A month or so after the HBH and I started dating, we went on the obligatory hiking date – okay, so hiking may not be obligatory in your first-date sense of the word, but for two individuals who claimed to love sunshine, backpacking and the great outdoors on their Eharmony profiles, it was for us.
We had to muster the energy to match our money to our mouths. Ugh.
So way too early for me one Saturday morning, we packed up Raul the Jetta – my sidekick of a galactic blue sporty-sedan that wound its way into our first year of dating and engagement before getting monster truck-rallyed at an Oakland A’s game – and with Mr. Darcy, my beloved border collie canine companion at the time, we made our way to a local nature preserve.
I mean, it’s not like we were actually backpacking – we were going on an REI-inspired day hike, but friends, one thing was clear: I was about to get my sweat on in front of my man. And I’m not talking in a sexy, minimally-clad sort of way. I’m talking drippy, drippy pit-stained, “Yeah, I can totally carry on a conversation while walking straight up a hill” sort of way.
Things were about to get real, yo.
You see, the truth is this: I’m not very good at faking it, but I am really, really good at least pretending to know how to fake it if the occasion presents itself. So I started asking him one million questions, on purpose. Because by doing so, I knowingly limit myself to actually engaging in conversation while the other person – the HBH, pertaining to our case in point here – then looks like the breathless, out of shape one.
Do what I can.
So here we were, hiking along; I was on the 59th question or so, nodding my mmm-hmm’s and further drawing answers out of this hot black stud of a man. When he wasn’t looking, I’d furiously wipe the sweat from my brow and air-dry the insides of my pits and silently gulp down mouthfuls of water, all while thinking of the next, perfect question before he had a chance to reverse my plan of action.
And then it reversed, literally.
He turned around and looked me square in the eyes and said, “Uh, do you know where we are?”
I had no clue.
I was so busy filling all potential brain space with further questions that I’d forgotten to really look and see where we actually were going. And I was the one who’d hiked those paths five or six times before.
Relationship experts say one of the best ways you can get to know a person is to go on a road trip with him or her – and I’d liken a day-hike to that equation, and then add in sweat, sun, lack of food, an ornery dog and a woman who wants to pretend like she has it all together, and you’ve got yourself a real winner.
We began to catch a glimpse of how The Other handles stressful situations: how I tend to laugh at the absurdity of it all, brain cells tossed to the side, while he goes into Executive Planner mode, furrowed, frustrated brow only a start to the task at hand. And while some might say that this further makes us a pretty good match, I’m just glad we found our way home from the mountain that October morning.
Because here’s the other part of the equation: I actually like getting lost. I mean, there are those times that I’d rather not find myself wandering the streets late at night, but all in all, I tend to find my way by getting lost. I realize, after I’ve driven the same avenue, two, three, four times more, that I begin to know my way. I know where not to turn, and I know that I need to drive past the little red house with the white mailbox before making the left.
It seems that by wandering I find my way.
I suppose that’s why I’ve always liked that Tolkien quote so much – because I get it. I get that there’s a wandering to life – to faith and spirituality, to relationships and family, to our awareness of self – in which we don’t quite know where we are exactly, but we know we’re not lost. Because when we wander, we don’t always know where we’re going, but we do know and trust and believe that we’ll eventually find our way home. And sometimes, in the midst of it, we find ourselves more attune to the moment and more in sync with the present and more open to possibility and wonder and learning than we were before our journey began.
So as for me, I’m okay with wandering.
But I am going to keep my iphone and its handy GPS in my back pocket, just in case.
Are you a wanderer? What does Tolkien’s quote mean to you? Love The English Teacher Formerly Known As Myself.