look at myself and ask, “How am I or how can I be a good single friend? How can I best be there from where I am?”

Continue reading Being a Good Single Friend

Single Connectivity

Featured photo: Single malt Scotch for a post from a single guy’s perspective.

The older you get, the more complicated and nuanced life becomes. Now that I’m in my prime, there are types of relationships with one another that I find become more difficult to start, build, maintain, or even understand. Many of us know or learn through experience that friendships are easier to make (and walk away from) in our younger years. Often little thought or premeditated plans are put into them. It can start with the most basic of event based coincidences like being at the same playground or being put on the same dodgeball team during gym class. From there, the smallest of sparks ignites a new friendship just like that! And for the most part, these sorts of situational-based sparked friendships are still made throughout college. As an adult, you wonder why we make it harder on ourselves. We know friendships will change. But oh how we nostalgically look back at the simpler days!

Many of our friendships are forged in the midst of being in the same place at the same time, frequently revolving around our age or place in life especially during the high school through our mid-20s. We do life together as we figure it all out in a collective confusion. These shared times and spaces create experiences that come to shape and define who we are and memories we hold onto and remember quite vividly.

Major life events are called that for a reason.  They ripple through and touch every element of yourself,  your family, and social circles. They look safe enough on the surface. Right after graduation, Will gets a job offer on the other side of the country which means you only see him during holidays. Jimmy got into that masters program which means evening classes and less time to hangout. Bobby joins a sports league which infuses your core social group with new and fun faces. Jenny starts dating Brad and as they get more serious you start calling them “Benny” or “Jed”. These choices and life moments change you, even when you’re not the one going through them. It’s always interesting to think about the impact the decisions others make affect us.

Of those events, one of the biggest is when you or your friends find significant others. Hanging out starts to feel… different. What you talk about when you’re all together starts to change. You hear the occasional “we” instead of the “I” when one of them speaks. Depending on the couple, the conversations turn to “let me see if he/she is free too” even though you were only inviting one of them. Oops.

Then dating turns to marriage. The wedding and reception day come and it’s a wonderful celebration for all. A new union is very much worth having a big party for! No matter what anyone may try to do to avoid the inevitable, those relationships take a drastic shift and will look and feel very different. There is no avoiding the winds of change.

So what do you do when life trajectories aren’t on the same path anymore and you stop sharing some common goals, interests, and perhaps most importantly, free time?

There’s a number of challenges along the way for which I have found no straightforward answer yet. How do you deal with not being as close to your best friend as you once may have been? What’s an appropriate friendship level with your friend’s spouse who you didn’t know as well before they were married? How do you handle the logistics and nuances of married friends with kids?

More questions and thoughts coming soon! Feedback and response again is welcome, whether in the comments section or privately.

Current Status: Single and Present

The beginnings of a more public exploration into searching for and understanding connectivity

I’m not sure I’ve had any preconceived notions about what life would be like in my 30s. Well, that’s not entirely true. A long long time ago (back in my 20s), I would have told you that I would probably be married, probably have a kid or two bearing my last name and hopefully some of my better genetic and personality traits, and have a job I enjoy. If you’re keeping score, I got 1 out of 3. A .333 batting average in baseball is pretty good actually so by those standards I’m doing pretty well. For those interested, my bubble gum trading cards will be available for purchase online soon with collector’s editions available in the fall.

I am thankful that I have friends and family who don’t nag me about certain things like relationship status, to which I leave that categorized as “single and complicated.” I attribute the nag-free zone I’m in to distracting them with checking off a number of items on the “Life Stages to Hit to be Considered a Fully Grown Adult” list and with pretty photos in large canvas print format. I became a master of deflection and distraction from myself, even if some friends are finally catching on to and at identifying my schemes. These milestones, or Life Events as Facebook would have us label them, haven’t been done in any significant or specific order. But that’s OK as long as they’re done at some point, right? I got some good ones done:

  • College degree? Check.
  • Good job? Check.
  • Bought a house? Check.
  • Personal blog read by tens of people? Check!

Continue reading Current Status: Single and Present