It’s All A Matter of Trust

by Susan Pogorzelski on May 31, 2009 · 7 comments

I’ve lived long enough to have learned
The closer you get to the fire,
the more you get burned.
But that won’t happen to us…

Billy Joel, “A Matter of Trust”

the fire pit by ajgreen24 (flickr)

I went to a friend’s house this weekend for some much-needed downtime. We hung around their small fire pit in the backyard and told stories of reminiscence late into the evening. “Remember when…?” one would ask, and we laughed as we remembered when. Three of us had been friends for nearly ten years, and as one was fairly recently married, an easy friendship formed between his wife and I.

We joked and we talked and we roasted marshmallows and hot peppers and whatever else we could find in their cupboards. It felt good, it felt natural, it felt comfortable. And I realized that I don’t always feel that way with people, even with close friends.

At one point in our conversations, we began talking about relationships, and I mentioned that it takes me a very long time to feel completely at ease with situations, with people.

“Sometimes I feel like I walk around with an energy that says ‘stand back, keep your distance,’ I admitted.

“Yeah,” said Jersey friend, completely serious. “You even do that with me.”

I paused, and I looked at him. And then I looked at my other friends, the couple, who kind of nodded in agreement.

And I knew, as much as I hated to admit even that, that it was true.

I don’t mean to. Pushing people away is the very last thing I want, but I know that this happens and I know that I’m at least partly to blame. Because I can feel that there’s a side of myself that’s hesitant, wary, reserved.

I know, am so aware of the fact, that I give off this vibe that says ‘give me space’ and ‘don’t get too close,’ when all I really want to say is ignore that, come close, get to know me.

Help me let down my guard…

Because as much as I hate to admit it, as trusting and open and friendly as I like to think I am, as much as I’m really trying to break down those walls, they’re still up, still standing.

Still holding strong.

Why do I create such an inner defense? Why, even with my closest friends, do I feel the need to keep my distance?

What is it about myself that I’m trying to protect?

“Leap before looking” isn’t a phrase I live by, but it’s one I desperately want to adapt. I hate the hesitant side of myself, the one that tests the waters, the one that feels so closed off, even among the people I care about most. I know that they’re some of my closest friends, they’re not going anywhere, so what am I so afraid of?

But maybe that’s just it. Maybe that’s why this wall has been created, why I keep my distance, why I hesitate. Because if you don’t get too close, you can’t lose someone, you can’t get hurt.

But if you don’t get close enough, you could lose everything anyway.

I wonder if maybe I once considered myself so independent that people tended to think I didn’t need them, despite needing them.

I wonder if maybe that didn’t help to create this vibe, this space, this distance, despite wanting to be more open, be closer.

I wondered, once, if maybe I just needed to embrace that and learn to leap for myself.

But these friends have shown me in recent weeks that they’re still here, still willing to stand by me despite feeling so closed off, despite this distance that I’ve subconsciously maintained. And, ironically, I feel closer to them than I have in the ten years of our friendship, and it feels good, it feels safe, it feels right.

They’ve taught me that friendship is really two-sided, that there are people who care enough about you, too, to push back, to help you realize that you don’t need to do everything yourself. They’ve shown me that you don’t have to create that distance, that they’ll be there no matter what.

And they’ll reach out to you when you need it but can’t express it.

And they’ll take your hand and smile in reassurance and let you know that they’re right beside you.

And then…they’ll take that leap with you.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

julie May 31, 2009

Well said, Susan. I hear you, it’s hard! I think we all put out one vibe when we really want to put out another, to certain extents. I don’t think any of us really put ourselves out there like we could. Yes, your *true* friends will be there, no matter what. The more we’re open to people, the more they’ll be open to us. Definitely don’t be afraid to take risks and be yourself. You can’t fear the consequences. (And obviously, you’re not afraid, because look at you, you put yourself out there in lots of positive ways.) I have to remind myself of that all the time. “If you’re never hurt or embarrassed or scared, you’re never taking any risks” ~ Julia Sorel.

hugs, julie


Akirah May 31, 2009

I struggle with this as well. I’ve been hurt a lot lately and it’s hard to let someone, just anyone, in. I hate being hurt and I HATE looking like a fool in front of others. I’m not certain of the best way to deal with this, but at least it’s on my radar. It’s encouraging to know it’s on your radar too.


Sam May 31, 2009

This is beautiful, Susan. I hope those friends you were with read this post, so they know both how much they mean to you, and how lucky they are to have you. I too have trouble sometimes letting my guard down, without even realizing it. There have been some bad experiences in the past that have made me wary as well. I think it’s okay and understandable to put ourselves first, and to try and learn from our past mistakes, but we have to be able to move on and let people in, and I think you’re doing just that.


Kristina May 31, 2009

I’m sorry, were we separated a birth? Are you my long lost twin??? We are stand-offish because we don’t want to be hurt. It is a defense mechanism. It is fight or flight and out bodies naturally go to flight, in this case withdrawal, inwardness, and desire for space. I know the dichotomy all too well.


cari June 5, 2009

i hear you. COMPLETELY!! only recently have i begun to open up to those closest to me and it took a devastating break up to do that. to show me things i’d never considered before. it’s been hard, but totally worth it.

dropped by via perfectlycursedlife’s bloggy award list.


Susan Pogorzelski - admin June 10, 2009

Julie — Thanks so much for your comment as well as your support! I agree, I think everyone has a part of themselves that they shelter, maybe for fear of people’s reactions, maybe because of past experiences. I love what you say, however, that “the more we’re open to people, the more they’ll be open to us.” I think this is true for a lot of things in life and it’s something I’m really beginning to trust. Thanks for the encouragement, it’s absolutely extended to you as well!

Akirah: I’m with you. And, really, I think acknowledging it might (hopefully) be the first step for both of us. It takes a lot to trust another person and let down your guard because past experiences make you hesitant, unwilling to get hurt again. I hope that we can both find that letting others in can be worthwhile. Best of luck to you!

Sam: Thanks. You’re exactly right, and as I’ve said above, I do believe it’s past experiences that have created this guard, this shelter. It’s not something I consciously created, but I’ve realized that it’s there. And, like you say, I think it’s important to begin to let that down to move forward and embrace positive relationships. Thanks, Sam!

Kris: You know, sometimes with you and Sam, I really wonder if we were! You’re exactly right — it’s a defense mechanism built for fear of getting hurt. It reminds me of that reflex that some animals have where they curl up in a ball when they feel threatened. I admittedly tend to retreat inside myself , close myself off, to prevent any harm. But that shield then keeps away everything — the good and the bad. And that’s not right, not worth it. Here’s hoping we both learn to let down that guard.

Cari: Thanks for stopping by! And yes, once you open up I think you begin to see some positive changes, possibility. And I completely agree — it’s hard, but worth it. Maybe the things that are most worth it are always hard. Thanks for the comment, Cari! Best to you!


Nean August 16, 2009

OMG… Susan, we are definitely soul friends! When did you steal my journal and who said you could share it with the world?


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