With the dramatic flair of a matador preparing to tease a raging bull, my twenty-year-old eyes gave a come-hither look as I waved my pink poodle skirt wildly. It was an evening I’d never forget.
In 1972, I spread my theatrical wings in the musical Mame at the University of San Francisco. Wildly dancing the jitterbug under intense lighting, the routine was perfectly choreographed, from the flip of my blonde curls to the syncopated tap on my toes. My partner and I practiced the number over and over until it was flawless. Little did I know that my trust in his strength would be shattered with one short twirl.
Jumping onto his frame, coiling my legs around his waist in a vice-like grip, I let go of my arms that clung to his neck, and dropped backward. Then, spinning in circles, my hair sweeping the stage floor, I mentally prepared for the show stopping dismount with confidence. Unfortunately, instead of landing on my feet, my partner lost his grasp, and I flew. With arms and legs flailing in all directions, I ended up landing on a balding man’s lap in the front row.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry,” I whispered, humiliated. Sliding off his legs, I slithered to the steps on the right of the stage to make my entrance back, hoping no one noticed.
Finding my partner, who continued dancing as if I’d never left, my eyes screamed, “I’m going to kill you.” But deep within, I was genuinely frightened as I wondered if I could ever trust this boy with my safety again.
When I was a little girl, Susie Sunshine was my middle name. Inheriting my dad’s optimistic outlook on life, I constantly found the good in every situation and in every person. Sadly, this often left me filling many a tissue. Human nature can’t help but disappoint sometimes. But despite the pain and embarrassment of that “break a leg” day, I continued to believe in my partner — in everyone. Then, in 2001, my good nature was blindsided, and for the first time in my life, I saw my trusting nature disintegrate.
Divorce is never easy, even when both parties are in agreement of the dissolution. But when betrayal and deceit are involved, a massive storm cloud sits precariously over a wounded heart far too long and you’re left wondering if the sun will ever shine again. Anger and resentment obscured my view of the world, and the quality I loved most about myself dissolved into buckets of tears.
During that painful period of my life, I walked around wrapped up in the unfairness of it all and went to great lengths to protect my fragile being, negating my belief in others who were always truthful and deserved better. Then, one day, I finally cried, “enough!” I’d given too much power to a broken dream that blocked the core of who I indeed was. It was time for “Susie” to come home.
Trust has been called many things: emotion, a way of thinking, a subjective, conscious experience. I prefer to think of it as an expectation, something I look forward to.
When I decide to put my faith in someone, I live with a heart wide open, ready to love freely. Through this, I expect a beautiful experience with another equally giving soul in return.
And while I’ve learned trust should never be given blindly, for age and wisdom have taught that the recipient must be worthy, living with a suspicious, unforgiving mind only creates darkness. I’ve made peace with the past, my children’s father, and my marriage that wasn’t meant to last, and found living in the light far more desirable.
Today, I continue to dance without fear that I’ll be dropped on my head. Sure, missteps may happen, and a toe might get squashed along the way, but placing the power of faith in another only nurtures the confidence I need to continue to perform on any of life’s stages, free and triumphant.
We’ve all had moments when our hearts were broken due to the selfishness of another. How did you overcome your pain, or have you?