Friday, June 20, 2008

Trust

When I was four, some buddies and I decided to become “blood brothers.” This was to be accomplished by means of a razor blade applied to the finger tip, which we were all pretty sure was a good way of producing blood. And it worked like a charm, at least for me, as I cut myself pretty good and bled profusely. At that point the others chickened out, leaving me to run home to get bandaged and lectured.

Many years later, I forget the exact circumstances, but I think it involved parking my car in a very small space. Dave volunteered to get out and talk me in, but I brushed him off and parked the car by eye and feel. Afterwards, he said something like, “You didn’t trust me to do it, did you?” I thought for a moment and confessed, “Probably not, but don’t take it personally; I don’t really trust anybody.”

I don’t know whether it’s a “guy thing” or an American thing, or a Southern thing that I project, but I’ve known a lot of people who aren’t real big in the trust department. When you view life as a struggle, red in tooth and claw, trust is pretty scarce. I can relate, given my own experience and reactions. For one thing, just ordinary acting in good faith doesn’t seem that thick on the ground these days. I have a natural tendency to take people at face value that has eroded pretty badly over the years.

I remember one project manager who, I’m pretty sure in retrospect, was trying to sabotage my career, by telling a client lies about me, and telling me lies about the client, and making sure that I never got a chance to talk with any of the client representatives directly. He later quit to become an EST trainer and got personally screwed over by Werner Erhard, after which he had a psychotic break and more or less complete mental collapse. I am not so highly evolved that I didn’t enjoy watching that Karmic Komedy play out.

But simple treachery hardly accounts for the matter. When does “passive aggressive” turn into “doesn’t give a damn?” I don’t know, but I’ve learned not to rely on unsecured promises. Beyond that comes the frequent simple inability of many people to accomplish what they set out to do. They start with the best intentions, but something comes up, something invariably comes up, and there you are, stuck holding that bag.

So I make allowances, and I’ll bet you do to, so often that you don’t even realize you’re doing it most of the time. You tell the chronically late fellow that you’re going to leave two hours before you really need to leave. It started out as fifteen minutes, but the chronically late guy caught onto that, so it’s been clock creep ever since.

Back in the 70s and 80s, there were all the “human potential movement” tropes, one of them being the “trust exercise” where you stood up, closed your eyes and fell backwards, trusting the person behind to catch you. How pathological is it of me that I cheated on trust exercises? I never trusted the folks behind me to catch me; I just decided that I didn’t mind falling on my back. Besides, I knew how to fall.

But then there’s this. A while back, Ben made a comment about my “owing Amy my life.” He was referring to her quite heroic endeavors on my behalf immediately following my melanoma diagnosis. She cut through the county health bureaucracy in probably record time; by the end of the day that I’d been given the diagnosis, I had an gatekeeper physician appointment for the very next day. The next day I got scheduled for surgery, and an appointment with an oncologist for the following Monday. Time counts when you have cancer, and delay can make the difference between a good and bad outcome.

“Owing your life” sounds like a debt, though, and this doesn’t feel like a debt. It’s impossible to be sure of the “what ifs?” Without Amy’s efforts it would probably have taken longer, but I expect I’d have managed it. I usually manage. That isn’t really the point. The point is that I didn’t have to, and the point is that I can (and do) trust Amy with my life. That isn’t a debt; it is a much more blessed state of mind.

1 comment:

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