Years ago when my kids were much younger and not the experienced gourmet diners that their privileged life has since afforded them, I made some fish and told them it was chicken so they would try it. I still hear about this travesty of trust ad nauseam and apparently I, not their first girlfriend or boyfriend who breaks their heart, will be the first person they will mention in therapy one day when discussing their “trust issues” with the therapist …”it all started when I was 6 and my mother served me fish and told me it was chicken! And don’t get me started on the tooth fairy!”
All of us have been deceived. All of us have been let down, lied to, hurt, betrayed in small ways and in big, big ways. We think, how can I trust love when I have been abandoned by love? How can I trust myself, when I have blown it so many times? How can I trust others, when I have been let down time and time again?
The world isn’t always trustworthy. It isn’t always stable, it isn’t always secure, it isn’t always safe. Nothing personal. In fact it is impersonal. Bad things happen to good people all the time. That is just the way it is. But we so, so, SO want to believe that it is fair and predictable. That we can place our trust in it. We believe that if we do the right things, say the right words, live according to some book or beliefs that their will be some hand to hold, that we will be taken care of and life won’t hurt us, life won’t hand us fish on a silver platter and tell us, no really, this is chicken. But we have all had that silver platter of fish handed to us when we were so looking forward to Chicken Parmesan. So most of decide that the only smart thing to do then, is close our hearts. Close our trust. Fear and distrust what is in front of us. That ain’t no Chicken Parmesan. We are no fools after all.
I have a friend who was suddenly left by her husband with 3 small children at home. He literally just didn’t come home one day. Nice guy. Today, after many years of raising her children, she has met a wonderful man who she loves and who loves her dearly. Happy ending, right? Maybe. She doesn’t trust him. Or at least that is what it feels like to her. But the reality is that it isn’t him that she doesn’t trust because he actually hasn’t given her any reason to not trust him. It is love that she doesn’t trust. It is her ability to be ok, to weather the hurt again if this love goes the way of her husbands, that she doesn’t trust. She doesn’t think she could bear the pain of that again. So naturally and quite unknowingly, she tries to protect herself – she is jealous, suspicious, overly sensitive and standing on guard on top of the look out tower with binoculars searching for any hint of betrayal from him. Of being hurt again. And she isn’t at peace. There is no peace on the lookout tower. There is no sitting down and relaxing, cracking open a good book, soaking in the sun . “You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” (Frank Crane) She is tormented by her fear of being hurt again and so she quite possibly could sabotage this relationship by her jealousy and mistrust thus fulfilling her belief that “love can’t be trusted.”
The confusing thing about trust is that we are always pointing our finger at someone else instead of pointing it where we should – right back at ourselves. It FEELS like it is outside of us but every trust issue we have is a mirror. It is really ourselves we don’t trust. We don’t trust OUR judgement, OUR wisdom, OUR power, OUR courage, OUR strength, OUR love. Ultimately, we don’t trust that no matter what happens, we will be ok. Maybe not right away. But eventually. And so we are always on the look out for fish disguised as chicken. And if you are looking for fish, you will eventually find fish – ’cause there’s a lot of fish in the sea.
At some point, you get tired of armouring yourself against every perceived threat. You get tired of walking around like Superman in his lead suit – unable to let someone or something through all that steel you think is protecting you from every bullet of possible hurt or disappointment. You just get tired of being on the defense against being let down, feeling pain because you realize that is part of life. You get tired of the belief that you can’t handle it, that you aren’t strong enough. You get tired of closing your heart off, that you don’t have enough love to give unless it is returned and in exactly the way you desire it. You get tired of distrusting your own innate wisdom that it won’t steer your way through whatever comes your way. You get tired of disowning your power, giving it away to others who have hurt you. And then, when you get tired of all that and you are completely exhausted, you can finally start to allow space for whatever happens. For life to happen. You relax knowing you don’t know what is going to happen – with the ambiguity of life. With its unpredictability and ever changing nature. That it can a be a beautiful sunny day one moment, and in the next, a brutal storm can sweep through. But what you will learn eventually is this: you can endure the storm. You trust yourself to make it through.
One of the most profound paradoxes we all shared after Christopher Reeve’s accident was, wow, even Superman can be hurt. The image between Reeves’ “Superman” flying over Metropolis in his resplendent uniform contrasting so sharply with the image of the man destined to a life in a wheelchair was not one easy to swallow. Christopher Reeve was a brave, brave soul who had so many lessons for us to learn if we would pay attention. You are not your body, you are not your fame, status, job, looks. You are not your alter ego. You are not anything that is fleeting, anything that can come and go. You are much deeper than those things – you are stronger than those things. Nothing on the outside can stand up to what you have on the inside. To the beauty of that. To the permanence of that. To the strength of that. Nothing can touch who you essentially are and it is through our external challenges that we learn who we essentially are. Christopher Reeve said, “Some people are walking around with full use of their bodies and they’re more paralyzed than I am.” He truly was a super man.
We wear a lead suit thinking it will protect us from those outside things that are untrustworthy. Those external things that change and by there very nature are unstable and can not be counted on but that lead suit we don is paralyzing. It may shield you from some of the bullets of hurt and pain that come your way but it equally inhibits you from feeling fully all those good feelings you don’t want to shield. The feelings you put in the “I only want to experience these feelings in my life” column: joy, love, peace. Hard to move freely when you are wearing a suit of lead. Hard to enjoy the sunny days in it too. Too hot.
Eventually, life will blow your trip. Somone is going to serve you fish and tell you it is chicken. Everyone will hurt you if you are always up on the lookout tower. Yes, even those closest to you. None of us is perfect. We are all just doing the best we can with the skills we have at the time. But once you trust yourself to handle whatever life throws your way, you come to realize that you don’t have to trust the events that unfold in your life. You only have to trust yourself you handle whatever is served to you knowing you are graced with a greater capacity to handle life’s ups and downs than most of us are in the habit of using or acknowledging. The only thing or person you need to trust is yourself. Trust that you will be ok.
Trust me on this one.