Big Toe

The other week I was having a conversation on The Twitter with a lovely person and we were discussing our mutual people issues, namely: trust issues. We’d both experienced issues with similar groups of people who feigned friendship before ripping the rug out from under us in some fashion. Getting to know people after that history can be difficult, like getting up the courage to jump off a dock into a lake for a swim.

So, what is usually the first thing you do before jumping into a lake? You dip your big toe in to test the temperature. I have found that it’s very much the same with people. You get a feel for the water, so to speak, and see if you’ll be comfortable. This isn’t, of course, a fool-proof method. There are still plenty of people who are fantastic at pretending to be safe, calm waters and when you jump in you’re knee-deep in muck with leeches latching on.

But, let’s not focus on those folks, shall we.

Rooting out the cause of trust issues in myself has been a long process with a number of hiccups along the way. While I’ve familiarized myself with my own issues, I’ve grown more sympathetic and empathetic to those who have experienced similar. Curiously, I’ve had a couple less-than-ideal situations in the last several years which were caused by trusting the wrong people, that while it’s made me even more careful in who I choose to get to know, it’s also made me more able to understand and listen to others.

These experiences have made it far more likely that I’m content to sit on the dock for a good, long time, dangling my feet in the water and letting the fish fry nibble (true story… had a deep, meaningful conversation at friend’s bachelorette party with a lovely woman I’ve since become friends doing that very thing) my toes before deciding to jump in. Letting the fish nibble, the loons call, and boat wakes splash my ankles has become much more a rhythm of relationship-making than has anything else.

When I worked in an industry that my coworkers were therapists and psychologists, I got to learn a great deal about brain science and one of the most important things I learned is that to form solid connections, one should work towards a common goal with another, or share a part of themselves that echoes the experiences of the other person.

Long sentence, right?

Back to the topic. The most meaningful relationships (this is ANY relationship – romantic or otherwise) have been due to spending time working towards a common goal or sharing a part of myself that echoed the other person’s experiences. Okay, there are also familial relationships and those with people with whom I grew up, and so forth, but you get me, right? Even those family relationships and relationships with people I grew up with involve shared experiences.

And sometimes, those experiences are sitting on the dock, “dangling your feet in the water”. Sometimes it’s just feeling out the situation and trying to see if you and the other person are even going to get along. Do you click? Do you have anything on common?

We’re so ready to connect instantaneously with strangers that perhaps we don’t take enough time to think about whether or not, A) we should connect with the person, and B), we have enough in common to connect with the person. That begs not just one question, but a lot of questions. I’ll only cover a couple. Okay, just one.

Is the thing that you have in common right now just sitting on the dock, letting the fish fry nibble your feet as you watch the loons make their way across the water and let the boat wake lap at your ankles exactly that moment?

You know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to not have life-altering, deeply-felt connections over semesters abroad in Europe.

Sometimes, the connection is just that you’re two people who don’t know fully who you are or where you’re going, but right now, you’re sitting on the dock and letting the fish nibble at your toes.

The Amusing Muse is a writer, student, and freelance bookkeeper (it’s official) living in Southern Wisconsin. The weather has warmed enough that it’s “gin season”, and also “iced coffee season”. She’s fully-vaccinated for Covid-19, but still advocates for making-wearing, social-distancing, and keeping everyone safe.

Clipart courtesy of

About The Amusing Muse

Deep thinker whose mind operates at warped speed. Philosopher pondering the big (and little) things in life. Storyteller. Office Ninja. Model. Teller of bad jokes. User of big words.
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