Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Relationships 2

I know we’d all like to consider ourselves as independent of our parents,
but whether we want to admit it or not, relationships are modeled by parents.

We grow up learning how to conduct relationships by watching how our parents conduct them. Children grow up to imitate, and perpetuate those behaviors. If we grow up in a healthy family, where honesty trumps deceit, where openness overrides secrecy, where courage conquers pretension, we are much better equipped to enter into adult relationships than if the opposite would have prevailed in the family.

If parents are open and honest with each other, as well as with their children, those children have a good start on having similar kinds of relationships as adults.

If, however, a child grows up in a family where one, or both, of the parents are evasive, dishonest, or indirect, that child will learn to protect himself with a host of somewhat other-than-forthright relationships. He, or she, may not necessarily become stunted to the same degree as the parents, but will, more likely than not, conduct their developing relationships in a manner innately designed to provide the greatest level of self-protection. The child learns to deflect, avoid, or ignore anything (or anybody) that challenges (intentionally or not) the comfort of their status quo. They will not take risks in relation to their comfort zone. The fear is carried with them long into their adult lives. They remain afraid of being transparent, of being judged, of being thought of as lesser than how they would hope to be perceived.

Children of alcoholic, or drug-indulging parents face the same set of challenges. Those self-destructive behaviors create a compromised foundation that the parent models throughout their daily lives. The same can be said about divorce or abuse. The child learns very quickly not to trust the parent, withholds their true self from the parent, and continues that manner of relating on into their other adult relationships. Self-protection is always at the forefront. It takes a lot of hard work and a lifetime of continuing self-assessment to break down the need for self-protection.
Some of you have done the hard work, and know what I’m talking about.
Others won’t even begin to engage the work until their lives are demanding it of them.

Obviously, children of dysfunctional relationships often gravitate towards their own addictions, effectively diminishing their ability for healthy and honest relationships. They might even end up embracing some sort of religious fundamentalism. When that dynamic takes hold in their lives, honesty of exchange gets filtered through the prism of one’s own buried pain or unworthiness, often culminating in a stunted ability to be honest and transparent. With the religious person’s honorable, but misguided, attempt to be a ‘shining light’, an example of righteousness, that person is far-too-often just practicing a ‘spiritual’ form of self-protection. It is not courageous, and it becomes almost impossible for that person to see themselves from the perspective of another, less indoctrinated point of view. It is a cloak of invisibility, and it becomes their way of life. It is very difficult, if not unachievable, for someone operating on a more pragmatic level to sustain any kind of honest, continuing, relationship with them.
Sure, some who grow up in healthy families also find the exercise of their faith in religious fundamentalism, but they have the experience of strong bonds, honest communication, and family support to supplement them.

As adults, it is in our own best interest to recognize the relationships from which we have emerged, from which we have been molded, and, if negative, to summon the courage to deny them their continuing influence in our lives. It is not only in our best interest, but it is imperative that we break the chain of self-protection so that our children and grandchildren can be free to function fully, and without inhibition, in this very difficult and demanding world.

I know that nobody likes to be told to 'tell the truth'. But, Tell the Truth, friends. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Make it your own meditation. Do not be afraid. I dare you. It is the most important step towards the enabling of health in your relationships, and for the generations downstream of your own lives.

Of course you might be asking, “What makes you such an expert on matters of relationships?”
And I say, “I’m not an expert. I never have been, and I probably never will be, but I do pay attention. In fact, I’ve paid attention almost every day of my life. I know what I know, from personal experience, as well as from my observance of human nature and human behavior. I see what I see. I choose to relate to life as it is, rather than how I might prefer for it to be. I will never wear the proverbial rose-colored glasses.
I think you know that.

And that is exactly why you continue to read me.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Relationships are never easy. They’ve never been easy for me, and I’m sure they’ve never been very easy for you either. After all, they do involve another person, besides ourselves. Most of us don’t have much trouble having a relationship with ourselves, but throw another person in the mix and things can become problematic. Relationships have their ups and downs. They have prolonged periods of both. And they have their periods of dormancy. They have periods of intense mutual interest, and they have times of relative disinterest. Relationships wax and wane, as it were, like the tide.

Relationships. They get complicated. They’re kind of like sex. It’s much easier for one to have an intimate relationship with one’s self than it is to have a personal, intimate relationship with another person. And if you think that’s not true, you haven’t been paying attention to the staggering increase in the world’s consumption of pornography. It is, without question, one of the largest, if not THE largest industry on the planet today.

With the availability of ‘social networking’ sites on the Internet, we live under the illusion that we are connecting with other people. We live under the misconception that these exchanges are bringing us together, that they encourage relationship. But in reality, these sites keep us separate from each other, under the delusion that we are connected. It is far too easy to ‘be friends’ in cyber space, and it is equally effortless to dismiss friends and acquaintances, or to simply ignore the involvement should it require some degree of personal investment. The Internet gives us full control of our ‘relationships’, something we do not have with real associations, and many people have allowed these relationships to replace, or at least minimize, actual ones.
Consequently, more and more people find themselves settling for alternate ways to meet their needs. They have simply given up on real relationships. And with the complexity of maintaining a relationship in today’s world, I frequently have to ask myself, “Who can really blame them?”

Relationships take effort, a lot of effort. They must be defined, and they must be negotiated, otherwise they tend to fold in on themselves like a parachute catching a downdraft. They can be an expansive element of one’s life, but can also become a dangerous inversion of one’s expectations. Relationships, to be successful, require that both parties play by the same set of rules. And if they don’t, it is only a matter of time before they implode.

It’s not as important what the rules are, as it is that they are agreed upon in the development of the relationship. The rules can be tacit, (understood, or implied, without being stated openly), but they must exist for the relationship to prosper. And they must be understood and embraced equally, with honesty of intention, and commitment to upholding the integrity of their purpose.
Something that is sorely lacking with Internet friendships.

For harmony to exist in any relationship, honesty must prevail. Otherwise the relationship is reduced to two people pretending that everything is OK. OK, however, is pretty transparent, even to the least observant among us, and over time even it becomes compromised, reduced to the relationship equivalent of two people talking about the weather. If that is the relationship that is agreed upon, fine. And the weather changes regularly, so there will always be cause for new discussion. A nice safe, formulaic relationship where each party is equally protected from the other. Neither party takes any risks, expands the parameters of the relationship, or ever has to confront their own fears and insecurities. Nobody gets hurt.

And the relationship doesn’t grow.
I’m sure you have your share of those.

But my question is, “Why would someone even want to be in a relationship with someone they feel they need to protect themselves from?” A person could have that kind of relationship on the Internet, or with a box of cereal, or with the order-taker at a drive-thru fast food restaurant.
Why pretend at relationship?

If both parties intend to have a real relationship, they cannot, as people are want to do, pretend that everything is fine when it’s not. Pretension breeds resentment, resentment breeds silence, and silence breeds distance. It takes courage not to pretend that everything is OK, but it takes more courage to see that things don’t get there in the first place. Courage is a quality always in high demand, but, unfortunately, it is also a quality in scarce supply in our modern day culture.

Relationships are never easy, but, unfortunately, we’re learning to replace courage with the simple ‘click of a mouse’.
That’s very sad,
I think.

To be continued:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Tranquil Sky

The tranquil sky, stretching wide across a lingering horizon, painted with the loving hand, and expertise, of one who knows what stimulates, and invigorates, the soul of a man such as myself. I do not suppose the Artist chose to paint it for my pleasure alone (although I’d like to think that) but for you as well. I can only hope that you are awake this morning to embrace it. The expanse that is my view from where I write creates, and enables, a similar expanse from inside me, from deep within the hidden recesses of my faith, and of my sometimes pain, extending outward now, opening my arms to the possibility of the unforeseen, the unexpected, and the mostly undeserved.

The tranquil sky. It is an expanse that moves me to move beyond that which is hidden, that which is broken, in disrepair, or disarray. It is a provocation to rise above the weakness that is my tired body, and the bitterness that is too often in my heart; above that which is frail, that which is decayed (and decaying), that which lays dormant collecting the insincere accolades of its own apathy, and that which seeks to extract the divine from its partnership with my emerging soul.

It is not every morning that the sky opens itself so willingly to me. But when it does, it announces itself like a trumpet call from across the canyon. A man would be a fool not to pay attention.

Thankfully, the heavens are transparent, allowing light to pass through them with little or no interruption or distortion so that objects in the depth of its existence, like the sun, the moon, or the other planets, can be clearly seen, visible for what they are. The sky, I believe, seeks to interweave its nature with our own.
Were the sky, however, to be opaque, like so many people in their self-protective world, it would be impervious to light, dull, impenetrable, and without luster, obscuring even the most significant aspects of its own beauty.

The tranquil sky.
That we all might seek the same transparency.