My moments of greatest distress have always come from when a relationship is shifting and changing. A friend moving, a break-up, a client firing me, a fight….all these things cause me anxiety. (I’m only beginning now to be able to name that which we call anxiety when I feel it in my own life). In the moment I’m viewing those relationships as drastically changing, and all my warning sirens go off, anxiety takes over and I fall apart into heaps of desperate acts and illogical rambling, grasping for resolve. One of these stories is captured in an episode of Guise. One of my best friends moved away two separate times and both times it brought me to the brink of meltdown. It was much worse the second time.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I am this way. Why do I feel anxious when the agreement in a relationship seems to be up for re-negotiation? Is it just that I don’t like change of trust? In present relationships we all have specific ways in which we trust each other, and knowing there is a change coming to that, especially in the ways you trust that person, makes us feel very vulnerable. The last person you want to be vulnerable with is the one who you’ve recently had a change or loss of trust in. I don’t feel this way with new people at all. When you are meeting people you are sort of entering into a new negotiation with someone, establishing the rules, figuring things out. This is very easy for me. It’s later on, when things seem back open for negotiation where it gets hard.
Loss/change of trust is really just a simplistic way of saying loss of perception of what the future will hold in your relation to that person as Darryl puts it in the podcast. I say perception because trust doesn’t mean actual guarantee, trust is choice we make about the future. We make this choice based on our understanding of the past. We don’t trust those that have repeatedly done things that are intolerable and nor should we. We lose trust when someone acts outside of the understanding that you had for that person. That kind of change dislodges you from the foundation that you were so dependent on and that all relationships are dependent on.
For me it seemed like there was more going on than loss of trust. Most of these situations didn’t lead to losing trust, but simply just a change in how I understood the future (not the past which is what trust is based on). I have a problem with the temporal (even though everything is). It makes me feel really uncomfortable. Instead of appreciating what was and resting in the joy of what it was, I tend to take what I think is coming in the future and apply all that into the past and present. Which, if trust is built based on how we understand the past, what is it exactly that I am doing? Why am I overriding that trust that I have with some sort of strange projection into the future? Why am I rewriting the past based on a change of what the future will hold? I’m basing my relationships not on the memories, joy and love that has been experienced but rather on my expectation of what the future should hold. Which ends up being a lot more about my anxiety about the future than anything to do with that person.
I’m not sure what came first, but I am not one to sit around and share memories. I’m not a great storyteller and my memory of details is poor – maybe that’s it? All I know is that 9/10 times I’m wanting to make plans for the future, not recall the nostalgia of the past. (Yes I’m one of those people that even have a hard time living in the present because I’m already planning the next adventure). This makes relationships tricky. I have been in so many groups of friends where conversation exists completely in the past. It’s the same stories over and over again, and people seem to be living in so much joy and contentment telling these stories. But I don’t. I want to look forward and write new stories, not just read old ones. I want to plan what’s next, not just remember what happened.
I don’t think one way or another is better, but I certainly know the way I lean. And this makes relationships difficult for me at times, especially when change is coming. What it means is that I can find myself discontent by standing still. I can find myself dissatisfied with the present and re-writing the past based on my anxiety. I find myself anxious at anything temporary, because I fear that things will eventually just be summed up in memories rather than new lived experiences; that the substance of the relationship will be about what we had, not what is coming.
I think I need to learn a deeper respect for the temporary be more confident about my memory of the past. A proper balance in the present is likely a healthy way forward. The present can be informed both by the past and the hoped for future. Leaning too heavily on one in favour of the other ends in not being fully free in the present.