Last Thursday at our lesson, my piano teacher Diana told me something new about myself.
She was talking about her husband and lamented his wide-eyed naivete about people.
"Ahhh," she sighed, "It's because he's a Virgo."
"Really?" I said excitedly and then blurted, "Is that why I am the way I am?" I didn't explicitly explain what I meant, but she knew: I want to know why I trust people so fully and so readily.
"Oh yes," she said, "Yes, it's in your nature. You can't help it."
I felt a softening of relief.
"I'm relieved by that," I admitted. "Because I've been thinking lately about how, despite being burned so badly by people in my past, I haven't learned anything from it."
"No." She countered, more serious and lucid than I typically see her. It was as if she snapped into focus and really wanted me to understand this one thing. "No. You have learned from it. From all of it."
"You think?" I push her.
"Yes yes. It just hasn't changed the way you see people: you don't want to see the world that way. You believe that people are generally good. Don't lose that. Don't turn into me- always thinking someone's out to her her."
Could she be right?
As much as I want to be hardened, to be learned, and to carry my scars as a reminder, I am honestly surprised by the very little amount of resentment or distrust I harbor, even towards the people who have taken advantage of me. I have had a wicked suspicion lately that this is due to stupidity, or a vicious fog of denial, but perhaps it is a pure and simple desire to have faith in people.
This goes against every opportunity I've seized in the past to vocally philosophize about how futile it is to place hope in humanity, and even contradicts any present logical conclusions I arrive at regarding human nature on the whole: we, as humans, fail each other every day. For evidence, watch the local news, an episode of The Jersey Shore, or any number of mid-day talk shows (I think the people on Judge Judy make me the saddest).
But while I intellectually know this to be true, that humans act poorly and it is our regular and base state of being, I don't think it's our intended state. We've made it our natural comfort zone, but the potential for goodness and truth and beauty exists in each of us. We might need a lot of help, but I don't know how to believe that some people are beyond help.
I'm no adherent to Astrology, and recognize that this tendency of mine is part nature, but also due in part to my nurture. I have recently learned only in the last couple years that I can not only count myself lucky for this, but unique. So many of my wise, brave, smart friends were shaped by selfish mothers or lying fathers (or combinations of the two). These friends had to learn early on that people lie, cheat, and steal to benefit themselves, even at the cost of other loved ones.
So I know about these things. I watch the news and I read the headlines and I hear from people I love about all the ways in which other people hurt them, and I myself have had enough experience of my own to know better. Which is why I have been starting to feel guilty and stupid about my self-diagnosed inability to "learn from my mistakes" because that's the only time they're worth anything right?
But Diana is helping me to see that maybe it's not a curse, but a gift. And my unwillingness - not "inability"- to villainize people for their actions doesn't mean I have to villainize myself. A line from a letter calls out to me:
"You're a caring, smart, and wonderful person. You're only guilty of that, not being tricked or incapable."
A therapist once told me to examine my past for things, "red-flags" she called them, that I'd deliberately ignored or let slide. And I tried to internalize these things. But honestly, presented with a situation now, where I cared as much as the ones in the past, I can't say I'd do anything any differently. I acted in love, and if that's the worst thing I can say, I can live with that.
Around that time I even had this conversation with my mother, who, in trying to console me, gently cajoled something to the effect of, "Well, maybe you've learned you just can't trust people," and I, sobbing, replied, "That is NOT a world I want to live in."
Diana offered me the validation I've been seeking on the matter. I know she can be downright dotty, but, I happen to know she's dead right on this one.
Because I trust her.