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Trusting what was lost

It is easier to mend a broken heart, then to fix the broken locks of trust.

While I was in Puerto Vallarta a sort of reality took its grip on me. It was that of looking into peoples eyes, looking inside them, and making a judgement call about the kind of person they are, and trusting that call to be true. I’m not talking about being judge and jury on anyone’s actions or choices. I’m talking about discerning whether or not a persons choices are steered from a place of kindness, or selfishness. Are they toxic, or have they invested in toxic choices, and are they presently in the grip of bad habits? Do they walk with innocence, and is that innocence actually willful ignorance? In short, where does their moral compass stand?

It’s worth looking into people this way because it helps me steer clear of people who would hurt me. I’m a wildly forgiving human. I don’t much care if you’ve done bad things in your life, so long as you are trying to improve now. That’s it. Trying to improve. That said, I’ve been conned.

I don’t now believe that when I was conned that I was blind. I think I saw him for what he was from the start, and I choose to ignore my gut and intuition, because that’s what the group did. We were, admittedly, children. We were always children, even if we wore adult clothes and played adult games. I have not been conned many times. But the handful of times I have been conned, it was bad. It was not always men.

For a long time I did not trust my judgement call of others. That’s a difficult place to live, because if you cant trust your judgement calls of others it’s hard to believe in your judgement calls of yourself. You are effectively invalidating yourself. Saying, ‘I’m not worthy. What I see is lies.’ It’s incredibly debilitating, living this way. Many people do, especially if they’ve been abused or hurt by others. They call into question every action and choice. They are always in need of fixing, because they do not trust that they can fix themselves.

It’s good to ask for help when you are feeling lost and in doubt. Just because you made poor calls once doesn’t mean you always have or always will.

So there I am in this bar in Mexico, and I am watching people. It doesn’t really stem from anything short of curiosity, my watching people. I genuinely find life fascinating. I love watching peoples interactions, their body language. I love trying to discern their ticks and social clues. What isn’t being said with words. What is the frequency of habit. It’s particularly easy to do when life is moving at a slow pace. People tend to relax and let their guards down.

In travel you often find two types of people: those running away from something, and those running towards something. For those running towards something there are any number of goals to be achieved: moving to live, better work life, life lessons. Running towards something is the natural evolution of change. We all do that, even if we live in the same house our entire lives. Running towards something is evolution. Unless you are stuck in a rut, or running away, you’ll likely being running forward.

Running away is more typical of travelers. Escapism. Sometimes its just a holiday, a decompression. Sometimes is the full scale removal from a life unwanted. Sometimes it comes together, the running away from, and the running towards. Sometimes, there is no other choice. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with someone running away. Often the thing you see inside someone running away is buried secretes. Shameful secretes. Everyone has secretes, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the shameful secretes that do something to a persons insides, warp them. It’s those warps to their insides that I look for. It may not even be that they themselves do ill, or that their actions come from a bad place, so much as ill fate follows them, and those around them. It comes from buried truths, and forgotten things.

Some months ago I was visiting with a friend, and he did this curious thing where he would volunteer information about his life, and not ask or dig into mine. It was interesting, the way he did it. He left space for me to add too, or participate or volunteer. He left space for me to be quite. He spoke enough to cover the distance of silence but not in a yapper sort of way. Not the sort of person who likes to talk because they like the sound of their voice. Not that he disliked himself ever so much, as he simply had no trouble with silence, and also no trouble with moving a conversation along. I’ve never sat with someone who held conversation this way. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to know about me, it’s that he was aware I might not be comfortable talking about myself. It was a very astute observation – I hadn’t yet realized that I never talked about myself, not with anyone, not about my life.

Any who, I found this method wonderful, and troubling. Didn’t he want to know about my life? Why didn’t he ask, or pry? And then we began talking about trauma, and PTSD, and nightmares, and therapy. He didn’t have to volunteer any of that to me, but he did. He trusted me with this information about himself. He trusted that I would make use of the information appropriately. It wasn’t so much that he trusted that I wouldn’t hurt him with it. He never asked me to keep the information to myself. He simply trusted me to be myself, as much as he, and I, trust most people to be people and to do people things. He trusted that by sharing he might lend space, and safety, that I might feel safe to share. He gave me permission without making my withholding an issue. He gave me the gift of trust, just a hairs worth. It was a gift. I began talking with my closer friends about events from my growing, passing things I figured they knew. They didn’t know, were surprised, and I began to realize how closely I’d been playing my cards my whole life. Things my dearest friends should have known about me, they didn’t know, because I never told them, because I didn’t want to be a burden, because that’s what trauma had seared into me.

This, this is what I’m talking about. My friend, he hasn’t always been a good person. He has secretes, as all people do. But he doesn’t have shameful secretes. When I look at him, I see truth in him. When he speaks, I hear that he has nothing to loose; I hear freedom. When he does actions, makes choices, they are often for the betterment of himself, or others. That is what I look for.

By his lead I began trying to volunteer information about myself to others. To grant little gifts of trust to those around me. I would volunteer things I’ve already coped with. Old things about myself. At first it was hard. My trust in others had been broken, had been conned and hustled away. I was afraid of being hurt with the insights about myself I gave to others. More importantly, I was afraid that if I trusted others, that they would think less of me for my story. I felt shame. Eventually, I realized that a great deal of the shame I felt was that I had been so secretive, so withholding for so long. I hadn’t given others the chance to offer something good with trust. I hadn’t given others the chance to support me. Shameful behavior, not trusting others, not trusting myself, just because a few jack asses once upon a time had done me wrong. This is a normal story. This happens all the time to people. There’s nothing wrong with it. The shame was in my head, twisting my insides, making me feel less, as a person. In question of myself.

When I sat in this bar in Mexico and looked out at the people, at the strangers of this new community, I choose to look and see, and trust my judgement calls. I choose to believe my intuition and gut. I choose to believe and trust in myself.

It. Was. Awesome.

Throughout the month that I was there I got to watch those people who I doubted as being okay on the inside be tested by life events. I got to watch them react poorly, and of their own making, which simply proved what my gut had told me as true. They weren’t bad people. They just were the sort of people who aren’t working to improve themselves or those around them. That’s not the kind of folk I want to spend time with. You cant help those who don’t want help. I don’t need that attitude in my life. I don’t need to grant pity to those who intentionally make their lives, and the lives of those around them, a wreck.

Trust. I’m not a materialist. History lives in my mind. Things, items, are lost all the time. But trust, that is something lost that should be found. Trust is something that can be rebuilt, like a heart, if you give it time and try again. It is slow, and scary, and often you discover how much of the story you’ve told yourself isn’t really true or accurate to anything. We learn tips and tricks to protect ourselves when we are younge, when facing trauma. Learning to let go of those things when they became unnecessary, that’s hard. It’s putting down the shield, and uncurling the death grip from the sword, because the war is over. Don’t get me wrong, the shield and sword are by the door, just in case. There are still con artists and toxic selfish people in the world. Trust is not something to give out to just anyone. But trusting your judgement call in others, that’s the first step. Full of trial and error, but so so validating when nurtured. Take your time. Be kind and forgiving of yourself, and others. Make notes about what is good and bad in peoples character, what social cues to look out for. You can do this. I believe in you.


Musica de Muerte

I’ve been singing songs since forever. When I was a babe it was my Irish grandmother singing songs from the old country. When I was small, it was my father humming tunes, and singing all the wrong words. When I was in school, it was sitting in the Keva, a circle around a fire or a well, singing songs from across many lands. When I older, I joined a choir called Jerk Church; a drinking group with a singing problem, and we sang the Irish songs of new.

Song has been apart of my life always. I understand when the aboriginals of Australia say they sing themselves across the land; sing illness out of their skin.

I am Irish, and when my people die we sing. We laugh, and we cry, and we above all else, sing.

Yesterday was my last night in Puerto Vallarta on this trip, and instead of walking into a fond farewell from the community I’d made here, I walked into a wake. It turned out that a few nights prior a beloved member of the community had passed due to health related circumstances. They had only just found out, and they were, for the better part, very upset. I’d only met him briefly, a handful of times, and though I can see his face clearly in my mind, we were by no means close. If I had more time here, maybe we would have been. This is not remotely the first time this has happened to me. It will not be the last.

Sat at this bar the shock of it was palpable. There’s little to say, but to nod sadly. I know my place is to give comfort, and energy. This has been one of my places for a long time in this world, and I know how to do this well. You can try and distract, but mostly you just have to validate, give permission to feel, and commiserate. For me, the hardest part is not remembering. I miss my friends, when I’m at a wake. I’ve lost a lot of friends.

But so there we are, and the speakers are going and its a cacophony of Fleetwood Mac, and Stevie Nix, and Queen, and System of a Down, and songs we all of us, stretching an age group of 30-60, all know the words too. There we are, all of us, in a giant sing along. For the first handful of songs no ones really paying attention. We’re singing, yes, but we don’t really notice the laughter or smiles. Then a sadder slower song comes on and things get somewhat somber again, and then a roaring singalong of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. That’s when I see it, realize it. Music therapy. Expression of emotions.

I witness this community, who lacked the skills to fully express their pain with anything but quiet tears, put all their pain into the familiar words of songs they knew and loved. I watched them bounce, and laugh, and dance, and take all that energy and funnel it out of themselves, out into the night sky. I watch their spirits rise with relief, not only in the letting go, but in the community, in the camaraderie, in the shared heart.

I’ve always sung songs, but in this moment I finally understood the true value of the song. I understood the healing nature of song; the therapy of song. Certainly, on a personal level, I knew these things. Even in a group, I knew these things, but my people are Irish. This is just what we do, and have always done. A group from many walks of life, with many different life experiences, and of many different races, and ages, coming together to share in something so deep and profound. This, to me, was miraculous. This to me, was a game changer.

Though I mourn our friend, and sorrow for the ache of this community, I feel a certain sense of gratitude towards him that he could bring us together in this way. On my last night might have seen a few people, yet instead, because of this wake I saw them all, and was granted permission to share in something more profound. I became part of a family.

Death is apart of life. Strive to sing songs with the living, to create, and share in these moments with those you love while they are here. Death can be an excuse, but how much stronger your heart will be if you take the time with them while they are alive.

Musica de Vida.

Musica de Muerte.