Thursday, December 1, 2016

Loose Rocks and Marriage Testing at 12,637 feet

This past summer Cameron and I hiked to the highest peak in Arizona- over 12,000 feet high. Times that by three and that is a plane's cruising altitude. Kind of crazy.

I know what you are thinking right now. You are thinking, "Wow. Meredith is so hardcore and awesome. What a beast." I appreciate those thoughts. I wish they were true.

The truth is that I kind of lost it on this hike. I can blame the altitude, the distance, the lack of water, or anything else, but the truth is, I lost the mental game of hiking.

Disclaimer: My natural tendency is to quit when things get hard. This has always been my trend, and it is something I am having to work so hard to overcome. Hiking helps I suppose because even though I tell Cameron to just leave me at the top of the mountain and call a helicopter, he isn't going to do it. It isn't in the budget. ;)

This was before we almost killed each other:) 
All started well of course, and going up the mountain wasn't so bad. I got a little nervous trekking over snow, ice, and mud, and I complained quite a bit on the final push over all the stupid false summits (nothing is as discouraging as thinking you see the end point and being told it is still 3 peaks past that one). But I wasn't the worst. . . yet. The push at the end was understandably hard. The elevation is so high that it requires hikers like me to have to stop every 10 minutes to breathe and drink water, as dehydration happens a lot quicker up there.

So when I reached the peak, yea, I was still pretty hardcore.

But here is the thing about hiking: Once you go up you have to come back down. There is a pesky lack of helicopters at the top.

Obstacle #1: First of all, and I know this isn't an excuse, but- bugs. At the summit there are millions of little sweat-sucking gnat things that literally swarm all over your body. Now, I have come a long way when it comes to being outdoorsy, but bugs are still one thing that I can absolutely not handle. They are my personal hell and I am sure I looked like a crazy person swatting and generally freaking out over these tiny devil creatures. It was the beginning of the end of my sanity.

Obstacle #2: Loose rocks. This sort of terrain isn't my thing and it really freaks me out. At the time I still had a lot to work out in terms of healing from the trauma I had witnessed because I would get irrationally frightened and anxious about dying, especially when I hike. Its weird, I know, but my brain gets all crazy and freaked out and I turn into a hyperventilating grandma crawling down the side of a mountain. It's not my best look. (Side note: After this hike Cameron graciously let me buy some new hiking boots with better tread so hopefully next time won't be so bad.)

Let's just say that when I finally fell and cut my elbow open that was the tipping point of being overwhelmed. I'm not proud to say that I sat on a rock and cried while telling Cameron to shut up as he bandaged up my elbow. He was trying to be helpful but his technique was. . . less than desirable at the moment.

I will be honest when I say that every hike is marriage therapy for us. We almost kill each other, but in the end we come out stronger- it just takes a few hours, some snacks, and a nap before we are ok again. But hey, if we can overcome 12,000 feet together I feel like we can do anything!

Three times I fell flat on my back on the way down, and 1/3 of the way down we completely ran out of water. This had officially turned into a non-official survival situation my friends. And in times of survival Cameron and I have very different reactions.

I, naturally, get pissed. I was tired, thirsty, and literally had a dirt mustache and the stupid woods were never ending. Therefore I get quiet, except to say, "Someone just kill me" or "Cameron stop talking and being so happy. Nobody wants to listen to you."

Yes, I lose the mental battle. In a cannibalistic situation I would be eaten first just because no one would want to be around me.

Cameron, on the other hand, likes to maintain Cody Lundin's "party on" mindset, which just makes me want to kill him more. Even hiking 4 miles without water he still can talk forever. He is all chipper and joy and "one foot in front of the other." Its a gift. It is also annoying if you want to hate everyone like I do after 10 miles of hiking. I am actually impressed at how positive he can stay when the woods are playing tricks on your brain, the sun is setting, and your wife is being the grump of the century. Don't tell him I said so though. He already thinks he is awesome.

But here is the thing about hiking: Eventually you get back to your starting point. All the loose rocks and the bugs are behind you and you come into the clear open field. You didn't die, you didn't find a hiking lawyer and get a divorce, and you didn't lose your mind from dehydration and fatigue (although that was a close one). Eventually you get to sit down, take off your shoes, and breathe.

And if you are me, you may still cry in the car from sheer exhaustion, but eventually you hobble into Whole Foods and things start to look ok again. You did it. You climbed the highest peak and you made it out alive.

And isn't this true with any of our hardships in life? In the midst of it, it seems that we will be swallowed by the darkness. It seems impossible that we will ever get out of the woods, that our relationships will survive, that we will still be loved despite our failings. The challenge seems, at its time, to be all-consuming. But we will get out of the woods. We will be reconciled with those around us, we will find rest and we will be ok. Yea, sometimes we do things we regret when we get overwhelmed, but that isn't held against you once you reach the clearing. There will be peace, there will be joy again, and there will be an end to the hardships.

God is so full of grace isn't he? Sure, we have to climb the (literal or figurative) mountain, but doesn't He also deliver us from it? Isn't He the most incredible Savior to keep pushing us forward when we feel that all of our strength is gone?

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