As spring approaches summer in these parts and reaches out to pass its baton, I feel the imminence of change. I feel the imminence of my kids finishing another school year and the changes in MY routine that will bring. I feel the imminence of sports camps and camping trips and summer visits back home.
The earth itself is tilting differently, the sun casting different light and unfamiliar shadow.
And I notice that now, as has always been the case in times of transition, my psyche looks for anchors to hold onto – any sort of “knowns” to use as hand-holds through the whirl of real and anticipated change.
Things as simple as knowing what campsite we’ll be going to (that one from last year that we liked so much), or which week we’ll return to our home town for family/friend visits, or that the patio furniture is out again and dusted, ready for outdoor mealtimes: these ground me in a certain way. They sooth that part of my animal brain that feels restless and a little unmoored when change is underway.
I’m thinking today, though, about times when outer transitions happen at the same time that INNER transitions are already underway.
It’s one thing to feel a mostly-solid sense of yourself and get a little restless when you know you’re about to move or go on vacation or switch jobs, and another thing entirely to have your inner world a shambles when these outer things take place.
I vividly remember walking the stage at graduation from grad school, stocked full to overflowing with information and tools to apply to a field with which I no longer felt resonance. I was trained to teach Christian theology and was above-my-neck deep in a painful loss of Christian identity.
So while my classmates surely felt the awkwardness of transitioning out of the classroom, I’ve a hunch my level of awkward ran laps and laps around theirs.
I didn’t just want to know what life beyond school would be like; I wanted to know what life beyond who I’d always known myself to be would be like.
I didn’t just want to know when I’d visit family that summer; I wanted to know how I’d possibly talk with them about where I’d been and where I felt I was going when ALL of that – every last bit – was shrouded in fog.
Anchors that might otherwise ground us when we face outer transitions can add layer upon layer of stress when inner shifts are already under way.
Whether you’re going through divorce, grieving the death of a dear one, facing health crises, or losing your religion, nothing is known anymore. Activities and traditions that before this time anchored your seasons or years get cast in unfamiliar light, and rather than being sources of comfort, become reminders of how far you feel from “normal”.
So what does this have to do with trust?
When life serves us up challenges like the disorientation of inner transformation happening at the same time as external change, trust is like the supportive hand of a friend resting on your back.
When your adrenal glands are in hyper-active mode and your stomach is in knots and your muscles in your forehead or shoulders or back are holding your tension like it’s that or let you fall to your sure death, trust is like a wise mentor taking your hand and leading you where you know, deep down, you want to go anyway.
And when the view from where you stand includes very little that’s familiar and a whole lot of unknown, trust is like a little stone that’s a symbol of love. You keep it in your pocket to remind you, each time you feel it there, that you aren’t ultimately alone, and that even if everything falls apart and seems to go poorly, in the deepest sense, which is the only one that truly matters, love has your heart and your back.
In other words, trust is an anchor or a hand-hold that doesn’t ADD stress to our plates when inner transitions meet outer ones. It actually peals that stress, layer by layer, away.
And here’s the real kicker of it, which is to say comfort of it, and what my life’s work is all about:
Trust can be consciously cultivated.
It can be cultivated when you aren’t in transition.
It can be cultivated when you ARE in transition.
It can be cultivated when you’re doubting life’s goodness completely.
It can be cultivated when you’re depressed.
It can be cultivated when everything’s falling apart and all hope is gone.
Cultivating trust is about starting wherever you are and turning as much as you’re able – even if that’s just a finger or toe – in the direction of openness to the possibility that this right here (whatever “this” might be in your inner or outer circumstances) can be part of a bigger and beautiful story.
It’s about recognizing and admitting that Fear and Anxiety and Depression aren’t what you want to run your show.
It’s about incremental (and occasionally crazy-fast) growth in your capacity to turn more and more of your fingers and toes in trust’s direction and actually begin to actively do things like:
- prune away stories and beliefs that aren’t serving you;
- distance yourself from people and influences that are toxic to your thriving;
- seek out people and influences that support your thriving;
- relax more and more (as opposed to tense up and resist) into who and what and where you are.
If you’re new to this concept or need a simple suggestion for where to start today, here’s one:
Imagine yourself literally moving onto your own side.
Imagine the parts of you that have been at odds with you, criticizing or judging you for not being more _______ or less _______ or not doing more _______ and avoiding things like ______ actually dropping their fists and their weapons and their criticisms and stepping with kindness and compassion and contrition back onto your side.
Each time you imagine yourself engaging people or participating in events or facing change through this season, imagine yourself repeatedly stepping back onto your side when parts of you wander elsewhere, being and becoming the firm, compassionate support you most need.
This is a radical move, and likely the single most potent when it comes to growing trust.
And if you want to take this step further, here are more you might try:
1. Spend some time exploring the Free Stuff page on this site. There are wonderful resources there that, taken in succession, can begin to fill you with a quiet and growing strength. If you’re really feeling low, this post might help you sidestep the triggers you might have around too rosey/victorious of claims around what trust can do.
2. Book a Deep Listening Session. These are soul-shifting experiences of naming your places of fear and/or pockets of growing trust, being deeply heard, and having a custom piece of art created by me in response. It’s like getting a massage, but having long-term results.
3. Check out this resource for navigating vacations and holidays with extended family. Those of us in the northern hemisphere are entering into the summer season when opportunities to stand more consciously on our own side…or not…while with family often come in greater supply. Planning ahead to do so can mean the difference between feeling triggered, depleted, and self-critical, or more safely supported by trust.
If you purchased this book previously, this could be a wonderful time to pull it out, dust it off, and make plans to apply some of its practices.
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I’m right here with you on this path of growing trust (meaning: doing what I do here at Trust Tending, but even more so, facing fears and tending trust alongside of them myself). And I hope with all my heart you find the nourishment for trust that you need – here or elsewhere.
I’ve an ever-deepening trust that you will. A deepening trust that, indeed, you already are.