Trust is a social brick. Trust is welded together by the fires of its own torch. Trust is the walls, foundation, and roof of the house. Break trust and the house blows away like leaves preceding winter. Sure, you can reassemble it. Have you ever chased leaves down the street? All of them? I have. It is so much easier to keep the house standing in the first place. Trust is hard to build, harder yet to rebuild.
If society is unraveling, it is because of lost trust. A few days prior to the election I realized I had, unknowingly, buried my own trust that the things I hear are true. News? Well. Activists? Maybe. Politicians? Depends on who. This election sucked. Too few felt obligated to accuracy. Lots of outlandish things happened, and lots of people claimed outlandish things happened which never did. I’m already overrunning my bandwidth keeping my life together, and now I’ve got to fact check everything I hear? Yeah. Sure. Doubt seeped in, slowly, like water through an old house only to be discovered when winter transforms a wall into ice. That ice is my trust’s grave marker, and it’ll disappear come Spring. “Somewhere, over there, I buried trust in society,” I’ll think, as its memory fades away.
Younger me did some stupid things. Younger me also learned. I learned that it was far better to treat my feelings as points of information than it was to regard them as truth. Being anxious just means I do not know as much about what is going on than I prefer. Feeling comfortable does not mean the circumstances are right – just that they are easy. Being in love tells me nothing about the potential quality of the relationship or character of the person, just that about being into someone and prone to distraction. One of the best bits of advice from my best friend is, “Don’t believe everything that you think.” Don’t believe everything that you feel. That is not to say don’t respect it. It is information. It is part of you.
It is easier when the feelings are mild. I went to a meeting of a group at a point in time. We were all trying to discern how to keep the world from burning more. I could not focus through my own flames. My frontal lobe belittled my amygdala for firing off fight-or-flight when a long-buried skeleton unearthed their self. A skeleton, who I am pretty sure, cannot do further harm to me. Listen. I thought Shadow of My Past moved. To be fair: they did. They just, well, returned. Why cannot I calmly note it in the semi-indifferent manner that I note, let’s say, new graffiti on Chandler Street?
Confession: I favor my frontal lobe. I like how she thinks. She cannot run the machine single-handedly though. So instead, amygdala and frontal lobe go back and forth, the fear to “Fear is the mindkiller.” That is the toolset I have with which to work.
In this gathering I look upon the fortuitously vast mob before me and recognize a few friendly faces of loose acquaintances, a few people I will deliberately avoid, and a sea of strangers. Speakers talk about fortifying ourselves. Remember that we all love one another. Some nod. This is their tribe.
I am not from around here. I understand the language even as my proficiency reinforces this tongue’s unfamiliarity. I feel like I climbed over a wall to show up. That’s exciting, right? I bother because I believe in the effort. Despite this, claims of community resonate with me like bad pennies hitting the bottom of a dry well. There likely is community. I think I can guess which members of this crowd belong to it. Oh hey: the people I am avoiding are apparently liked a whole lot. That love talk is more like a marker drawing a border that I feel like I know is a demarcation of an in-group.
Did I mention my amygdala has a preference in these situations? It’s flight.
Whatever, I thought for the longest time. Petty shit. Feelings are not truth: they are information. Besides, I am not here to make friends. I have so many other places I belong. These problems we are gathering about need work. I need to work. I need to find space enough to do that. I have been staying in the mode of translator. I am uneasy with some of the people but I am down with the ideas. Everyone acts like those should effortlessly fuse – listen: they don’t. But! I know people easy with me who are not yet down with the ideas – maybe I reach them. Maybe that is the role I am supposed to play, and all of this anxious discomfort is here because I can tolerate it well-enough.
Seriously. All you need to put out a fire are a bunch of people with fire extinguishers who are willing to coordinate well-enough with each other – they don’t have to like each other. So I thought.
Later I realized this: they do have to trust each other.
So I am laying on the muddy grave plot of my propensity to trust the unfamiliar listening to my frontal lobe and my hypothalamus argue about primacy and effectiveness and hey – temporal lobe, could you stop remembering absolutely every awful thing in such vivid detail? There is so much to be done, and I am being undone by basic human foibles, what the hell is with that? Every time I wish I were above something, I find myself on the ground next to it. The only things I am above are the things I inadvertently killed.
These are the machines we are all working with, are they not?
I keep picking up that wrench to fasten the ladder to the wall, scaling it time and time again. I always question if it is worth it. What else to do? Do I give into the feeling that the community is more balanced without me? Is society more about what it does, or what it is? What about smaller groups? Do I slither back into the space I came from like some snake expanding well-worn trails? How important is that need to belong to getting stuff done?