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Today, I had an experience which flashed me back to my high school days when I was told that I was gullible or naïve for believing stories that people told, that turned out not to be true. At the time, admittedly I was a very sheltered child and I thank my parents daily for protecting me from some of the truly monumental crap that people out there do. Yet, my siblings weren’t naïve or gullible. Maybe because I’m the eldest and I saw the world through a child’s eyes for so very long. I have long believed in the goodness in all people, in the wonder of the world of the fact that I tell the truth and am always honest, yet somehow, expect other people to see and interact in the world in the same way.
I didn’t have many friends in primary and high school. I grew up in a small town and never really clicked with anyone in the way that I have as an adult with my best girlfriends. A girl who I thought was my friend betrayed me in a way that I cannot forget, I can certainly forgive, but what she did to me was appalling, even by today’s standards. Our families were very good friends and we went camping together and spent a lot of time together, then when I was about 10, she moved to a town an hour away. We continued to see them over the years and in year eight, I was invited over to stay with her for a few days. In the meanwhile, she had made a new friend, who I instantly disliked, but thought I should give her the benefit of the doubt because my friend was her friend.
My friend’s mum and brothers went out for a few hours and their plan was to do a nudie run around the house. I was to go first. So, I stripped naked and they pushed me out the door and I ran around as we agreed. When I returned, they wouldn’t let me in. I could hear them giggling on the other side of the door and I vividly remember sitting on the cold steps outside wondering what I could do, or if there was a window open or if I could beat them at their own game. Alas, I couldn’t. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that she would betray me like that. It was cruel, and, yes, her betrayal still hurts. After I had my first daughter ten years later, she came back into my life and I thought it would be a good opportunity to mend some of the hurt. So after seeing her at a family event, I went to see her at her workplace. Carrying my daughter in my arms I had hoped to see if she wanted to catch up for a cuppa or something. As soon as she saw me enter the building, I saw her dive under her desk and pretend that she didn’t see me. About 18 months later an invitation to her wedding arrived and my mother couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t going. As you can understand, I never want to see this woman ever again.
She was my first best friend. And she betrayed me. She abused my innocence about the world and it left me with trust issues around friendships that I still carry today. Obviously, as a 40 year old with three daughters of my own, I can see that she really wasn’t my friend, but showed her true colours when it was asked of her. Which brings me back to my naïveté, was I naïve, or did I go into the friendship with an open heart and expecting the same in return?
Today’s event was a disclosure of some information by my eldest child about her life and her past. I am not angry at her for what she did, it was a choice that she made – despite my best advice and parenting skills about the issue to prevent it from happening in the first place. What I’m upset about, is why I didn’t see it at the time. Am I so blindingly naïve that I can’t even see things going on in my own child’s life and the changes that it brings in her? Am I too self-involved? Do I only choose to see the light and potential in someone and aren’t realistic enough to see what’s in-front of my own eyes. According to www.dictionary.com naïve means to “have or show unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality”. Am I so simplistic that I see the true nature of people without seeing what they put up as their “mask” that they show the world? Do I love my daughter so much that I’m blinded by the masks that she wears? Is it a bad thing to see the absence of artificiality? Is it a personality flaw that I carry to wander through the world expecting the best and the authentic truth from other people, only to be disappointed by their artificial ways? Or is it a strength?
Dictionary.com also uses the words: “unsophisticated; ingenuous and; having or showing lack of experience, judgement or information; credulous.” I don’t think I’m unsophisticated, but I suppose in many areas of my life, I do lack experience, yet I’m hardly what you would call “street smart”. I didn’t get drunk until my late teens and my first real sexual experience was around the same time. Does that make me naïve? Or does it make me a good judgment of what works for me? I remember in high school, kids telling stories, and I would listen attentively and my face would obviously show shock, or despair or sadness, and then the storyteller would sit back and go, “you’re so naïve, you’d believe anything.” To me, that’s somewhat inauthentic, and yes, artificial. Is there something wrong with believing in the goodness of other people? In-fact, in my teaching job, that personal quality has led me to help many of the “unteachable” kids that society throws away. I’m very good at that role – planning and assessing and all that other stuff, not so much, but seeing the goodness, the humanity, the real pain and suffering of traumatised kids – I’m good at that. Even yesterday at work, I was told that one of the students was “playing me”. Was I being played? Or was I being a compassionate being, catering to his needs and hearing his voice?
Even if I think about my adult relationships, both with friends and lovers, I always go in expecting the best, seeing the best, encouraging the best. But like one of my dearest friends once said to me, “You really don’t know what another person is thinking of you.” And that’s both positive and negative, yet, I always hold friends and lovers at an arm’s length, never quite opening right up, because this little voice in my head, in my body, remembers my best friend’s betrayal at 13. It remembers the childhood woundings of being openly lied to and then laughed at when I couldn’t believe I was lied to.
No, I don’t think being innocent, or naïve is a flaw, it is a strength. And if I am the only person on this planet who is authentic, deeply honest and not afraid to speak my truth, well, so be it. I would rather a world where everyone speaks deeply from the heart and sees the world with childlike wonder, than to play these silly games with people’s emotions and to wear a mask of artificiality. From my open heart to yours,
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2015
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