The other day I was running home from work: my ongoing attempt to combat adult onset diabetes. In my first four or five months in Palau I gained 25 pounds. And not the good kind of 25 pounds, whatever that is. I did the math and found out that if I kept gaining weight at that speed indefinitely, I would weigh over 1,000 pounds by the time I turned 40.

I was in pretty good shape last October. And then BAM. Rice. Fried foods. Ice cream. Laziness. ALL at the same time. For five months.

I tried to stop but every day the couch and ice cream were so friendly to me and were always like, "Eli, come hang out with us! We understand you!" And, well, I can't just say no to hospitality.

I knew things were bad by January because my pants were no longer buttoning up and I had to start letting my shirt hang over them so others couldn't see that they were open throughout the work day. But then one day I happened upon a scale and I weighed myself. And it was scary.

Guys, I know. I live on a tropical island in perpetual summer. I should have the body of an island god by now. Don't you think I know that? DON'T YOU THINK I EXPECTED THAT TO HAPPEN WITHOUT EFFORT WHEN I MOVED TO THE EQUATOR?!

Well, when I got to Palau it turned out to be a lot hotter than I expected. And every time I went outside to exercise, I just sort of found myself laying on the beach, eating, for 12 hours.


When I weighed myself, I knew that the Twice Up The Barrel Tour to the U.S. was only about six weeks away, and I suddenly panicked. I could deal with the fact that my friends would see my expedited trip through gluttony, but I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to fit into any of my suits that were hanging out at Bob and Cathie's house.

That's when I started the Great Rice Embargo of 2013 and I started running home from work every day in the heat. By the time I got to the U.S. I had lost about 15 of those pounds and then by the end of my two weeks in Salt Lake City, I lost the other ten due to not eating because of stress and emotional turmoil.


Anyway, I decided I should keep up the running thing. So as I was running the other day, someone came sprinting right behind me. When I heard his steps grow louder, I immediately assumed that he was going to try to kill me and throw my massacred body into the ocean. When he passed without so much as a hello, I had to laugh at myself.

Paranoia? Probably. I've been been accused of such a few times in my life.

But it got me thinking about the topic of trust, which I've thought an awful lot about over the past few months. My inclination to assume evil and abnormal motives of a stranger, when all signs of his presence pointed to innocuousness and normality, said something about my trust of him. Specifically, that I didn't trust him. And that my distrust of him was the baseline I put him at when I found out he existed. In other words, he had to earn my trust rather than lose it.

And that's fine, really, on most levels. It's ok to not implicitly trust all strangers everywhere. Although it is hard to live in a community-centered society without trusting some strangers on some level.

But I wondered about what has happened with my ability to trust the people in my life who are not as . . . strangerish as the people I've never met.

I've had some bad experiences recently with trust. Without going into too much detail, I was lied to repeatedly by someone that I never would have expected to have lied. By a few people, actually, but the actions of one of these people were damaging to me and affected my life and my life choices on a practical level. The others were just hurtful and frustrating.

Fortunately I became aware of the truth before it was too late, assuming that it could have actually become "too late" at some point. And I was able to protect myself and do my best to clean up the consequences of some unfortunate confusion.

But the whole coming-of-age situation left its battle wounds, which is fine, because battle wounds are reminders of the pain we went through to learn an important lesson.

Unfortunately, ever since this all came to light, I have felt myself close up considerably and question the level of trust I have with so many other people. And I have been sorely tempted to believe that not trusting anyone is the best way to proceed because it's the only surefire way to prevent betrayal. I've also found myself starting to affirmatively look for any form of dishonesty in the people around me, and I can feel myself wanting to take each finding personally, regardless of the intentions of the other person or the relevance of that mistruth to my life.

Trust is a two-edged sword, even for the optimists. It opens us up for meaningful interaction and productive conversation. It's a healthy way to actually connect with others. But it also makes us vulnerable and opens us up to the possibility of deeper levels of betrayal. And everyone has to find the right balance and figure out how to trust just enough to have a positive life experience and help others, but not so much to get run over in the process.

For the first time in my life, I think I'm becoming cognizant of the need to look for that balance. I have typically been very trusting and I have let myself believe that if I did good to others, I would somehow be protected from hurt. I still believe that that is true on some level, but I'm wondering now how much to trust those who have betrayed, and those who have not, but not trust so much that I am not protecting myself. And, I guess, I'm also wondering what "trust" actually means.

Any thoughts from the Strangers of the world would be most appreciated.

~It Just Gets Stranger