Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Phone Calls From the Edge

I was on my own.
I was hiking along the Niagara Escarpment the other day. I'm a pretty capable hiker and comfortable in the woods. While I'm no adrenaline junky, there isn't much that gives me the willies. Just don't ask me to jump off a bridge with an oversized rubber band hog-tied to my ankles. A few photos I wished to snap were best taken along the rim. I stood at the edge looking downward along cold grey cliffs, shattered boulders strewn along the jagged base five hundred feet below from millenniums of erosion carving away unfortunate pieces of bluff, wind rustling the trees around me and a light rain dampening my footing and thought, “Huh. Bet that could hurt.”
I got the photos.
Risky, yes. Unconscionable, no. I trust myself and my ability to know where to draw the risk line; that place where calculated risk turns into asinine.
That same night I was on the phone with a friend. My conversations tend to wander all over the place, close to the cliff, if you will, as they found out soon enough. Like my life in general, there seldom seems to be a straight line to anywhere. People who can stick with me and my esoteric mind are treasured. My friend is one such person. They seem to be able to wait me out knowing, somehow, I'll circle around to the previous topic in due course. That takes trust on their part understanding I haven't lost sight of the subject... or them for that matter.
It also takes trust on my part that the person I'm talking with isn't going to get lost somewhere along my roundabout journey. The way I communicate, wandering around like a verbal drunkard spilling mixed metaphors along a quiet midnight street, is not an easy trail to follow. I seldom leave bread crumbs. Finding someone who communicates in the same abstruse manner I do... priceless. (And, I'm told, funny as hell to sit back and watch from a safe distance.)
It seems I write in a similar style to how I speak... or vise versa. I'm not sure which acme first... the chicken or the barbecue. Trust, and not becoming frustrated, is a big deal in such a conversation, largely due to what seems a lack of direction.
It occurred to me as the back and forth went on if I wish to understand my trust level with someone a few of things may occur. Firstly, when I'm asked a difficult question (the ones that make me glance around for a ticking nuclear device), how do I react. If I tense up getting ready for an explosion or retaliation, I'm probably getting defensive and not trusting. If I'm all loosey goosey and not too worried about what might be coming back, odds are pretty good I trust them.
Secondly, if I feel comfortable talking about virtually anything without feeling there may be retribution, then my trust level is high. When I start measuring my responses, it's the first indication I'm not trusting the other person to be able to handle what I really want to say (or how I wish to say it). I'm afraid of hurting them, waiting for the other shoe to drop or having them freak out... so I temper my responses.
It seems to me many intimate couple's relationships disappear into the vast, echo-less void this way... trust eroding piece by piece tinkling onto the ceramic kitchen floor.
Trust slips away slowly, chipped away by tiny comments, overly amplified responses, misinterpretation or trying to “fix” something undesirable in the other person. When the trust slips away, intimacy fritters away with it. Intimacy, (not physical intimacy, though that can be a victim as well) is only meted out when there is trust. Plain and simple. Oddly enough, the only way to gain trust back is... you guessed it... to become vulnerable which requires intimacy. It's the human paradox we call relationship.
Life is so much easier when trust isn't lost in the first place. Particularly self trust. If I don't trust myself to do what is best for me, I'll never fully trust anyone else... and intimacy will remain floating away just beyond the tips of my outstretched fingers.
Self trust is measured by the conversations I have with myself.
For me, it seems trust is grown by stepping to the edge, looking over the cliff and knowing there is someone there who will catch me if I slip... even if that slip is some random line of thought during a phone call.
How's that for a metaphor?