The Quest For Love’s Green Thumb

I recently touched upon an important piece of the relationship puzzle known as “compromise.” Right now I’d like to attempt to go a step further and delve into the concept of give and take or a bilateral reward system by way of an “Epic Simile.” If our goal as a couple is to strengthen and grow our love then we must be open to recognizing each other’s effort and rewarding them with their needed and desired fruits of their labor and in turn trust that they will do the same for us. Try to think of love itself as a living thing, an animal or plant that needs to be watered and fed, it needs play time, sunlight and rest; it needs to feel alive…

I’m going with the plant idea here –

In order to feed and nurture love so it blossoms in to something beautiful we have to plant it, honestly care about it, have passion for it, and have a deep seeded desire to see it reach its full potential and understand that it is going to take vigilant attention and hard work along the way. Cared for and happy plants yield beautiful flowers, robust herbs, juicy fruits and healthy vegetables. In other words, in my opinion, we need to love and care for our partner so much that we actually do everything in our means to help them grow by giving them all the elements they need to do so. They should, in turn, bare the fruits and reward us by fulfilling our needs and we should both expect our needs to be met and we should enjoy both the labor and the rewards. This love is synergy… Synergy can be ridiculously powerful, but by definition cannot be a one sided effort, both teams must give their best performance.

Much like a plant, when love blossoms it needs to be cared for. It needs food, water, fresh air and sunlight. Many people actually talk to their plants and play Vivaldi for them because they believe it helps them grow into stronger, happier plants! Then we have our lovers; we take them for granted and just expect them to grow on their own and still blossom. We stop feeding them. We no loner provide fresh air and sunlight. We stop talking to them. They start to wilt… We expect them to dig their roots in deep and grow tall and mighty like a Redwood with amazingly thick bark and an impressive canopy creating our own self-sustaining microclimate while feeding itself through months of drought.

The reality is that our relationships often resemble that all too common situation when we decide to buy that basil plant from the grocery store. The intent is great and romantic. We pick up that little green pot and have visions of planting it in the back yard or creating and herb planter box so we can walk outside and pick our homegrown vibrantly green fresh herbs to season our favorite dishes with. We come home from the store and pick a few leaves, chiffonade them and add it to our favorite pasta dish. Delicious! We’re so glad we picked it up… A few weeks pass and we notice the sad little green pot in the corner of the counter. We have failed to give it any attention. We have not watered it or given it fresh air or sunlight. The soil is dry and cracking, its stem is thin and weak, the internodes are limp, the terminal buds are brown and dry and the wilted leaves are dusty. We attempt to save it. We flood it with water and place it in the sunlight. In a week we check back in and find it dead.

Unfortunately we can sometimes plant things like strawberries for instance and care for it “by the book.” It grows healthy and strong but its fruit never matures and ripens. Perplexed, this is often when we decide to seek help from the local gardening store explaining the history from the beginning, explaining the environment and perhaps even providing a soil sample as a last ditch effort to produce fresh, ripe, red strawberries – your favorite fruit. Consider this – if you think you are doing everything right by the book; perhaps you have overlooked the need for the appropriate climate and its time for climate change. I beg you, especially if you are the plant, if it’s a new climate you need then let your partner know. If your partner is doing their job and helping you grow then please bare that vibrant, sweet, juicy fruit that your partner is desperately longing for and trying to grow. Don’t force them to give up. Give them a reason to continue to try – reward them. Help them grow so you can pick your desired fruit, vegetable, flower or herb to brighten your life. They invest all that time and energy because they love you and are passionate for you. Strawberries are their absolute favorite fruit and they want you to grow with them and nurture you forever. You are what makes their life sweet!

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

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Au Lieu De

Time spent lost and lonely
Hoping to drown in my tears
I reach out broken-hearted
Gasping, grasping for nothing near

I scrape the walls of my diseased heart
It bleeds bile confusion – feelings
You make it clean
You make it love fearlessly

I breathe my worthless breaths
In lieu of giving up
With it my heart pumps toxins
Daily cleansed by your love

I bleed for you…

St. Remy de Provence, France

St. Remy de Provence, France

The X-Factor

Unfortunately this life is full of negatives and pointless tasks. The days are taken up by work, various trials and scattered conundrums. Tribulation is wrought by multiple misunderstandings and various accidents. Eventually we go to sleep and dream…the next morning we wake and hope this day is better than the last as we walk out that door. We frequently get caught up in and let down by the negative energy that is often surrounding life. For some reason it seems to be so much easier to focus on than all the good we do and the positives in life. So we continually dream and strive for change as we try to create pleasant environments and positive memories to offset the stresses of reality.

I for one feel like I’m stuck in a rut in the everyday monotony of this thing we call life. All I feel like I do is work. I work at least 52 or more hours a week in a job that I wish I could find a way to get out of. Though it is, to me, the most stress free and easiest part of my day – I feel trapped. It’s a black hole or a vacuum sucking my time and life away as I feel my dreams slip though my fingers. Hence, I constantly find myself chasing my dreams. I have this goal, a vision of whom I think I’m supposed to be, albeit in the eyes of many my life isn’t so bad. I admit when I take a moment to step back and honestly asses the reality of the situation…I have to agree; not a bad life. At the very core of it all I have a wife and two beautiful daughters, a well paying and consistent job that will most likely last forever and I live in San Francisco and go for amazing bike rides… Seriously, what the hell am I complaining about?! Well, I’m just not the “me” I expected myself to be at this point in my life. I’m not meeting my own expectations.

I dream of a day that I am paid to travel the globe and write about the adventures I take with my wife, daughters and bike. I dream about my daughters growing and becoming professional ballet dancers and ultimately owning their own studio and company. I envision my wife running her own company; which I’m working on right now and its gonna be perfect in this city… So given the fact that it is hard for me to accept the monotony and do not understand the meaning of the word “contentment,” essentially I dream of us finally controlling our own life and filling it with adventure.

Regardless of all of this, through thick and thin, you know what the best part of my day is? The one constant motivator to continue chasing my dreams. The one thing that makes life worth it and stops the earth from spinning and protects me from all of its forces against me. The light in the shadows of darkness. The thing that reminds me that I’m actually doing alright… The X-Factor. It’s amazing actually, the feeling I get in my heart and soul. I’m talking about that brief, isolated moment when I tuck my girls in at night and they say these seemingly simple words to me – “I Love You Dad.” Yes, this is the real reason why I’m here. That is my true happiness…and nothing else matters. I love you too girls! Thank you for being everything to me.

image

Venom

Downward spiral

Black mamba venom

Rippling effect

Narcoleptic paranoid schizophrenia 



(what the fuck does that mean)



I anticipate

To eliminate

The triggers of rage and envy

All I’ve done

Has been overcome

By sickness and tragedy



(silence followed by reflection)



Pinot Noir

Swirls in crystal

Effecting… Infecting

My thoughts and memory

Once again

I fail to finish

What I’ve begun…

This thought…

This image in my mind…

Its potential will never be realized
…
Just like me…



Permission to think freely

Chateau d'If - Marseille, France

Chateau d’If – Marseille, France

The Silent Partner

Over the last few years I’ve experienced some things that have made me truly analyze myself and rethink my priorities and approach to life, my wife and kids. It has, in turn, created major changes in my heart, mind and soul. I have also watched a few other people change and adapt to certain life altering episodes, which has helped adjust my perspective and has instilled a sense of hope for the direction of my own life. If I can watch people change (for what I see as “the better”) then I know, or at least think, that there may be hope for me too. Perhaps I can make the adjustments that I need so I can become a better example for my family and others and be a genuine husband, lover, father and friend.

A couple of things I think I’m actually pretty good at are listening and thinking, sometimes too good and a little too much though. In fact, in a strange way that seems so obvious to me now, this was at the root of my primary errors in my relationship because it actually fed and enabled negative behavior and resentment in both of us. Arguments, I am learning, apparently may actually be a good thing and shouldn’t be avoided. We shouldn’t be doing all we can to evade them but actually be trying to learn how to accept their inevitability as part of having a relationship and learn how to actually have one with the person who is the love of our life and trust that everything will be fine in the end. I realize that this may sound strange, but hey, I’m strange and these are just my thoughts and opinions and I’m learning as I go… I also understand that there are probably millions of people out there who argue well and have no problems and get what they need out it and just see it as part of life. I never learned how to argue, this was not part of my life growing up. I didn’t know what actually went into a relationship. I became the silent partner… I think I’m finally learning and am solely basing things on my experiences.

The Silent Partner is often a “people pleaser” who has a fear of confrontation and a fear of failure. They tend to rarely argue, plead their case or defend themselves. They usually keep quiet while they keep their opinion to themselves and just take whatever is given to them. This individual tends to always try to see the other person’s perspective first before allowing themselves to react. People pleasers usually try to avoid arguments. They may claim to not understand the need or the value of arguments, perhaps because they don’t know how to argue and are afraid of the unknown outcomes; they are inexperienced and have no control. If this sounds like you then the reality may be that you are coming off as aloof and uncaring. Your partner may view you as disconnected and feel like you don’t want to take a role in the relationship. It might seem like you don’t have any emotions and you simply just don’t care. You’re shutting down and burying it all deep inside. Even though you are convincing yourself and telling your partner you love them and are doing it for them because you are just trying to make them happy, the reality is that they are not receiving a key element that helps with the evolution the relationship. They probably grew up learning the importance of debate. They actually had experience in arguing and venting and realize that it’s just an exercise of clearing out the junk in the attic. They know that arguments do not mean the end of the relationship. It’s just how most people deal with things and it’s a normal part of a relationship. They will slowly give up on you as being an active partner in your love which will lead to you both cultivating depression and resentment on your road to loneliness.

If you are sacrificing and suppressing your thoughts, emotions and dreams while convincing yourself it’s the right thing to do because you love your partner and think this will keep the waters still; you’re wrong. The current below the surface steadily grows turbulent and fierce lurking silently like undertow waiting for you to step in so it can drag you out to the cold and lonely open sea where you drown hopeless and alone. The misunderstanding, silence, burying of emotions and lack of communication and intimacy that comes with all this brews a bubbling cauldron of resentment, hurt and loneliness. By the time you realize that this is the beast beneath the glassy surface, you have grown apart, lost any understanding and communication skills and have created defenses, assumptions and pre-scripted arguments potentially preventing any hope of working through even the smallest of issues. The relationship is tail spinning out of control and the love that once seemed so natural, so deserved and so real is being snuffed out like a candle in the night. Suddenly this will be reality and your biggest fears will be coming true and you just won’t understand how you could have been so misunderstood…

I honestly hope that if this is you or your partner that we are catching the situation early on. The longer this carries on the harder it gets to make the internal adjustments necessary to heal the wounds of your relationship before the get infected and the disease seeps in to the blood stream and circulates throughout the whole body of your relationship. Shock ensues, followed by coma and organ failure eventually leading you to pulling the plug. If you are in the coma phase please don’t give up…instead wake up! Life can be fun. Relationships can be an adventure. We just need to grow up and dumb it down. Simplify; and as a team, give it one more honest try.

Whether you’re diagnosing this early on or a few years in, my opinion is that it takes the same effort and approach to turn things around. In essence, I believe it will take the following, which is my interpretation of “Vulnerability.” In my opinion it takes both people embracing these 5 elements – desire, love, honesty, admittance and understanding. Seriously, you both truly need to have the desire to save the relationship or else you wont have what it takes to put in the effort. As I said, remember the love and let it shine through, it will be the light that guides you along this path. It will help motivate you and bring you peace. Every action, every statement, every conversation, every thought and feeling needs to be grounded in unbridled and genuine honesty; no games, no tests… Admit your faults, errors and shortcomings and own up to your half of the equation. Finally, be understanding in order to hopefully understand… What do I mean? Create an environment that nurtures a disposition to appreciate or share the feelings and thoughts of others, i.e. sympathy. In turn, this will bring a reconciliation of differences; a state of agreement…

I just wish people could strip down their personal shields and pride in light of the love and caring that they have for their partner. Instead of learning how to win arguments or to get your way and make them not bother trying we should be giving our all to trying to understand each others thought processes, ideals and goals. I’m not saying we can’t have heated arguments ever, I’m just thinking that it makes sense to understand how to get down to the real issues at hand that fuel the dispute and learn how to get through it and grow together. I’m thinking that it would be amazing if we could have open and honest communication at all times even in the midst of disagreement. Unfortunately this is all absurdly dependant first on having trust and vulnerability with your partner. I have observed countless times people acting one way with their partners and another with their friends, myself included. Your partner should be your friend too and we should be accepting each other for who we truly are. If there is one person on this planet that we should not have to act in front of or hide emotions from it is our lover!

Keeping The Promise In Compromise

Compromise comes in a few different forms and has different effects and outcomes when coupled with other issues and key needs in a relationship. Breaking this all down would be a whole chapter or even a whole book so I’ll just highlight a couple common issues for now.

Saturday we agreed that I could go for a ride while Rachel took the girls shopping for Brianna’s friend’s birthday present. It was an absolutely beautiful 70° February day in NorCal. I rode with no arm warmers or leg warmers and even ended up with tan lines when all was said and done. The closer I got to a place in the ride that I had to make a route decision that would add and hour to my journey I started to think more about compromise. The deal was that I would ride while they shop. So I happily made the decision to turn right and head home knowing that the average adventure the girls have while shopping takes about two and a half to three hours. We arrived home simultaneously. I was pretty fired up that I made the right decision and was happy to be home. Unfortunately I was met with a glare from Rachel… “They’re all yours tomorrow.” That’s it…

I’ve been attempting to join a Sunday group ride for the last few weeks but Rachel and the girls have been sick so I’ve been off the bike and doing my best to take care of them and be a good dad and husband. They were feeling better so we agreed that I could join the ride on Sunday. Then, suddenly, boom I’m hit with this remark. Now, I frequently feel guilty when I ride because it mysteriously seems that the girls are bad when I’m gone or at least Rachel gets more irritated when I ride. I am gone from 2 to 6 or more hours so I do get it. She needs a break from the kids. Regardless, I recognized that riding with the group at 9:30 the next morning might not be in my best interest. I also realized that bringing up the subject of riding tomorrow probably wasn’t the best idea either. So I sat on it for a few hours and thought of a compromise. “What if I ride at 7:30 and I’m back by 9:30ish? The girls are pretty self sufficient in the morning and you seem to not get up till 9 anyway.” After that its all me. She agreed. It was during this ride that I thought I understood the importance of “compromise” once again and thought it would be a great subject to write about.

The One-sided Compromise – This one is tricky and dangerous because it often falls into two subcategories, neither of which is healthy. First the idea of compromising to get your way, or if you give in then you are angry and blurt out a “well now you owe me,” which in my opinion is not what compromise should be. If the motivation behind the negotiation with your husband or wife is so that you can get your way then you are most likely not giving up anything at all. In fact you will most likely construct a conversation around everything you give up for them on a daily basis and how they don’t understand your needs and never see things your way or are not willing to bend etc. Though some of these statements may be true, which is a totally different issue with the relationship, this is not compromise. It is manipulating and “guilting” to get your way, which just further damages the relationship. Second is compromising because you hope it will make your partner happy and make them love you more. People pleasing and fear of confrontation are the most common vehicles in this occasion. Although the intent here is most likely driven by a form of love at the core, I think it is a damaged love.  Most likely you silently sacrifice your needs and desires for your partner to make them happy and hope for the day that they “pay you back” with love, respect, admiration and adoration. Meanwhile you rarely ask for anything. You become a martyr… If you are compromising like this then it may also be a sign of a few other common issues in marriage which will continue to get worse because you will incessantly grow resentful and your partner will either intentionally or unintentionally continue to walk all over you.

The flip side to the above is finding compromise within open and sincere communication. Communication is perhaps the most underappreciated, mysteriously feared and single most powerful tool in building a concrete relationship followed by sex and money. Issues in these arenas can lead to cracks in the foundation of your relationship, but if you can always talk about it, then there is always hope. We all have needs and desires that we hope will help make our lives feel complete if they are met and realized. Many of the compromises we make in a relationship often seem to revolve around these personal needs and often do not include the spouse and may in fact seem trivial or ridiculous to one or both of the partners. Remember that something small to you may mean the world to another and vice versa. By being open and honest about your needs no matter how big or small they seem to be helps nourish a growing and healthy relationship. It is essential that both sides communicate their needs and concerns about every given situation regardless of which side of the coin you are on. Compromise has two sides and you both need to give and receive. Taper your objective while openly talking about it to please the other person and find genuine happiness in that. Voice your thoughts; especially the ones that make your compromise hard, so that you don’t keep them inside and let them fester into something uglier than they really are. Give and take in a manner that is not actually “tit for tat” but truly a compromise grounded in honest communication and love. Both partners need to feel like they gain, tangibly and/or emotionally, one of them should not feel a sense of defeat. Remember that you may not get exactly what you want but perhaps some version of it. We are not children, we are adults, we are husbands and wives, parents… so we need to grow up, think, love and communicate. This doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and live a little or a lot, it just means we shouldn’t be petulant fools. Instead, approach everything as a team. This, I promise, will help feed a healthy relationship.

Sure this all seems obvious right now while reading it, or perhaps you think it is ridiculous or unrealistic or maybe it strikes a chord with you and you are stuck wondering how to take then next corner. It’s hard to break habits, it’s hard to recognize your own misdoings in a relationship and it’s hard to give up what you believe are your essential rights and freedoms as an individual… but this isn’t politics, this is a relationship and you owe it to yourself and your partner to be honest, open and loving in your listening and communication of each others needs. So respect each other, talk and try to understand each other’s needs. Hold up your end of the bargain and do not take advantage. If you need more or feel uncomfortable or resentful please speak up, never try to bury it. Most importantly never give up on trying to learn more about yourself and your partner by asking and talking about each other’s needs and expectations, dreams and fears and always wholeheartedly try to follow through and keep your promise in the compromise.

Into Oblivion

(This was written by me a number of years ago… He’s still in there somewhere I’m sure…)

I’m slipping into oblivion
Drowning in my sins
Ripping through memories
Hating where I’ve been

The tension…
Haze of confusion
Depression…
Causes bruising

I am who you wish you could be
I have done the things you’ve dreamed
I’m not afraid of anything
I feed on your envy

I’m invincible, unstoppable
You can’t get close to me
I am omnipotent, omniscient
Flawless

This pill
This drink
The fucking thoughts I think
Killing me

My attitude
My dreams
The fucking decisions I make
Destroying me

I never had a chance to just be a kid
Now look at me…