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.


Chapter 10: Winn

Attraction: What our relationships tell us about ourselves

Attraction ‘at trac tion’ late Middle English denoting the action of a poultice in drawing matter from the tissues

I’ve had numerous conversations with my brother-in-law, a clinical psychologist who focuses his practice on children and early childhood trauma. A revealing dynamic he has shared is the difference in play between healthy children and those that have experienced trauma. For healthy children, they experience play where conflict, say over a mutually desired toy, is experienced in the moment and then passes as quickly as it came. Children who have suffered trauma, however, hang on to the conflict and repeatedly experience the drama projecting it into one play interaction to the next.

The implication of the latter case is profound as the children grow into adults; the cycle of transferring and projecting the unresolved trauma and drama from one relationship to the other becomes relentless. Most of us can think of a person or two whom we have known that continually is trapped in this cycle. Whether at work, in our family or some other community circle, there are those that are prone to conflict and drama and often just the thought of interacting with them creates stress. Or perhaps, others become stressed when they know they have to interact with us! You see, we all fall victim to this transference and projection of unresolved trauma to a degree because trauma in our childhood is unavoidable. Even for the most well adjusted person, whether through a loss of a pet, a grandparent, a frayed friendship, or the divorce of parents or worse, we all experience trauma which then sets in motion the lifelong pursuit of our nature to heal. Yet many don’t.

For many, and as has been the case for myself for years, healing can be nothing more than a slog of repeated drama. Life is like a hamster on a wheel, just more of the same conflict transferred from one relationship to another. To understand this, we have to unpack the nature of relationship. Relationship, like a poultice, draws out what we need from others, and draws out what they need from us. And yet neither person is prepared for the bitter medicine of what results. The problem comes from our expectation of the relationship. We expect that it will make us better, make us whole, and yet that is not the purpose of it. The purpose of the relationship is to draw out of each other what we are meant to learn. And in many cases, we are unwilling to learn what we are confronted with; that perhaps it is us that is the problem. That we need to make changes and choose another way of being.

When we do choose to learn from the relationship, often the purpose of the relationship itself is fulfilled and comes to an end. A sign of healing is knowing when to let go or continue in the vein of an entirely new contract where both parties have come to a new depth of understanding of themselves and the other. It is rare, but it happens. A few years ago I made the decision to stop initiating contact with my friendships. This was primarily an inner exercise to challenge my need for validation and approval of others, but it was also an experiment of sorts to see how many of them would reach out to me, and for what reason. Several did not respond to the silence, another handful did but had something specific they wanted, much of little to do with relationship. A precious few sought me out in service, inquiring how I was doing and expressing concern and appreciation for the friendship. It is with this last group that I continue the friendships today, learning and challenging each other in the continual journey of healing. And as the proverbial door closes, a window opens and I have discovered a whole new set of friendships and relationships that are enriching and offer a further healing and lessons to be learned.

Inasmuch, there is deep wisdom in relationships and what attracts us to them, and them to us. They speak to us – drawing out what we have to learn from the other. When we recognize this then question becomes, are we prepared to accept the brutal truth of what the relationship tells us about ourselves?

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.

Not Loving the Plateau Right Now

Full confession…I’m not a very good student. That is, the student that puts in his time; puts in the practice and hones the material. Rather, I am addicted to the discovery, the cognitive leaps. Synapses that bring about thrilling insights and discoveries. But as with any addiction, the short-term reward is increasingly followed by a long-term deleterious effect – malaise.

Salvation comes in the form of doing the work. Of practice and routine in doing something over, and over, and over until the beauty of the practice emerges. But one must work through the ugliness and discomfort first – the plateau that seems to go forever.

“What you resist, persists, Rick.”

I wince when I remember these wise words shared with me at a younger and blissfully more ignorant age. And yet there is grace even in this moment of truth. To choose action is a moment of Creation. And the only question left to answer is, “will Creation be honored with the action that follows?”

Truth, is

I am tired of myself this way,

whining at the world in expectation

of a salvation delivered.


I am tired of myself this way,

shuffling from one unfinished room to the next

waiting for inspiration to move me to action.


I am tired of myself this way,

proclaiming meaningless truths to those I love

unseeing of the precious time I have wasted.


I am tired of myself this way,

finding roots of the undesired

run deep in my bones.


I am tired of myself this way,

failing to name what I am

and what I desire to be.


The hardest surrender

is to let go of that which is not named

and to be unknown even to myself.



Screaming at God (or why I don’t write when I am happy)

It’s easier

when it’s just me

When it’s just the sound of my voice,

in between the distractions,

to remind me

that God is listening,

and occasionally asks,

“What do you have to say for yourself?”

It’s 3:10 am and the dogs have woken me up this morning barking at the east winds that buffet the house. The house creaks more these days, just like my knees. I yell at the dogs and burrow under the warm covers, knowing sleep will not come back this morning. My mind is up and wandering. I give thanks for another day and roll out of bed, surrendering my place beside Teresa. She murmers something unintelligible and annexes my warm spot. She can sleep for ten hours a night. I’d sooner win the lottery than this mind of mine allowing me that kind of slumber.

Fuck you! I want to shout (with a nanosecond of hesitation)

“How did you think it would be?” God said.

“Different than this,” I said.

“Different better, or different worse?” she said.

“Just different,” I said.

Or better, I guess.”

The questions come abundantly this time of the morning. The answers, not so much. At least, not new answers as I reflect on a conversation with a friend last week. I spoke a brutal truth to him. It surprised both of us and hit him in a vulnerable place.

“I don’t trust you,” I said.

His eyes screamed #backstabbingmotherfucker, though what he said was much more diplomatic.

“I thought I would have more to show for my sacrifices,” I said.

“There are no guarantees,” she said. “But only that which you believe to be true.”

I mimic the refrain in a petulant voice, having heard it many times before.

I can be such an asshole.

“What is it that you want?” she said.

I thought carefully this time. More so than before at least.

“To know what I do matters. And that it helps in big ways, and small.”

I don’t know how to feel. I am full of don’t-know-how-to-feel’s. All I know is it needed to be said. I needed to say it. Whether he needed to hear it is up to him. He may not have heard it. He may have heard something else, no different that what often I hear is my own mis-translation of what others say to me. Convoluted by my own projection of uncertainty, inadequacy, or a plethora of other nouns.

“You have all those things,” she said. “So, what is the problem?”

I don’t know what to say.

“You have chosen your path,” she continues.

“One does not walk through the unbroken brush unscathed.”

“When does it get easier?” I said, the emotion at my throat.

“In time, you will reach the clearing. For now, you must embrace the purpose for how you travel. For that is my gift to you, and is what gives meaning to your story.”