Trusting

I spent this past weekend in London, visiting girlfriends. Roshni, a bomshell from India who is married to a British doctor. Emily, who was my flatmate and fellow American at the University of Leeds. And Nat, a British native who I’ve known for three lives and actually met way back when in Maine. All three of these women are in serious, but very different relationships. I’ve loved surrounding myself with strong and powerful women over the past few months, and this trip to London was no exception. Roshni and I drank tea and watched her wedding video. Em and I enjoyed brunch and discussed her upcoming relocation plans. And Nat and I sat in the dark corner of a pub, sipping cider and discussing Lithuanian men. I’m learning so many things, from so many bright and brilliant ladies. But they’re also inadvertently teaching me things about myself. Some of which I am sad to learn.

A year ago I would have told you that I believed in commitment. My grandparents have been married for 51 years, and on their 50th wedding anniversary, I asked my Papa, “What’s the secret? How did you make your love last for 50 years?” His response? “We didn’t give up. So many people these days walk away when things get hard. There will be days, weeks, or maybe even years where marriage is difficult. The only way to make it work, is to keep working at it. To be committed to your commitment.”

As a romantic, I was somewhat upset. I had expected to hear that my Gramma and Papa were swans. That they always clicked, that they had moved seamlessly throughout life with an abundance of love. But I accepted my Papa’s answer with respect and consideration.

In the last year of my relationship with Ben, I did everything imaginable to make us work. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells. Trying to avoid certain topics. I consented to life decisions I didn’t necessarily believe in, but was willing to make work out of love and devotion. I would have done anything to make Ben smile, to have him adore me again like he used to. I was utterly committed to making us work. We were engaged. He had proposed. He had held had my face, looked me in the eyes, and told me that he wanted to spend his life with me. And I had believed him with all of my heart.

And so a lesson I have learned, is that certainty is not all that certain. That we cannot predict things in life. That commitment can cease. People can change. Basically, shit can happen. I feel wise for understanding this lesson, and openly communicated it to Ro, Em, and Nat this past weekend in London. Surprisingly, each time, this sentiment was met with an uncomfortable frown. Having a few hours by myself on the journey back to Amsterdam, I questioned why this might be. And upon arriving at Schiphol airport, I burst into tears.

I’m not wise or knowledgable. And I haven’t learned a great lesson.

I have just forgotten how to trust.

I put myself in a situation where I loved blindly, completely, and was betrayed. I dreamt a life that was shattered. I committed to someone who lied about being committed to me. And now I feel cynical. I don’t know if I believe in forever. Can I allow myself to rely on someone again? Is it normal for my sense of trust to feel crippled? Maybe 51 years is an anomaly. Maybe swans aren’t real. Or maybe, I just have a long road ahead, with a lot of healing to do.

I’m going to leave you with a note on trees. Random, yes. But incredibly brilliant and loaded with insights on life, happiness, and discovering trust. It’s been a long day, but this essay has really helped assuage my doubts before bed. If a tree can stand still, never look, and yet live in trust and flower year after year, I think I can too, for every crazy unpredictable season in this life.

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

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27 thoughts on “Trusting

  1. Truly a soulful heartfelt post. I find it beautiful that you link together trust and trees because trees always represented the cycle of life to me. And trust is the key to any relationship. When all of life goes on around me, I know and trust that our big 100 plus year old tree will bud and bloom and then go to sleep again in the winter. But you just never know when a gust of wind will take it down like it did to the apple tree a year ago. Life is unsure and you need blind faith to go out on a limb to trust in a relationship again. Oh, P.S. Gramma and Papa have 52 years under their belts, this December it will be 53, what a solid, strong family tree they grew, huh? oxox

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    • Ohh man I can’t believe their 50th was almost THREE years ago. It feels like yesterday. I’ll update the post before Gramma reads ;)

      I’ve been thinking about trees a lot lately. And how seasons keep happening, time keeps going by. Trees and seasons seem to be more dependable than people. And trees teach us trust. I love how they live without expectation and so faithfully flower each season, trusting that they will pollinate but never bending to look at their young.

      We should plant a new apple tree and watch it grow. xo

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  2. This is simply beautiful, Ali. My folks were married 64 years. Amazing. Your analogy of the trees and woods reminds me of the deep woods in Michigan I miss so much. Home. You are amazing!

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  3. What a realization. Yes, of course it will take time to feel ok again, allow yourself that. Personally, my revelation came during my separation in form of finding out that I needed to trust in myself that no matter what circumstances come it is solely in my own power to be happy. I relied on him too much for my happiness, I did so with family and friends too until I spent the year by myself and had a very serious and lengthy discussion with me. When you find your own personal happiness and meet someone who compliments that I think is where comfort and commitment comes in. I’m no expert or anything, just my own experience. BTW I think your Grandpa is brilliant, it takes two people to agree to stick it out through everything for any longevity to exist. Unfortunately, that can backfire sometimes. My parents stuck it out and have been unhappily married for 50 years.

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    • I think you’re right in that we need to trust in ourselves, and rely on ourselves for happiness first. In regards to your parents, I often wonder when commitment should end, or if commitment is commendable in all instances. How do you know when the lows are too low, and the highs aren’t high enough? Just another thing I am left wondering recently . . .

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  4. Such a wonderful post and so true. I have recently been through something similar and thought I could never feel that way about another person. But you will trust in your own time, when you are ready and you must allow yourself to feel and grieve in your own way. This time now is for learning and loving yourself again. Thank you for sharing x

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    • I full heartedly agree with you. Now is the time for myself :) I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone, but it does make you stronger, and it definitely helps uncover inner strength, confidence, and happiness that might not have been apparent before.

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  5. Hello there,

    I was reading through your words. From friends to relationships to trees. Written directly from heart and I love such posts. Every now and then I wonder Life is weird then later I think that Life is great. Its a tough call. I hope you better yourself and have a great life ahead :)

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  6. I always enjoy reading your posts and this one is especially touching. That’s the thing about life, it’s a wonderful, depressing, awe-inspiring, scary, happy and maddening place and it’s especially hard when a fast ball hits you out of no-where. Although it leaves you reeling and feeling lost – you’ll come out stronger than before! You’ll get to know aspects and qualities of yourself you didn’t know you had! In a way, that does leave you with little pearls of wisdom that you may not have gotten, had not for that experience. I’ve learned to live one day at a time since it’s all we really have, make the most of it you can, because for some; tomorrow isn’t promised.

    I especially loved the note on “trees” by Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte, I’ve looked to tree meditation for strength during my most trying times (and they are many) and they do make wonderful teachers :)

    Thank you for sharing!

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      • I found a tree meditation for you:

        There is a simple meditation shared by Nicole Cody, that I do sometimes, when I feel the need to be strengthened.

        Find a tree. It could be a big tree, or small, gnarled or straight. Stand where you can see the tree. If you are ill, and bed-bound, it is fine for it to be a tree outside your window.

        Focus on the tree. Make a connection in your mind between you and the tree. Make a connection in your heart between you and the tree. Feel the energy of the tree. Feel your energy.

        When you have that energetic bond, ask the tree for help. Ask the tree to add to your energy. Ask the tree to strengthen you.

        Now imagine the sap of the tree flowing. Flow that sap into your body. Into your veins. Feel the strength of the tree fill you up. Feel the calm of the tree. Feel its resilience, its watchfulness, its connection to the Earth Mother, to the Sun Mother and to Father Sky.

        Feel the rain that has fallen. Feel the wind that has blown. Feel how all of that gets inside you, and energises your blood. Feel it strengthen your bones, calm your mind and nourish your heart.

        When you are done, give thanks. Disconnect from the tree. Feel the difference in your body. This is tree meditation :)

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        • ohh, this is so brilliant, thank you so much!!! I was admiring the trees in the park this weekend – it’s fall in Amsterdam and the leaves are starting to turn. I’m going to have to get my tree meditation on before the branches are bare. Thank you or sharing x

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  7. After this kind of pain, the heart eventually grows stronger. (I know from experience.) In time, you learn that you can love again and trust again and sure, there is the chance you may be hurt again–but you will find that from this experience that, like the tree, you are more deeply rooted. The winds can blow, but you will bend and sway with them. You are stronger at your core, better able to deal with whatever life sends your way–because if necessary, you have the ability to stand alone. Best wishes for the future, ~Tom

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    • Thank you for your comment, this is a great one :) I actually had a very similar conversation with a friend last night – going through something like this is character building, and even though I didn’t pick it, I can use it to make me a better and stronger person. I like the idea of standing strongly alone, and life often only gives us a handful of opportunities to prove this true.

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  8. I Loved spending the day with you Ali, you are a constant inspiration to me and I find myself talking about you (in a good way!) a lot. I is so refreshing to read such an open and honest account of a take on the world. Its the self realisations we encounter and how one small conversation with a loved one can give your perspective a nudge, or a giant shift in some instances, to a new direction.

    I am so proud of you in so many ways. You are making decisions that are empowering you, that is all that is important and I respect you so much for this. I hope that my reaction to anything we chatted about didn’t upset you.

    Much Love N xxxx

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  9. It is hard isn’t it? And yet, for me, the only thing that has helped me has been being willing to consider that we are not rational beings, and things DO happen….and we might even love lots of people like crazy in our lives….and THIS….oh THIS is the hardest part for us! We want to be THE one. And the heart loves. How do we reconcile all of that so we can feel alive again? I wont say it is easy, but it is WORTH it. Oh, and besides an absolutely awesome blog on love, your adventure blog is awesome. I love it! I actually needed to read through it today. And hang in there!

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