My husband and I took a hike together. And it became a metaphor for the way we live our lives together.
We started out in a familiar area but on an unknown path. We made educated guesses on what the terrain would be like and hoped that our trek would end in a view on one of our favorite things: the Pacific Ocean.
Carefully folded paper map in hand, we started out on a steep hill and climbed, climbed, for the first two miles. The path was steep and all uphill – no gradual snaking up the mountain. At first, my thighs ached and my breath came in bursts but as a cardio junkie, I know this feeling well. I crave it, in fact. After about 10 minutes my breathing regulated and I gained that familiar desire to go, go, go. Farther. Farther.
Soon, my husband and I reached the top of the first hill and marveled at the view of the hilltops, valleys and homes below. We hadn’t yet reached that coveted ocean view peak, and resolved we would keep going until we did. As we walked together on the wide path, we saw fewer and fewer people. We ignored this fact and were both invigorated. We are used to taking paths that few others take. As we walked, it felt like we were two kids exploring the wilderness, water bottles in hand and faces towards the sun.
Soon, we reached our destination. The prized ocean view. We both love the ocean and were just there two days earlier, engulfed in its hypnotizing rhythm. Having easy access to the ocean is one of best parts of living in California. Spending time near the water is never far from our minds.
After reaching our destination, it was time to scale back down the mountain. Neither of us wanted to go back the way we came though. We’d already been there after all, and our adventurous spirits didn’t want the exploration to end. After consulting the map, we decided to continue on the trail labeled as “difficult” down the side of the mountain. According to the map, once we’d reach the bottom, we would have a mostly flat trek back to the car. This seemed like a worthwhile trade off.
As we started our descent, we realized that this section of the path was more treacherous than the path we’d traveled up, even though both were labeled as “difficult.” My husband led the way in the beginning and I realized how relaxed I was with him out front, seeing what came first.
I hiked with my 10-year-old daughter the weekend before on an easier path and she and I took turns in the lead. Signs warning of rattlesnakes and mountain lions put me on edge knowing I was really the only one in the lead between she and I. It took at least 45 minutes before I let go of the anxiety begging me to plan what I would do to protect her if confronted by any of natures more dangerous elements.
With my husband in the lead, I let that anxiety go and just followed. Eventually I took the lead down the hill in front of him and continued with ease.
I almost fell a couple of times. Caught myself once and chipped my fresh manicure. Walked through fields of pretty yellow flowers blooming from the top of tall weeds. And finally, we made it to the bottom of the hill, ready to head to the car. We were running short on water by this time and hadn’t packed any snacks.
But the smooth path to the car was farther than we thought; the distance on the map misleading. As we pushed through that final trek, my legs were begging for mercy. I’d used up all of my breakfast calories and was in need of an energy boost. The sun that was once welcome and invigorating was now starting to burn where I’d forgotten to rub in sunscreen.
“How much farther?” I asked my husband, even though I knew he didn’t know any better than I.
“I think we’re about halfway there,” he said. I agreed. According to the marks on the map, our “easy” walk back to the car was halfway done.
It slowly dawned on me how many times he and I have been in this situation (metaphorically) together over the past 20 years. Blindly willing to take on a new adventure with only a general sketch of the outcome, but with an exciting goal in mind that keeps us moving forward as a team. As we move towards our goal, our mutual enthusiasm encourages each other in a way where we create a magic bubble where nothing can touch us. No doubts can seep through. No negativity can deter us. We feed off of each other’s excitement and child-like wonder in a way that creates magic. I realize how our mutual achievements and independent achievements have most often been made possible by this teamwork.
But it’s not all hearts and rainbows. This magic teamwork. That final trek to the car was brutal. All of my alarms were going off. And his too. Hunger. Thirst. Fatigue. Mental exhaustion. I couldn’t catch my breath internally because I couldn’t stop moving forward. Just. Wanted. To. Get. To. The. Car.
“How far do you think we’ve gone?” he asked me as we neared the car.
“All in, maybe four to four-and-a-half miles,” I told him.
Once we sat down heavily in the car, turned on the air conditioning and started our drive home, I consulted the Health app on my iPhone. It read 6.6 miles and 57 floors. Way further than I’d estimated and more than either of us imagined. And that felt right too.
Together, we’ve come further than we could’ve imagined or ever given ourselves credit for. And although our pursuits leave us sore and exhausted at times, we are learning how important the rest and recovery is. How hard we actually push ourselves as a team. It can’t all be pushing up the mountain. I have to remember that we also have to prepare for coming down the mountain and trekking back to the car. And allow for the recovery we need afterwards so we can climb the next mountain together.