I Love You, Even When You Are Mad

The Cold Shoulder

There are a number of issues that have recently reared their gnarly domes. As Rose has mentioned, we lived in a house with 5 adults, 200 pounds of animals, and a baby. Which coincidentally means 2 cars, a truck, a van, a motorcycle (for sale), and a Vespa (also for sale). Adding into this that the only person, other than me, that isn’t on the decidedly introverted-side of communication is teething, and you will have a rough guide to life as Carlos.

Rockford only speaks to me in dinosaur noises that express hunger/pain/drumming, and the rest of the household has between 20 and 32 years of familial semiotics that mean most of my day is filled with the kind of silent seething that only a stranger in a strange land can truly understand. Everyone is talking at me and surprised that I don’t understand what they mean. Finally, people get mad at me for persevering too long or, occasionally for asking probing questions (nails on the chalkboard for introverts), and I am left with just this one motto to guide me: “I love you, even when you are mad at me.”

Long ago, in a relationship far far away, I used to get in a lot of fights. Many of those fights revolved around a feeling that I was being willfully negligent of my partner’s desires, many of which were inadequately defined/communicated. On one of these occasions that phrase came to me, even when I wasn’t doing what-I-was-told/what-they-wanted, I wasn’t being intentionally difficult.

Sometimes when we are having issues with people, we forget what it is like to not have any idea what our partner (wife, baby, in-law) is trying to accomplish. One of the things that you will hear a lot from us is that emotions just are, but actions make them good or bad. Anger is neither proof nor refutation of love. Even when emotions get in the way of clear communication, it is important to take stock of yourself and your partner to address what can be done; either a solution or just a chance be heard and return to common ground.

Layover: Boise

Captain’s log, Earth date 4 June 2013. We’ve landed in a strange and lovely place: Boise, Idaho; The Gem State!

My sister has lived in Boise for almost ten years. I’ve been here a handful of times; this is Carlos’s second visit, and Rockford’s first. We rolled into town about 8:30 pm Mountain Time, having left Yakima at 10:15 am Pacific. Our inaugural drive was long, and uneventful, just like we hoped for.

We stopped outside Pendelton, OR to stretch our legs and Carlos attempted to install an additional electrical outlet, at the rest area, like you do. We blew a fuse in the household electrical, discovered that our alignment is off, and saw a truck driver walk away from an accident that left skid marks all over both lanes of the highway and a dent in the guard rail. It was a pretty good drive.

When we arrived in Boise, my brother-in-law had made possibly the best ever incarnation of my favorite comfort food, I think we drank a beer, and then we slept, the sweet, glorious sleep of exhaustion. Today, familia del Rio took a walk down a tiny section of the Boise River Greenbelt, sat in the sun and fed Rockford his first hashbrowns. I wish we had longer to stay here – we’ll get one bike ride in on the Greenbelt, but we won’t get to see the Birds of Prey or visit the Basque Museum/Cultural Center, where my (and by extension, Carlos’s) love of a good kalimotxo was born.

When we come here, I always think, “oh, we’ll just pop in and out,” and somehow forget that I really enjoy spending time with my one and only sister and her really awesome partner. Today I’m regretting how long it took me to get on board with building out the van and launching. I REGRET WASTING TIME IN YAKIMA! I want to be wasting time in Boise instead, toodling around by the river with my cool family. Instead, we had a leisurely morning, and now we’re all working furiously. Tomorrow, we’re going to try to make it to Great Basin, a National Park neither of us has ever been to, and then on Thursday we’re headed into Las Vegas. I would not expect to be much in communication tomorrow, since it’s going to be a looooooooooong drive. And as sad as we are about the reason for it, we’re looking forward to some quality time with Carlos’s family.

Here’s hoping for some more thoroughly uneventful driving and beautiful scenery! We’ll see you on the flip side!

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All work and no play

It feels weird to start another post of the subject of hobbies, but dudes, they’re important.

We’re at the point of really refining what gets to come with us in the Chinook, and it’s not going to be a whole lot. One thing that IS coming, though, is the Art Box. (Other Boxes of note: Dog Box, Tool Box, Office Box.) At first glance, I think the Art Box seems frivolous, like there’s something more important that could go into the space that it’ll take up.

But the thing is this: Art is important. It’s important culturally, and individually. I can’t thrive when I feel like I don’t produce anything. Working on creative projects helps keep the brain flexible, in the same way that riding a bike makes the body better able to do the work of carrying a baby.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I always read this as meaning that Jack was dull to be around; that having no fun outside of work meant that Jack couldn’t relate to other people. I still think that’s true, but it’s not the whole meaning. All work and no play makes Jack less sharp, less shiny, less bright.

I think that people who make a craft (rather than a “fine art”) as their creative output get a little more leeway from the judgment that “art’s not important.” My friend’s dad is a recreational cabinet maker; another friend has gotten deep into tailoring her own clothes; occasionally I finish a knitting project. These creative outputs tell other people that we’re “doing something” when we’re doing something creative.

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of waking up on Saturday morning and putting on my trail boss pants, driving the men of the house outside to work in the yard. Part of it is necessity – five adults in one house gets to be overwhelming, and making the backyard habitable relieves some of the pressure of close quarters. It’s practical, too, beyond just necessary: clearing the ivy from the broken fence so it can be replaced, taking last years fallen leaves to the compost, reducing the number of hazards to both children and unprotected feet. But even beyond that, I do it because it enables me to force them to work on something good.

After days of hauling out leaves and unneeded branches and that stupid ivy, I dragged my dad out there after work one evening. “Come to the yard and let’s talk about your trees.”

“I don’t want to talk about the trees!” he said, as if that were even remotely true. But it didn’t matter, really. The trees are there because he planted them, because he needed them, and they still need him. So I dragged him out (that may be a little melodramatic, yes), and made him spend a few quiet minutes discovering what the yard has been up to while he’s been busy elsewhere. I showed him the tiny, perfect red maple seedlings hiding under the crab apple (RIP, crab apple). We talked about the trees after all.

I do the same thing to Joe – I drag him out of the house, into the sunshine, into the yard where he gets to climb and destroy things and find weird shaped pieces of wood. I drag him outside because it’s really hard to force someone to paint, but it’s easy to say “I need you to help me with some work.” “Come keep me company while I clean the garage, and oh, incidentally, let’s talk about art projects!”

I don’t think of myself as an artist, particularly not a good one, but I love nourishing the artist in other people. During an argument with Carlos, I told him, “What I want is for you to finish the ukulele you’re building me!” It wasn’t because I need that ukulele, but because I want him to spend time making art.

I want all of us to spend time making art, in ways that are appropriate to ourselves. We cannot go live our life on the road without bringing with us the tools to improve and maintain our souls. So we’ll bring fewer pairs of shoes or whatever, and make a little extra room for the screenprinting gear. It’s a trade that is entirely worth it to me.

Apropos: As I was writing this, a smart friend shared this video. I LOVE IT!

Watch Mayim Bialik: Blossoming To Science on PBS. See more from Secret Life of Scientists.

What’s In A Name?

I want to give you a quick warning that this may get weird for those of you who don’t like history or philosophy of faith, but bare with me (pun fully intended).

Those of you who have had in-person conversations with me have probably heard these words come out of my mouth, “People like naming things. It is what we do well, it helps us understand.” I think that you have to be respectful of peoples’ names for themselves. If you have had a private, perhaps late-night or intoxicated, conversation with me you may have heard me say something like: “Naming a thing is not the same as knowing it,” or, “You can’t name a path that you are on.”

Part of this view comes from my understanding of the universe around me. That understanding is very influenced by the Tao Te Ching, particularly the day that I read, “You cannot push a river.” I won’t get into the evolution of what that means inside of my head; instead I will tell you what that means to me in thinking about my own name.

My name is Carlos Durant del Rio. That means (roughly): Man Enduring of the River or Strong Endurance of the River.

Depending on the day, I have distinctly different feelings about the river, but I can’t really escape it. That has been in many ways how I have seen my life–surviving or persevering through life. Both my dad and my granddad had the same name: Guardian (Protector) of the River. It’s kind of like Granddad passed his job on to his son. And, in turn, my dad gave me the job of trying to be part of the river.

Days went by, as they are so wont to do, and I met (and much later) married Rose. When she decided to take my name it had a great deal of symbolism for me, like she was committing to get in the river with me. So, get this, her name now means Little Apple Flower of the River. At this point you may be saying “Shut the fridge-door!” No, really, that is her name–she was sort of pre-made to be the little thing that makes the river less terrible.

But, wait there’s more!

I kinda knew exactly what I wanted to name our baby, like immediately, well before we decided to get married I knew I would name my son Rockford. Somewhere in my heart, I knew what I wanted to pass on, what I wanted the next step to be.

We named our son Rockford Jay del Rio. Jay has a variety of meanings, depending on the line you trace, but if I can pass any of them on I will be happy.

Rockford Jay del Rio == (Victorious/Happy/Swift) Rock Crossing of the River.

Okay, the woo-woo stuff is over now. Here comes the big finish…

There is power in naming. Neighbor, Friend, Lover, Family, ‘Ohana, Child, Mentor, you get it (I hope). One of the key components of communication is clarity, and love needs communication. You should give your love a name to give it power.

Rockford and Carlos

Pulling together

A recent conversation between my mom and me:

“ALL THE SWEAR WORDS!” I yelped, from the pile of scrap wood and last year’s fallen leaves under the back deck. “I’m going to need medical assistance.”

“What happened? Are you OK?” She came around the corner just in time to see me pull my shoe off my foot, along with the two inch galvanized nail I had stepped on. Without missing a beat (and without passing even the tiniest bit of stress to the grandbaby she was still carrying), “oh, yeah, that’s a good wound. Don’t look at it! Sit down! Some people get freaked out by seeing their own blood.”

“No, I’m fine,” looking at a growing puddle of red under my toes, “I don’t mind seeing my own blood nearly as much as I mind seeing Rock’s.”

The irony of the situation was not lost on me.

Thankfully, as far as nail-in-the-foot stories go, this one is as good as can be hoped for. I was wearing almost-brand-new shoes (so, little risk of the most common type of bacterial infection from this injury), the nail was galvanized (no rust!), and my tetanus shot is current. All of that being said, man, foot injuries are the worst! This one happened to coincide with a recurrence of pain from that time I crashed the Vespa a little bit on my other foot (made yet worse by treating a plantar wart IN THE SAME SPOT). So, basically, at this point I’m like an invalid Victorian lady. I can do anything! As long as it doesn’t involve walking or standing. Thank goodness I’ve gotten over my pathological hatred of swimming, so I can get some exercise.

This is yet another situation in which I am incredibly grateful to be living among a big team all pulling together. It takes a village, because we all need some taking care of now and then. I certainly need my share, but it’s reassuring to know that I am in a place where I can give it as much as I get it (I was doing yard work, after all).

Image credit: inky

Sharing Your Joy

Back in the Pleistocene, circa 2001, I was dating this one.

Her name is Laura Jean; if you read Blue Like Jazz, she is Chapter 5. One day, in between clumsy courtship, whimsical adventures, and discussions of the genius of Kurt Vonnegut she said  (I shit you not), ” No one co-joys.  I mean, everyone is willing to share in your misery, but hardly anyone wants to share your joy.  More people should co-joy!”

This is the first time that I had someone put this into words. These days it is a concept that I spend a lot of time talking about. It is often referred to as compersion, or frubble. It has many names, but my favorite is still co-joy.

One of the very important things to remember is that it’s not just about sharing the joy of other people, but also, sharing the things that bring you joy. One of the traps that many of us fall into is only ever talking about the things that we disagree with, or that we find unpleasant. Only ever talking about the things that make you unhappy makes you a real buzzkill be around. It also leaves the people that you like unaware of your positive feelings.

This week one of my goals is to share my joy. To show my love by telling people the things I like about them, and sharing with people the things I know that might please them too. #50love

An upside to Jealousy

Jealousy is a funny thing. It can creep up on a person in sneaky and unexpected ways, but it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing when it shows up.

Carlos and I have been apart for a month. For a month, he’s been sleeping alone, while I’ve had the company of our wiggly, gassy baby and our wiggly, gassy dog.

He spent a month jealous of the time that I was getting to spend with our littles, of the warm embrace of family bed, and hands-on parenting. He wasn’t seething with jealousy, but he felt pain at missing out on the things that he loves, which is entirely reasonable.

While he was enduring that hardship, I was dealing with the flip side: during one lovely afternoon, my folks watched Rockford while I took a three hour nap. That nap was the longest I’ve slept alone in a bed since immediately post-partum. And let me tell you, that was some sweet, glorious sleep. I think the dog might have been in bed with me, but no human hands touched me while I was sleeping. I didn’t have a lingering eye on whether Rock was going to take a dive off the edge of the bed. It was, without question, some of the most restful sleep that I can remember having.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love co-sleeping, I love our baby, I love family bed. I am not unsupported. But while Carlos was jealous of my time with our family, I was jealous of the unencumbered, quiet sleep he was getting away from us.

I guess this is another of those “the grass is always greener” situations that come up all the time in relationships. I might be totally jealous of the things that I imagine when I look into your world, but I have no idea what it’s actually like to be in there, or what you see when you look out. Of course, that’s not always true – we can talk about things and gain some understanding and perspective. As we grow in relationships with people, we gain insight into their drives and needs and desires. Carlos didn’t have to tell me that he missed sleeping with us, and I wasn’t surprised when he did. He doesn’t get ‘touched out,’ but he knows what I mean when I talk to him about it.

Often when we talk about jealousy, especially in romantic-partner relationships, there’s a feeling in the room that no good can ever come of it. Certainly no good comes from internalizing it and stewing, but we think there’s a strong case to be made for recognizing and talking about the feelings that come up in life. This is a small-stakes example – we were in this set of circumstances for a limited amount of time, and for specific reasons. Nonetheless, it presented Carlos and me with the opportunity to practice and refine one of the basic skills that keeps our relationship working – active, thoughtful communication. It’s not rocket science, but it is a tool, and like any tool you want to use, it needs to be kept sharp.

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I don’t like you but I love you

This morning when I woke up, my mom’s favorite little sweetheart was waiting for me, lurking just inside the garage door, waiting for someone to feed him breakfast and lift him up to the bathroom counter for his cat lax.

He’s a frail old dude now, but in his day he was a bitchy, territorial furball who kept a hundred-pound German Shepherd in his place with a sharp look and a slap to the face.

When he joined our family, I deeply resented him. I don’t recall ever feeling the same way about my actual, human siblings, but when Timmy came along, I was mad. There I was, nineteen, gone away to college, and suddenly my mom has this stupid fluffy cat that she clearly, unapologetically loved more than me. Dudes, I was mad.

Fast forward a couple years, to that time I dropped out of college right at the same time that my parents picked up and moved from Arizona to Washington, and we all lived in a too-small, weird old house (not the haunted one), and suddenly Timmy was my everyday companion. An everyday companion who felt the same way about me that I did about him – who is this interloper in my relationship with Mom?! That was a rough winter for a lot of reasons, but it did give me a chance to get to know that damn cat, and understand what it was that my mom saw in him. I didn’t see it, but I understood why he was so important to her, and I started to change my attitude toward him. He wasn’t my enemy. He didn’t take any of her love away a from me, and in truth, he absorbed a lot of the mom-love that young-adult Rose found a little uncomfortable.

I stopped telling him that I didn’t like him, though I did still keep in him his place – he might be Mom’s favorite, but that didn’t give him permission to be bitchy to me. I moved out, and saw less of him, and he started to seem happy (happy-ish) to see me when I came around. He started to get old, older than his years. He still ruled the roost, but he clearly became the dowager princess.

Like any dowager princess, he has become crotchety, and set in his ways. And now, creeping up on his 13th birthday, he clearly knows that he’s the old guy, and that he needs help. He needs my help, and he knows that I’ll give it to him. After all these years of figuring one another out, he knows that, even though I don’t love him like mom does, I’ll stand beside him to remind the dogs who’s the boss, and lift him up to the places he can’t jump to anymore.

Young me probably would have done the same things, but this morning as I stood next to the bathroom sink waiting for him to finish drinking, I didn’t feel the impatience and eye-rolling that I used to. I didn’t ask him to hurry up. He’s not my little life’s companion, but he is my family. I don’t have to like him to love him.

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I do like him, actually. The crotchety old grump; how could I not?