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I loved her from our first call, and even more so at our first meeting.
I was intoxicated, far past a point where rationality or reality could save me. My eyes were so wide I couldn’t pilot my own life, my heart so open that I threw my body and soul into a fairy tale.
It was time to make some horrible decisions, which is exactly what I did.
It was that point in a horror movie when you scream “don’t open the closet.”, but they do and are slain.
I denied anything but the evidence of our inevitable happily ever after. It is for this reason that miners have a canary in the mine — when the bird dies they rush out before they lose consciousness.
I ignored all my canaries, or perhaps I never brought any in to the caverns with me.
I don’t really know when my canary died during this relationship; it could have been when my daughter, who knows me better than anyone else, didn’t like my new love, respect her or trust her. It could have been that she was 24 years my junior, or perhaps it was when my insightful friends had cramps in their hands from keeping their fingers crossed for me.
For three and a half years I resided in La La Land, imagining that we would live happily ever after, ignoring the mounting signs that it wasn’t working.
When it ended, I wanted to curl up in bed and just cry.
Deciding what to eat for dinner was impossible for me. I’d made so many bad decisions and bypassed countless warning signs in my relationship, that I didn’t trust myself to make the simplest of choices.
When Trust Breaks Down.
You can’t build trust on deeply emotional, turbulent ground anymore than you can build a house without a strong foundation.
Before I could even get on with rebuilding trust I had to do three things:
- Stop blaming her. Blaming her would get me off the hook temporarily, but confirm that I had been stupid and powerless — I call this the “I was under a spell” defense. Try it sometime to get out of a speeding ticket; it won’t work there and it shouldn’t work here because like the insanity defense it is no prize and keeps you helpless, guaranteed to repeat your missteps.
2. Stop blaming myself. Because I didn’t need any more heart break or torment. I also didn’t need to make things more dramatic. Drama is smoke, and smoke kills way more people than fire does, so the obvious step to take was a big leap into the fire.
3. Step into the fire. To do so I had to feel everything, even things I really didn’t want to.
So into the fire I stepped and what followed was a tsunami of emotions. I wept for hours, climbed mountains of anger, swam oceans of sadness and shook, terrified through hurricanes of fear.
After several emotional weeks I was tired, tear stained, spent, and looking surprisingly good — thinner and unburdened, I was also ready to begin building trust again.
Clear thinking only arises out of felt feelings.
Feeling is the beginning of trust, but won’t get you all the way there. I had been betrayed, not by her, but by myself.
Building trust begins with embracing distrust, not resisting it.
Friends and family suggested that I get busy, fill up my schedule and “get back on the horse.” and this was a horrible idea, as it distracted me from a time of deep learning.
Distrust is the basis of all personal growth. When you trust you glide through life, but when you distrust you notice more, feel more and are truly present.
When you distrust do less, not more; don’t get busy prematurely.
Out of doing nothing you will discover the truth of what you really want to do. Out of being busy will come simply distraction, and not the self knowledge available from such difficult times. Do very little, and you will turn a difficult situation into personal growth.
The next step, after doing nothing was to begin making promises and keeping them. While this is obvious with other people, it is also true about building trust within yourself.
Trust is made up of promises kept, so I promised myself exercise and I took a three mile walk. Keeping that promise and doing something good for myself at the same time started me back on the road to trust.
I promised myself a healthy lunch, even though I wasn’t hungry and didn’t think I deserved good food. Kale salad with sun dried tomatoes, some celery, my favorite dressing and a bit of cut up chicken reminded me that I was here and my body deserved my care and attention.
It is a collection of simple kept promises that builds trust. Make little promises to yourself and keep them, and make promises to others and keep those. Celebrate each kept promise and forgive yourself for broken ones. It won’t be long until you are back on your feet again wiser than before, with a story about how you have lived and learned. Once you can keep those simple promises you can reach further, and dare to do something that you never would have before.
Once you have made many promises and kept them it is time to take on greater risk. You don’t need to climb a mountain or risk your life to build trust. But do things that you normally wouldn’t, reach outside your comfort zone, that is where growth really takes place.
It was daring for me to buy a plane ticket on Sunday to fly out and visit my son the next day. While making the reservation I was plagued by fear, doubt and distrust, but I did it. The next day I arrived open, soft and available. He hugged me deeply as we began our most cherished time together, and I was back on the road to trusting myself and daring to live a boldly loving life.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Editor: Erin Lawson