On Marriage, Détente and Higher Peace

Of all the chapters I have posted online, this one by far has been the hardest to do. And I am not entirely sure why? I mean really, I’ve written about much more difficult things in my life than the challenges that Teresa and I have had over the last twenty-seven years of our marriage (Chapter 2 for example). Yet this one…

After my last edit, I gave it to her to read with the full option to say no to publishing it. I was nervous in giving her final say so, though I knew it to be the right thing to do. This was not going to be one of those things where forgiveness over permission would be the better path, as I’ve used up too many of those silver bullets. I didn’t hear back from her for a couple of weeks and eventually convinced myself she hadn’t even read it. I finally mustered the courage to ask, fearing the answer.

“Hey, by the way,” I asked as nonchalant as I could make it one recent Saturday morning as she lounged on the couch in her pajamas, the cat and dog draped over her as she sipped her coffee and surfed the net on the iPad. “Did you ever read the chapter I sent you?”

“Yes,” she said without looking up. Great, I thought, certain on what was coming next.

“Are you okay with me posting it on my blog?” I asked.

“I guess,” she said, still not looking up.

“Are you sure?” Jesus, Rick. Are you kidding me? Take the money and run!

“Mmm-mm.”

“Okay.”

 

That was it. No discussion, no questions, no ringing endorsement. A yes, nonetheless and such as it is, it is posted below with perhaps a thought or two more for context. Slow Climb covers a short, but intense period in our marriage when multiple things were converging – a struggling business, unreconciled grief from the deaths of my parents, unrealized dreams and aspirations of whom I thought I was, and what I would accomplish. All of these and likely many more crisscrossing all at the same time.

As I think back on it and read through the chapter, I’m still not sure how we made it. And yet as I look over the span of the twenty-seven years we’ve had together, a more profound understanding begins to emerge. You see, the relationship Teresa and I have is not what one would consider as perfect soul mates. We are very different people. We have very different interests and value different things. Yet there is this intersection, like two circles on a Venn diagram that converge. The convergence includes the kids, friendships and many other things in this life that we have made together. And yet it is more cellular than that. Like mitochondria, our relationship is endosymbiotic (new word for my vocab, had to look it up). Literally, we exist in partnership within each other.

This deeply embedded relationship has implications, however. As individual as the non-intersected aspects of who we are may be, we cannot truly act on our own accord, out of our own individual desires without it affecting the other. At times we are at such a state of intimate union with the other, and at other times finding ourselves recovering from disconnections and working through détente. In fact, managing through détente has been, and continues to be, a great teacher in my life. Letting go of the individual self. Surrendering to the union.

This I know. All the things that used to, and occasionally still do annoy me – like the remnants of flour on her hands she leaves on the refrigerator door handle, or whatever other food she is cooking hand printed around the kitchen – are now treasures. They are but small blessings of the gift she has for cooking and expressing it through the preparation of amazing food made with love. And I clean up behind her, not with a muttered curse but with whispered reverence and thankfulness for what they represent.

This is my higher peace – finding the joy of the relationship with my wife through the veil of all the things that used to piss me off.

The Underage Traveler – Chapter 13_Slow Climb

 

 

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Winn

The long awaited, anticipated, and multiple other -ted’s…Chapter 10 of my Memoir, The Underage Traveler. Jeez, this one was like giving birth.

“Like you’d know!” my wife would accuse. Point taken, but this one was hard to finish.

Enjoy.

Chapter 10: Winn

Middle Child

I cried my eyes out this morning. My wife had already left for work, but I scared the shit out of the dogs. Guttural sobs while I leaned against the cold steel of the kitchen sink, staring at the wintery backyard through flooded eyes.

God, it hurts.

It is a familiar trigger – struggling with my children’s struggles. This one especially so because he is my reflection, and yet so different at the same time. Like me, he is the middle child. Unlike me, he doesn’t say much. Like me, he craves to be accepted. Unlike me, he won’t ask for help until it is crisis mode.

Ok, I guess that is a little like me…

It’s bad enough that he struggles (even though I know they can be blessings in disguise). But to be a parent is to be by his side, to let him know I am there for him while staying out of his way in his struggle. To allow him to find himself in his flailing and moaning. Yet, I complicate it by projecting my own stuff into it and I make his struggle mine. Fuck, this is hard.

No different than he, I want everyone to be happy. I want everyone to get along. I am the middle child who is a parent of the middle child. And I can’t do this for him.

Red

Chapter 9 of my memoir, The Underage Traveler: Essays On An Unprepared Journey. It describes when I first met my wife, Teresa when finishing college at WWU. Reading through the manuscript, I recall the time vividly and it strikes me how innocent we were. After twenty six years of marriage, if I could speak to myself back then what would I have said?

Be patient. Be kind. We all have shit we are dealing with.

The Underage Traveler – Chapter 9_Red

It Is Okay

Whatever you fear

what you are wary of

what you despair and lament

I lost a client yesterday. Funny, that is is almost as hard to acknowledge than to receive the email from the client in the first place. The truth is, I don’t do vulnerability well. Saturday I went for a walk with a friend who had recently returned from walking the Camino del Santiago and we were getting together to hear about her journey, but we ended up talking about me and my silence (safe to say, I’m usually the chatty one). As she did, I felt a heaviness come over me like a wet wool blanket. I stared at the ground as we walked, kicking gravel out of my way as my jaw slacked. And it dawned on me how much I silence my voice when I am feeling vulnerable.

It is okay

you are not alone

your feelings are known

I have a shadow that moves when I am feeling weak. It is the Warrior archetype and it moves in quickly to protect. It has done its job well over the years, and yet I find it serves me less and less these days. The absence of pain equates to the absence of healing, and I shut myself down.

In the depth of your anguish

remind yourself you are here for a reason

you matter

more than you can see, or hear, or touch

Interestingly, it is here where my work saves me, time and time again. In preparing for a group facilitation I decided to show the Brene Brown TedTalk on vulnerability (if you have not watched it before, I highly recommend it and have linked to it). I have watched Brene’s talk many times before yet I don’t ever seem to have recalled it when I needed it most. Until this week. When in deciding whether it was appropriate to include in the facilitation, I realized it was for me. Because I needed to hear it really bad.

Be patient

breathe

and in time your purpose

will be known to you

But, back to losing a client… The irony in this is I had been feeling for some time that I had lost their ear and what I was delivering to them was having diminishing value. Yet, as always seems to be the case, I depend on the retainer fee and the tension between those two polarities has had me frozen in inaction. Until this weekend when after my walk and talk with my good friend, I had decided to broach the issue of reframing the work or ending the retainer. As much as I feared that conversation, I felt empowered by the conclusion. Then I got sick, and while sleeping it off yesterday I received an email from that client that they were suspending the work due to financial reasons, etc. Reading through the lines, I know what lay at the heart of their decision because it had been my conclusion as well.

And your struggle, your moaning,

your aches and pains, and impatience

will be as echoes on the wind

And this is where it gets interesting. While I had already resolved to terminate the work if needed, receiving the email from them first triggered all kinds of emotions around scarcity, lack of self worth and shame. As crappy as I have been feeling, it was blessing that I was sick because my Warrior kept his shield and sword sheathed, and allowed me to experience the emotions without getting in the way. Raw, unfiltered lament. It sucked and yet was so necessary.

Nothing of consequence

nothing of gravity

is absent of suffering

 

All of which prepares me for the next journey, because as I have experienced time and time again, when the proverbial door closes, a window opens.

The only question to ask yourself is

what are you willing to suffer for?

 

What If I Got It Wrong?

I am not where I thought I would be. I do not feel how I thought I would feel. I am not doing all that I thought I would be doing. And it feels as though I am falling behind.

If there is one thing I am convinced of in acknowledging these brutal truths…I am not very good at predicting when, or how something will happen. And yet I am compelled by visions and intuition that have proved truth enough times over to assure me of my endowments.

What gifts lay within beguile in close proximity to myself.

How am I to reconcile these things? It seems as though without the uncertainty and unknowing, that the vision would become pedestrian and unworthy of the good fight. And yet it is these attributes that plant the seeds of doubt and lament. By not knowing how long or by what journey it will take, the vision is held in the balance of either coming into being, or vanishing with every misgiving.

All of which brings me back to where I am, which is not where I thought I would be. And what scares me more than anything is that I got it wrong. And that there are no do overs.