Exit 139. You can’t trust other people with your plans.

For a while in my late 20s, when I had time to kill, sometimes I would go to this large used book store.  I would browse their clearance rack, which consisted of paperbacks for 25 and 50 cents, and I would buy things I knew I would want to read someday.  I was reading a lot of Star Wars paperbacks back in those days, and I also bought several books by bestselling authors I was already familiar with.  Over a decade later, there are still a few books I obtained that way on my bookshelf that I never read.  Recently, I was looking through my bookshelf for something to read, and I came across one such book that I couldn’t remember if I had ever read.  Looking through it, the synopsis on the back looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember any details beyond that.  I flipped through the pages and found a bookmark on page 83, less than a quarter of the way through the book, suggesting that I had started it but never finished it.  So I picked it up and started reading… and I finished it today.

Since the rest of this post contains major spoilers, I will only be discussing the plot in vague terms, and I won’t name the title or author here.  If you are curious, let me know and I’ll tell you privately.  This paragraph does not do justice to the actual novel, because I don’t want to make it too obvious from the start in case anyone else out there is reading it.  Most of what I want to say involves the ending, where the main character has a plan to disappear with a large sum of money and start a new life, along with a woman who is both his accomplice and lover.  Everything seems to be going swimmingly, wrapping up for his desired ending, except that the woman disappears with the money, leaving him alone and heartbroken without the fortune he wanted to start his new life.

I’ve always had an odd and cynical fascination with story lines of betrayal, particularly when the betraying is done by a woman who the main character thought loved him.  I think this is a reaction to the many times that I have felt betrayed by those close to me, particularly by potential love interests.  It’s a bit comforting to know that central characters also get betrayed by women, and that not every story has a happy lovey-dovey ending.  It’s also comforting that this betrayal is a key part of the story’s dénouement, and not just the back story of a cynical supporting character with a negative view of the opposite sex.  It makes me feel like I’m not alone in everything that has happened to me.

I see a sad but true lesson in this: you can’t trust other people with your plans.  Others cannot be controlled or predicted.  I’m not saying that every plan will end in betrayal.  There are good people out there, and I want to try to be someone whom others can trust as much as possible.  But the world just doesn’t work that way.  With over seven billion people in the world, each having unique back stories, interests, motivations, and weaknesses, some of those plans are bound to conflict with each other, whether intentionally or not.  The only one truly worth trusting is God.

I can’t make my peace depend on the way others treat me.  I can’t make my happiness depend on finding the right woman someday.  I’ve heard stuff like this before, over and over again, particularly the part about finding the right woman.  You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.  If you aren’t content alone, then you aren’t really ready for a healthy relationship.  Some of that I had dismissed as Josh Harris-type mumbo-jumbo, on the grounds that if I were to concentrate on being content with being alone, then if/when the right woman did come along, I’d miss the chance to get to know her, because I’d be so dead set on being alone that I would purposely avoid doing anything that could be construed as dating.  But there is a lot of truth in the idea of learning to be content alone.  As I said earlier, I can’t predict or control others, and I can’t orient my entire life and happiness around waiting for someone else.  Waiting for someone else to make you happy is also the classic setup for being emotionally needy in an unhealthy way.  There has to be some balance, some kind of happy medium where I can learn to be content in a way that is not contingent on others, yet guardedly open to new friendships and relationships that may happen.

I’m not sure what this is going to look like.  Maybe a temporary time of being more isolated socially as I figure life out.  Maybe a lot of time in prayer and meditation.  Maybe cutting out of my life some who bring me down far more than they build me up.  Maybe I’m not quite sure yet.  But at least I know something to work on.

Exit 133. Time to go our separate ways.

I’ve known you for many, many years.  I’ve trusted you with some very important secrets.  I’ve defended you to others who don’t like you and keep telling me that I can do better.

And yet you betrayed my trust.  You told lies and engaged in shady unethical behavior for purely selfish reasons.  Although I don’t believe that you put any secrets of mine at risk, I can’t say the same for everyone else who trusted you, and it was probably only a matter of time before you used me as well.

So, after 21 years, it is time to go our separate ways.  I have moved on.  I’m over you.  Time to make a new start with someone else.  It’s done.

For the record, this is about my bank.  The bank that I have used for the last 21 years was caught in a scandal recently, and as of this weekend I have finished moving my money elsewhere and cutting all ties to them.  This post wasn’t about a friend or a significant other, and it isn’t intended to passively-aggressively call anyone out.  But if the shoe fits…

I’ve said this before.  I hate to cut anyone out of my life, because even when I grow apart from someone, I remember what it was like when we were close, and I always want to hold out hope that we may grow close again.  But sometimes holding on to something like this does more harm than good.  Not everyone whom I meet is going to be a close friend forever, or at all, and not everyone whom I choose to make a priority is going to make me a priority in their life in return.  It is exceedingly draining to keep investing my life and my emotional energy in someone who just doesn’t act like they care.  Maybe we were close once, but sometimes people change, and sometimes when I first want to be close to someone, I don’t realize what they are really like.

I’ve always had a hard time with this aspect of friendships and relationships, and it has been coming up again lately in a lot of places, including my experience with the bank.  Unfortunately, this is just part of life and of growing up.  Who to keep in my life and who to cut ties with is going to be a difficult decision…

Exit 101. It’s nice to feel trusted.

I was recently visiting someone, whom I’ll call Albireo.  She was babysitting her 7-year-old cousin for part of the time that I was there.  This kid is hilarious, and once she quickly got over the initial shyness that many kids seem to experience when in the presence of an unknown adult, she seemed to take a liking to me.  At one point, Albireo had left the room for a few minutes to check on something that was in the oven, and the little girl decided that it would be hilarious to tickle me, repeatedly.  I eventually tickled back, and we got into a big tickle fight that eventually led to her standing on the arm of the couch and jumping on me like a wrestler jumping off the ropes to body-slam his opponent. Albireo walked back in the room just as I was getting body-slammed and quickly told her that jumping on people was not acceptable behavior.

During the whole time I was getting tickled, I was a little hesitant to tickle back, and even when I decided I was going to play along, I felt hesitant… mostly because I didn’t want to do anything that might be construed as child molestation or anything like that.  People are way too sensitive about this kind of thing these days.  In my line of work, of course, that kind of allegation can be quite damaging, and I have often been cautioned to leave the door open when students are in my room by themselves.  I was relieved to see that Albireo seemed to trust leaving me alone in a room with her.  It’s nice to feel trusted.

But, wait, you’re probably saying. Albireo is your friend.  Of course she would trust you.  Is there really a reason you think she wouldn’t trust you?

If you’re asking because of anything that happened in the past specifically involving Albireo, then no, I don’t think she would have a reason not to trust me.  But given things that have happened in the past involving other people, one incident in particular, yes.

In 2003, I was attending a Bible study meeting through Church II With The Problems.  Someone I didn’t know brought a baby.  I remember briefly looking at the baby.  I don’t remember exactly what I did or said to the baby, but it wasn’t anything unusual that I, or any normal person, wouldn’t do in a circumstance like that.  A few minutes later, a guy who I had known for almost eight years, since long before I started attending Church II With The Problems (he was essentially how I found that church in the first place) pulled me aside and said that the baby’s mom had told him that I had touched her baby inappropriately.  Whatever it was, it was either a lie or a misunderstanding, and I honestly to this day don’t know what happened to bring about this false allegation.  But what hurt was that the guy who pulled me aside to talk to me was someone I had known for years, far longer than I have known Albireo now.  I would expect him to trust me enough that he could have told the baby’s mom that I wouldn’t do something like that, but he did not.

At work on Friday, the principal stopped by briefly during every period to talk to the students about something, and during my most difficult period, one student was interrupting enough that she asked him to leave the room and talked to him about it before he came back.  (I honestly don’t know if he was given detention or anything like that.)  As I was leaving later that day, I saw the principal, and she asked how the rest of the day went.  I mentioned that it had been good, except that the period when the one boy had interrupted her was unusually poorly behaved the rest of the day, even for them.  As we were talking about various ways to handle that class, not once did she ever make a remark along the lines of, “Well, you just need to control those students better,” nor did I ever feel like I was being scolded for having a class that was out of control.  I felt that from many of my superiors in previous jobs over the years, but it has not been like that here.  I generally feel more trusted and supported currently than I have in the past.

Trust is a touchy subject for me.  As I said, I am used to others not trusting me, because of various negative experiences in the past.  I am also used to being too trusting of others, and then having that trust betrayed.  Be careful whom you trust, but if someone trusts you, don’t ever take that for granted.

Exit 96. I’m scared.

I’m scared.

I’m scared of what the world is coming to.  The Presidential election here in the USA is just eight months away, and all of the leading candidates scare me.  In one party, a crooked and dishonest career lawyer and politician is sparring with another career politician who, although he seems to be a decent man, has extremely radical views that go against much of what I believe this country stands for.  On the other side, a demagogue with a long history of baggage is telling angry people what they want to hear, even though it goes against his previous actions and positions, and his conduct is completely unbecoming of someone fit to lead a nation.  A few of the other candidates running I find somewhat tolerable, but splitting the vote among these minor candidates just seems to be helping said demagogue pull away in the race.  I fear for the future of this country if this many people really support candidates like this.

I’m scared of what passes for entertainment these days.  I’m scared at how desensitized some of us have become to depictions of adult situations and violence.  I’m scared at how shows that were considered horribly trashy just a quarter-century ago are so tame by today’s standards.  I’m scared that kids grow up thinking that the way violence and sex are portrayed on TV is normal.  I’m scared that my values seem laughably quaint to the rest of the world.

I’m scared of the way we treat each other.  I’m scared of how so few people are honest and straightforward anymore.  I’m scared of the way that so many of my friends seem to keep me out of the loop on purpose.  (To my friend who saw fit to keep me in the loop, recently, thank you.  You know who you are, and you know what this is about.  I appreciate it.)   And I’m scared that some people would throw away years of friendship and stab their loved ones in the back for totally selfish reasons.

Perhaps the scariest thing is that none of this should surprise me.  It’s all in the Bible.  Jesus said over and over again that difficult times were coming.  We will be persecuted for our beliefs.  There will be wars, and brother will rise up against brother (Matthew 24).  Paul writes that a man of lawlessness will come and make people believe the lies of Satan (2 Thessalonians 2).  (Note: I’m not saying I honestly think that Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, or Hillary Clinton is the Antichrist.  But the concept of deceitful demagoguery is in the Bible.)

I don’t know who or what I can trust anymore.  All I have left to hold on to is Jesus.  Maybe that’s where I need to be right now, so I can tear down everything holding me back and build something new.