So many things are reliable. Trustworthy. The sun will rise. It will set. The moon cycles around our planet. Concrete hurts if you bonk your head on it. A feather pillow is a soft place to rest your sore noggin.
So many things, at first, seem unreliable. But once you get to thinking about it, or I do, you, or I, realize, they are, actually, reliable in their unreliability. (There she goes again. Aw, c’mon, bear with me, give me a minute, I’ll warm up and make sense, soon. Promise).
For instance, the weather. Oh, “so unpredictable,” we say. But really. We are so accustomed to its unpredictability that can’t we, in fact, say it is trustworthy? Yes.
Another for instance, mad dogs. Can’t trust them. But, once we know they are mad, and we know we can’t trust them, then we do trust them or trust that they’re mad, and we can plan accordingly.
One more for instance, our bodies. These heaps of skin and bones and assorted and sundry organs and parts. Can’t trust them. Especially in aging. Who knows what they’ll think of next. This falling off. This slipping down. This shifting over. This failing. Shriveling. Stiffening. Loosening. This odd little brown thing growing right here. What is that? So, again: we can trust that aging is going to change our bodies. DRAmatically. So, it’s reliable. Trust me.
And, thus there is a pattern. It’s all the natural stuff that we can trust. All that stuff we have mostly absolutely no control over. The weather? No control. Just put up your umbrella and go about your day. The mad dog? Well, cage it, and cure it if you can. Hopefully you can. Our bodies? No control.
We can take all the supplements and the remedies we want or can afford or, as is often the case, can stomach. We can diet, exercise, and medicate. We stretch or sweat our way into, and back out of, yoga poses and classes until the cows come home, or we roll the mats back up. (Or we have the young guy next to us roll said mat. Because we can’t get back down. Or up.)
We can do crosswords and learn Japanese and take up the French horn; taking full advantage of all that science tells us might ease or slow down our aging. But, folks, c’mon. We have no control. You get old. It’s trustworthy. It’s going to happen. Differently for everyone, (and hopefully for everyone), but we have no control.
Trust. And then there’s us. When it comes to us humans, the feeling-thinking-speaking sector of the species, well, that’s where absolute and unpredictable unpredictability really comes into play. We are not trustworthy.
We go off. We go down. We go under. We have a litany of prepositional actions that we undertake on a regular basis. We go over. We go within. We go against. We go forward. Fall back. Fall down. Start up again. Sometimes. And in no particular pattern.
We make choices. Consciously, or less consciously, and that always lends itself to tremendous story. Oh, I was so drunk. So hungry. So full. Too tired. Too busy.
Sick. Distracted. Stressed. Oppressed.
So so. Too too. You name it. We blame it.
We make choices. Even in the face of things we can’t control. Call it what you will, but many of us, for the most part, not always, but often, we have control over some aspect of results, and we make choices.
Clouds don’t. Planets don’t. Stars don’t. Not even the great big ones. The moon doesn’t. And, for the most part, dogs don’t, especially the mad ones. Nor do our bodies. They all just do what they do. No control.
Humans have it. It is a wonderful amazing thing. We can make choices: we can decide to rise. We can decide to set. All day long, and as out of control as we might like to claim we are at the moment of any given choice (I was so tired), usually the poorer ones (I was so thirsty), the hurtful ones (I was so confused), the stupid ones (I was so uncertain), we make them. Choices. And we are ultimately, and most usually, to blame for our actions. End of our sorry excuse-laden story. We make choices. So many of us. We just do.
And that is why trust is a rare commodity. More valuable than just about anything. To truly be able to trust someone is a gift like no other. To be trustworthy, is a tremendous gift to give. In small ways. Or big. From below or above. From whatever preposition we like, we can build trust with someone.
As I watch my daughter ready to marry, I know that her decision to commit to spending her life with the man she has chosen is a reaction to trust. They trust each other. This trust will lead to good things.
Of all the things I tried to do right in raising a couple of adolescent daughters on my own, building trust was the most important. I trusted them, and I believe they knew that; I worked to earn their trust, and it was like any other live thing you might tend. A campfire. A kitten. A child. If you stop tending, well, the proverbial shit, and that ever so f’n reliable fan, they step in and do their business. Eww.
Severing trust is, well, really bad. It sucks. When someone you trust does something hurtful. Ding! Dang. Trust can go down hard. Then if there are a few more dings. Few more dangs. Or sometimes all it takes is a big womp. Concrete against skull bone. Life altering. Where’s the pillow.
It can change a race. A gender. A nation. A romance. A family. A business. But not the moon. Or the stars.
I trusted my parents, and they trusted me, a bit. It wasn’t as mutual, or as strong, as I wish it was, in retrospect. I remember feeling unsafe growing up, but not too often; and again, retrospect is an ever-changing filter through which I review the past. There were some sketchy moments where I, too, may have dinged the trust I had tried to earn, and they severed my trust in them.
But trust can be re-built. That’s the beauty of us humans with choices. We can have re-do’s. Re-runs. Do-overs. Apologies. Address the choices. The trust cleavered like a muscle from bone at the corner butcher? Ouch. It can be reattached.
So when we can? Choose better or wiser. Even if it seems like we can’t, choose kinder. Build trust. Feel stuck? Compassionate’s a decent way to go. Honest is always a good direction. When you believe you can. Go ahead. When you believe you can’t, reconsider. Too late can happen. Too many dings, dangs, and/or womps. Trust is down for the count. Be careful.
It’s an earned thing, trust is. It’s like interest. And this is not high finance. You don’t get anything back unless you invest. And the interest rate can be fickle. And there can be recessions and depressions. Oppressions. Lots of ‘essions.
But one thing is certain. There is no return if there is no investment, and often, the greater the investment . . . if you can . . . even in the smallest of ways . . . Because like so many investments, that whole “granted” thing comes to play. “Well I thought if I just . . .” If I just apologized. If I just explained. If I just brought you flowers. If I watched for one more day. If I just fixed your refrigerator.
Then all the trust would be there waiting, fresh as bread. Well, not exactly. Apologies and roses are a nice beginning. Thank the solar heavens we do not have to encourage the sun to rise each day, eh? The mad dog to be less mad? The moon to get full again, please? Nah, those things give us hope and trust.
So be like the moon. Be more like the sun. Every morning. There you are. Same place. Same time. Ready to work. No excuses.
Here’s a poem, telling a long-ago story, from a years-later perspective, about when parents tampered with trust. It can be so easy in parenting, and we don’t even realize we’ve done it, until it’s too late. Letting trust take the back seat.
Leaving the Picnic
They piled into the backseat
like a scratchy blanket, flanked
by their sunburned siblings, folded
upon one another, feet wedged
atop the empty picnic basket,
cooler and baseball gloves.
Her ears buzzed sharp and hot
like the slap of the black strap swing
like the ungreased squeak
of the carousel going around and
around she had leaned away from center
watched the upside-down parents
at the picnic tables, their non-stop talk,
laughter and drinking.
She smiled at the dizzy.
Eventually dusk’s pink and gray
parked softly upon the miles of green
making perfect shadows for “hide and seek”
just one more round as the parents’ voices
turned to lilting, low whispers,
secrets and hidden giggles.
Moms packed up leftovers, the melted
chocolate bars and salty chip bits,
pops gone flat in the sun.
They brushed burger crumbs
under tables for tomorrow’s birds.
Dads finished the tepid beers
then called, “It’s time to go”
and nobody had found her
she’d hidden so well and proudly
beamed following everyone
to the Dodge Dart.
The day’s hum curled up under
her long braid now an asylum
of crazy knots; too tired to untie or to
bicker or complain about who got
the window seat, the four siblings watched
streetlights as they passed the park,
spotted hiding places they’d missed.
The baby slept in the small space
between mom and dad where
an occasional flood of a stop light
or mom lighting another long cigarette
silhouetted their tipsiness
against the sparkling windshield.
Dad laughed harder each time
he arrived once again at the yield sign
on Chalfonte and Outer Drive streets
smacking his Bermuda hem wondering
where he had made a wrong turn
and making it again.
She tried only once to offer help,
“Turn here, Dad. Go left.”
His reply bounced across each of their faces
in the dim backseat like four square, “No, no,
no; no. I’m alright, kids, I’m doing just fine,”
and he turned right again.
Mom suggested nothing as he drove
them in circles more loose and forgiving
than her thin arm draped over the seat
behind him, pointing her silent Winston
in the direction she wished he had gone.
The loops he drove grew larger and less
complicated than the tangled limbs
of children finding security or prayer
in the grit of their picnic skin and sticky hair.
Everyone was awake now waiting,
even the baby gurgled at mom’s hip.
The hum and sweet buzz of the day’s games
had gone numb inside her spinning head
as Dad circled for what seemed
like hours around and around and nothing
could conquer her relentless faith
in his navigation even as they passed
the park one more time, her hiding place
where everyone could see.
Photo by me, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, at moonrise/sunset, a favorite place to picnic.