Archive for the 'trust' Category

Fishing out feathers

October 31, 2014

There were about a dozen swans on the Res yesterday, a heron, two cormorants, a bunch of geese and ducks.

Not surprisingly, there are feathers along the shoreline in places.  I sometimes clamber down to the water’s edge and fish a couple out.  If the shore is too muddy close to the water or the feather is too far off in the water, I look for a long branch.  And then I try to snag the feather using the branch.

It’s kind of like a sport or hobby.  I get a kick out of figuring out how to get down to the shore, what stick to use, how to employ it as a tool.

I am not always very good at the snagging part.  Sometimes I end up pushing the feather further away or sinking it or getting it further stained or covered with muck.

So I ask the universe for help.  I admit this is a pretty silly context in which to ask for the help of the universe, but on the other hand it is very good practice for “turning things over.”  I know I can’t get that feather back without help, and I throw myself on the mercy of those forces beyond me, my motions become more effective, and I lift the feather from the water with my stick.

The other piece is how refreshed I feel afterwards.  I have succeeded in completely distracting myself from all the cares and tasks seemingly on my plate, and for a few minutes, I am just in the moment of fishing out a feather, and in the arms of the universe if I’ve asked for help.  The physical activity I think also contributes to the catharsis.



May 4, 2014

Jonas had to give a potential landlord a deposit before the landlord actually went through his process to decide whether to rent him the place.  I advised Jonas to get a receipt from the guy, in case the deal fell through.  Jonas didn’t.  I was concerned, but two days later, Jonas had the keys.  And a receipt.  And a lease.

It’s hard to know when to play it by the book and when to go along with another way of doing things.  I’m glad it worked out.  It occurred to me that doing things the way I thought they should be done might well have caused the whole deal to fall apart.

Another reason to let people “use their own good judgment,” as a friend of mine used to say.  Backseat driving not only has its limitations, but it can be dangerous.  Ultimately we have to drive using our own judgment, not somebody else’s.

Taking something back, or sharing?

March 19, 2014

There’s this spiritual story about an adolescent who really feels strongly that a grown man has stolen from her her jewels.  He feels equally convinced she has robbed him of something equally valuable, namely, something required to maintain his stature and status in the community.

So how to restore equilibrium?

There’s an attempt, which doesn’t succeed, in which he returns something and she returns something, but they both accuse the other of returning a false approximation of what was stolen.

There are attempts at partial returns, there are empty promises, there are claims nothing was stolen — lots of adversarial attempts to restore without actually completely participating.

In the meantime, they are each using some “ill-gotten gain” from the other to try to maintain themselves.  They each end up in situations in which they are ill-equipped in some way, and this does not serve the greater good, either.

A lot of the trouble reconciling was probably a trust issue — “If I give to you, will you really give to me or will it just be throwing good money after bad, as they say?”

So here’s how it got resolved:  they both were agreeable with sharing with a disinterested third party, and through something like the mathematical transitive principle or something like a concept of mixing cooking ingredients, eventually they both ended up with a portion of what they felt they were missing.  What they shared with the intermediary included the “stolen good,” and through sharing with the intermediary, they had access again to what they considered the good stolen by the other.

Footnote:  disinterested third party did not have an easy time of it, as they were often treated as if they were actually the other person in the dispute.

Oh, those electronic medical records!

December 17, 2013

I was reviewing my level of distrust with a situation I will describe below, and concluded that I, too, have been impacted by the “If you like your policy, you can keep it.”

I have multiple family members with Medicare, and one of them received a notice that their primary care doctor is becoming part of an accountable care organization (ACO), I assume as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The family member may opt out of having medical information shared around among their providers through Medicare and this ACO.

In the past, admittedly in a different context, one of these providers has made a point of only sharing the minimum of information necessary, as the provider has seen problems arise.

So the family member is thinking about opting out of sharing.  But we are concerned that this could mean the family member will be told by the primary care doctor that the doctor can no longer be the family member’s doctor.

The notification letter tells the recipient to call Medicare, I did, and they don’t know if that can be a consequence.  The number for the ACO gives only a voicemail option, so I dutifully left a message.  The other option is an appointment with the doctor — but we’re supposed to pay a co-pay, not to mention time, energy, and parking fees, to talk about this?  Doesn’t seem appropriate to me.

In any event, I file this under (a) the unintended consequences of storing medical records electronically, (b) distrust created by misleading promises in marketing the ACA, and (c) distrust of the medical bureaucracy in general.

Staying awake

December 8, 2013

I was surprised by this Daily Meditation, because, for me, the experience of hearing the call to “stay awake” was not a call to general consciousness, it was a call to be in relationship, as Father Rohr I think might put it;  it sounded like someone asking me to maintain a connection with them.  And through that connection came, eventually, spiritual union and increased consciousness, among other things.

Public lavatories and kids

October 26, 2013

When I was walking home from the reservoir today, when I got across the playing field and near the bike path, I saw a woman disappear into the port-a-potty, which sits there, I think, as a convenience for people using the playing fields or watching the games.  (I could see later she was there for a jog on the bike path.)  She left two very young children in a stroller right outside the door.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  It wasn’t my business, but I was a little surprised at leaving infants unattended.  I decided to kind of stand nearby until she emerged, just to make sure nothing untoward happened.  It didn’t.

So tonight I’m listening to PBS NewsHour’s little feature of casual talk between Mark Shields and David Brooks (facilitated by the always watchable Hari Sreenivasan) on Fridays, and David Brooks starts talking about commuting to New Haven by train.  Which immediately brought up to my mind an incident that occurred while I was commuting between New Haven and Boston on Amtrak, when a woman asked me to hold her baby while she used the lavatory on the train — while the train was stopped at a station.  It seemed to me to be somewhat relevant (by my standards, at least) to the topic of people conversing too freely, and being overheard, on trains, which was what was being discussed.  Lowered inhibitions and all that.

I think this pretty much qualifies as an example synchronicity.

Reinflating trust

October 13, 2013

My last post in a way was about turning love outwards after there has been a loss.  The context was love for a child.

I am thinking about the equivalent for a loss in which the context is loss of a romantic partner.  I think this is a more complicated situation because, whether this is rational or not, trust seems to be involved as well as a lost opportunity to love.

I think we think that when adults are involved, more free will has been exercised and therefore there was more room for things to turn out differently if this or that person had only made different choices using their free will in the situation.  That makes it harder to trust that people will exercise their free will in ways that will not be painful to me, the other person.

So, I am pondering what the counter-intuitive emotional response to that situation might be that will counteract it.  I mean, clearly one can move on, there are other fish in the sea, another bus always comes — lots of metaphors for maintaining hope that there will be another opportunity and the possibility for a better outcome.  But what is the emotional posture that facilitates the resurgence of trust in other adults and potential partners?

I want to put in a brief aside that feeling abandoned through death of a partner gives rise to a different complex of emotions, I think, from what happens after a relationship that in theory could work out doesn’t.  The bereft may fear a repeat of the abandonment, but it doesn’t involve the same kind of mistrusting others; the use of free will I think can result in situations that are painful in a much more searing way than biology and Mother Nature produce.  People, especially those who have trouble putting themselves in the shoes of the other, can make choices that leave the other person in a more emotionally untenable situation, I think.  For example, offering a life saver and then knowingly withdrawing it.  Nature may do something that looks similar, but any imputation of intention or animus, I think, is purely a construct of our own.  Nature is not willful.

Okay, so what do I do when I’ve been through one, or more, of those situations, with adults exercising their free will in ways that cause me damage?  I could try to become more manipulative and hence not be so vulnerable to the pattern.  I could withdraw my self from the interactions and use a false self.  I could give up on adult human beings and play with animals, children, and God.  I could embrace the process of emotional damage followed by healing and not shy away from it.  I could focus on the assumption that these experiences serve a greater good and that the individuals involved are just playing a part (analogous to forgiveness for the executioner).  I could observe the situation from a remove, and note, “Yes, people can do that.  Isn’t that interesting.  And yes, it does hurt to be on the receiving end.”  That actually leads me to more of the sort of posture I think I am looking for:  “That’s what that relationship was like.  I wonder what the next one will be like.  Not knowing gives me the opportunity to look forward to finding out — my fellow human beings are interesting creatures and this will, if nothing else, be interesting.”

I, personally, am a sucker for the “interesting,” so this posture may work for me.  It may not work for others.  But maybe the process by which I arrived at it could be helpful to someone else.

In a way, it’s an end-around rebuilding trust — it says, in effect, don’t re-enter into a relationship on the basis that it will work out, only on the basis that it will be interesting.  I will learn something more about other people and about myself, and, no matter what happens, I will be okay.  That last part is faith, which for me is faith in God and the universe.

This approach to dealing with loss — loss in a relationship between adults — is much less obvious to me than my knowledge that I needed to nurture a child, described in my previous post.  This post is more of a trip through my current state of mind.  But I am quite sure that when I have hit unexpected brick walls in relationships I had emotionally invested in, I have thought, “Well, okay, I am quite surprised and hurt that this is not going to go the way I thought it was going to;  I wonder what the universe has in store for me instead.”  In a way, my trust in the universe obviates a need for trust in individual human beings that they be more reliable than they are or can be.

The point of commonality with what I wrote in my last post is that looking forward to a new relationship on this new basis allows me not to lapse into bitterness and closing myself off.

Flight control systems

June 29, 2013

My father was an electrical engineer by profession, worked for Bendix Corporation his whole career (it got bought by Allied and then Honeywell, so the name changed, but his place of work didn’t).  He worked in aeronautics.  He designed flight control systems for commercial and military aircraft.

That’s about the extent of what I know about what he spent his time doing.  He didn’t discuss it at home, I think largely because some of it he couldn’t, because it involved classified information.  I doubt the flight control systems for commercial aircraft actually did, but I think he dealt with the classified information issue by just having a blanket policy of not discussing his work.  And there was really no reason for him to.

But the concept of flight control systems is something helpful to me.  It helps me understand something I experience in my spiritual life.  (It was also a neat thing to learn about in the aeronautical context, and I was proud and fascinated that my father knew how to do what he did.)

My father once explained to me that what he designed allowed a pilot to steer a jumbo jet with he same ease with which the pilot steered a small plane.  My difficulty is not the same sort — mine is more like needing cross a deep gorge on a bridge without rails.  It can be done, but I can get in my own way if it’s too clear to me what I’m doing.  So I have help that just gives me what I need to know — what I need to know to do what I need to do to walk across that bridge — for all I know I’m walking across a lovely parquet floor in an expansive ballroom while I do it.

My talent is not bridge-walking, it’s trusting, it’s willingness to be guided, and it involves surrender.

When I’ve gotten to the other side, I come to know that I have crossed a gorge, when I am encouraged to learn to modulate my trust with the free will I had largely suspended.  That process leads to an understanding of what I’ve done, as if a curtain is being raised or a veil removed.  It’s kind of like the pilot deplaning and for the first time seeing how big the aircraft he was flying actually was.

I think my father’s job was something important in its own right, but I also like that what he did helps me to interpret what I do.






May 11, 2013

I got a letter from my older son today, I’m not entirely sure it’s apropos of Mother’s Day, but he goes out of his way to express his appreciation.  He wrote it a few days before I saw him on Wednesday, but I didn’t get it until today, and he didn’t talk about this part of it when we visited then.

He says, among other things, that I’m the only person he has found to be 100% reliable [and no, that doesn’t mean I give him everything he wants].  I ran this by my younger son, the one who still lives with me, prefacing it with, “I’m not sure about the 100% part, but your brother says … ” and he said, “Well, I have to agree with him [not his default position], and if it’s not 100% exactly, it’s pretty close.”

As adoptive parents, we were told that adopted kids really need reliability, and the agency that helped us with our first placement told us that Brazilian adults (I have no idea whether this is actually true) use deception as a means of child management, saying, for example, “We’re going to the candy store” when the destination is actually the dentist’s office.  So we were counseled to mean what we say and say what we mean, and to follow through, with our Brazilian children.  As a widowed parent, I became all too acutely aware of how abandoned my kids felt, and I made sure they knew they could reach me, that they knew they were not all and completely alone, as alone as they did feel.

So to be appreciated for being “100% reliable” means a lot to me.

Happy Mother’s Day.


March 2, 2013

There’s a spiritual story about a couple in which one is a spiritual adept and the other makes their way successfully in the material world.  They have trouble with trust in their relationship, I think because they view the world so differently:  it’s like one of those pictures which looks like it’s picturing one thing if we look at it one way and another thing if we shift our gaze and focus just a little bit.   Seeing the world with an open and naive focus may allow the mystic to entertain realities not completely congruent with our consensus reality that produces the material world.  A more closed and realistic approach to that material world and consensus reality may allow for greater success in navigating it.

But what was really impeding this odd couple from sustaining intimacy, I think, was not so much intellectual recognition or agreement on that they have different worldviews, or why they have different worldviews, or the respective helpfulness of their differing worldviews, but something else, something arising out of the accessibility of so much of the divine in the mystic.  To put it bluntly, I think one member of the couple is having trouble trusting God as much as the other member is having trouble trusting other human beings.  Of course, the mystic is mirroring the successful partner, which points to needing the successful partner to cultivate their faith;  that, I think, would lead to the spiritually adept partner trusting human beings, including their partner, as much as they trust God.  In terms of reciprocity, it’s like one of those inverse reciprocal relationships, like I remember from an astronomy course I took in college.