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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The Green Room

Fresh off the editing press, thanks to a retreat weekend with my Rouse group! The Green Room is about my awakening, when shit really began to happen. This was the genesis…

The Underage Traveler – Chapter 12: The Green Room

(For more of the memoir you can find it here)

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?

 

Nine Twenty Four Fourteen

 

Am I standing too still,

or moving too fast

to capture the moments that speed past me?

Today is our 26th wedding anniversary, and I am deeply thankful for my wife and the relationship we have forged between us. Forged is such a perfect word, because forging is an outcome of heat and pressure – very relevant to our experience. As I steep in the satisfaction of the day, I am painfully aware of how much work our marriage has been for both of us. It causes me to wonder, is it this much work for everyone’s marriage? Or have I just complicated things because I have never been satisfied with status quo? Honey, you should have married a librarian…

Life stands between will, and willing

Frozen by the questions

of what matters,

and what makes a difference

Our marriage is like a film, spliced from a million fragmented moments of hardware store errands, poopy diapers, exhausted intimacy, choir concerts, teacher conferences, football games, track meets, camping among the Redwoods, laughing, crying, boredom, and regret for hurtful things that cannot be unsaid. Like Michelangelo and marble, I have mastered the art of apology.

Suddenly the simple seems complex,

and the complex incomprehensible.

The more I see my life from the perspective of the observer, the more I recognize it is of my doing, and it scares me. What and who I am is manifested of all that I believe myself to be, or not. And that frightens me more than it encourages. I fear that as I grow older, my non-beliefs outweigh my beliefs and suddenly Don Quixote’s quest doesn’t seem like such folly.

Rain returned today, soon turning golden grass green

And to peel paint on neglected railings on this monstrosity 

of a thirty something’s ego.

Turkey Loaf

Chapter 7 of The Underage Traveler – It is fascinating what is remembered and what is forgotten. In fact checking with my sister, I realize that I had conveniently forgotten critical details in how things went down in the family. Or perhaps, we are both correct and the only thing that matters is our version of truth. Because in the end, that is what we face. Our truth. No one else’s.

The Underage Traveler – Chapter 7_Turkey Loaf