Husband and I have different ideas of what a “hike” means.
When he says, “Want to go for a hike?” I think, “Yes! A nice little walk up a well-paved path near the mountain! That sounds wonderful! We will hold hands and look at the pretty butterflies…”
Husband actually means, “Let’s get our ugliest workout clothes on, tie a bandana around our foreheads, and sweat out all our extra fat while we climb to the top of the mountain with only minor breaks for water.” (He’s ex-military, it’s not his fault.)
For some reason I forget this distinction between the two of us until we are already headed up a ridiculously steep trail and I’m wondering how my muscles have atrophied so much in the last nine months since I tried this last. My calves are burning after only a few feet, I’m sweating like Rocky Balboa, and I’m begging for water. Husband rolls his eyes and graciously gives me a break. We are still well within view of the car when I start to think of turning around and going back home to my blog. He sees me eyeing the vehicle and urges me forward.
Obsessive thoughts start to invade my mind as we climb.
Things like, “He’s judging me. He thinks I’m weak.”
I’m completely embarrassed that I can’t keep up with him, and I throw out a comment like, “You know, the girls in Basic Training were actually more like men than women. And I’m almost thirty, you know.”
Husband has gotten pretty good at breathing through moments like these. After he counts to five in his head, he says something like, “I’m not comparing you to them, Sweetheart.” ’Sweetheart’ has a bitter edge to it, like it’s less of an endearment and more of a ball-and-chain, but he’s trying to be patient. He thinks I don’t see the effort he puts into being patient with me, but I see it, and I love him for it. Still, I can’t stop.
“And those girls you used to hike with in high school? Those girls were like twelve.”
“Aubrey, you are not being compared to them. If I hadn’t wanted to be here with you, I wouldn’t have invited you. I would have gone alone.”
I’ll spare you the details of what goes through my mind when he says this. It’s a long line of crazy thoughts like, “He regrets inviting me. He wishes he’d gone alone. Then he wouldn’t have to wait for me, he could get the exercise he really wants. Now we’ll never make it up the mountain and he’ll resent me for it…”
You get the idea.
At three different points I asked him to let me turn back. Each time he urged me on, knowing the sunshine was doing me good. Finally, at a particularly good stopping point, I sat down on the path and refused to keep going. He sat down on a shady rock and pulled a water bottle from his backpack. My face in my hands, I realized tears were starting to stream down my cheeks.
“Are you crying?!” Husband looks completely astounded. “Why are you crying?”
That’s a good question. Why on earth am I crying?? I have no idea. But I know it’s been a long time coming, and there’s no stopping it now. When is the last time I cried? I can’t even remember.
Husband sat there on that rock bewildered, but patient and kind, while I cried and cried. The sun was shining, the canyon was beautiful, the water sounded perfectly predictable. But it was the first time I’ve felt safe enough to cry in weeks, maybe months. My kids wouldn’t see me cry, I wasn’t at work, there was no one to see me break down except my own husband.
Finally, tears still streaming, I started climbing again. And this is where I learned something new.
We walked near a dangerous ledge over-looking the river, and for the first time in over two years, I didn’t want to “accidentally” fall to my watery death on the rocks.
That’s when I learned that I have been silently healing over time. That I’m on the other side of this mountain I’ve been climbing, and hadn’t even realized I’d reached the summit.
The water was beautiful. At that moment the water looked stronger to me than the mountain itself. So many boulders and trees tried to stop it from running, but that water just found another path and kept right on going. Sure, it’s running downhill… but it never stops running, no matter what gets in its way. It’s stronger than everything else because it finds a way.
Somehow, without looking, I have found a way.
PPD didn’t win.