Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt

One of the great benefits of writing daily is how the practice fosters memory, helps summarize and encode recent experiences, and challenges one to make sense out of the serendipity of life. Since late 2015, I have written 300 blog posts. Exactly. This writing stems from encouragement I got from an English professor in my sophomore year at UWM, and is bolstered by a dream I had of one day being a writer. My friend Missy shared the work of Siri Hustvedt, best known for her novels but a wonderful essayist as well, and I became inspired by her writing.

There is also the wonderful interview by Terry Gross of neuroscientist, Dr. Frances Jensen, author of The Teenage Brain. As interesting and compelling as the interview is, it is when Terry Gross changes the focus from adolescent brain development to Dr. Jensen’s own aging brain that I become enthralled with the podcast. The neuroscientist comments on how useful it is to devote time each day as we age to recount for ourselves the events of the day.

The items of my day are somehow diminished by not having my deceased husband Paul alive to share them. For three decades we came home abuzz with our news, helping each other to make sense of events, organize or consolidate them into things we knew to be true of ourselves and each other. When we confronted things that didn’t fit into our remembered experiences, we reconsolidated them during longer conversations, sometimes during hours and hours of gardening together.

Thus it is no surprise that daily writing serves some of the purpose retaining memory, making sense of my world, and apply what I am thinking about to my daily experiences. This week, for example, as I am writing about the importance of conscious interdependence in community life, I have been reminded of the many conversations my friend for life Jan and I have had about trust and trustworthiness.

Just today, I had two long discussions with investment professionals and noticed that we didn’t share meanings about trust. For me, trust is within my purview. Am I skilled enough, smart enough, or resourceful enough to face the consequences of putting something of me into your hands? Periodically I am asked to lend people small amounts of money. Sometimes I just give the money as a gift instead of a loan. My thought is that I am resourceful enough to provide the money, but I may not be skilled enough to manage the disappointment if it is loaned and not repaid. Another example might be in providing referrals to other professionals. If I have not used their services, I just say so to the person asking. I trust the professional as a friend or colleague, but I cannot vouch for them when I have not used their services. Instead, I encourage others to try them out on their own.

On the other hand, trustworthiness is not in my hands. Oh, I can obviously determine if someone has a credential, attended school, completed an apprenticeship, has a long-list of satisfied customers, or ranks high on Yelp. However, I really have no idea how much of that information is a smoke screen used by ax murderers.

I find it interesting that many people in sales try to convince me to trust them or their claims about a product. They cannot make me trust them. That is my job. Their job is to show up on time, calculate information correctly, know their product, know where to find out more – these add up to showing they are trustworthy.

In community, I find it increasingly challenging to trust as much as I would like. When drivers do not slow for pedestrians, roll through red lights, or fail to signal turns, I lack the skill to overcome the risks of these behaviors. When corporations stoke the campaigns of elected officials, stash cash in off-shore banks, and devote vast sums to present themselves as benign while crippling their workers, I lack the resources to protect myself from them. Of course there are millions and millions of trustworthy drivers and many, many trustworthy corporations. I, however, really trust neither because I cannot.

Our ability to depend on each other is eroded by just this.


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