Our last day of hiking in Oregon couldn’t have met with any better conditions: sunny, little wind, gentle grades and soft footpath. We did not encounter a single blowdown during the 17 miles of hiking. Nor were there spectacular views that typically accompany difficult conditions, though we did pass a few nice lakes. The problem with this type of day is not with stress but boredom.
Under these conditions Cindy tends to get lost in her own world. Frequently on this journey she suddenly stopped, turned around and said “Oh. Hello.” My presence hiking behind her comes as a complete surprise as her mind shifts to what is happening in the present. On this particular day, after her “Oh. Hello,” I announced to Cindy that today (9/19) was our anniversary. She expressed pleasant surprise, followed by a comment that caught me a bit off guard.
“What happened to us?”
By this comment Cindy did not imply that we had grown apart. By adjusting to the present moment with the information that we’ve been married for awhile, she sincerely wanted to be brought up to speed about what happened during the course of our marriage. I started by announcing we had three kids and her response to that was: “What are their names?”
I proceeded to fill her in on “what happened:” the jobs, the friends, memorable experiences. At first I had to pause at times to keep my voice from cracking, but my narrative became easier to do. I was not providing details she could no longer remember so much as helping her transition to the moment. Her pace quickened, a sign that she was enjoying my review of our marriage. I asked at times if she remembered something and the answer usually was “yes.” I started thinking in terms of what a great strategy this will be to pass the time hiking for the remaining two months.
I arrived at the topic of family vacations; we’ve had some great ones. She remembered when the whole family hiked the Wonderland Trail, but not when we combined a family trip of whitewater rafting in Colorado and hiking at Philmont. I shifted to our work camp vacations. She remembered our Dominican Republic work camp “vacation.”
Up next was our south Appalachia work camp “vacation.” Our family made up more than half of our church group that went to Pipestem, West Virginia to help a disabled woman upgrade her bathroom from a “poop pot” to an actual working toilet. I described how appreciative Desi was of our group, particularly of our daughter Charissa using her own money to buy Desi a kitchen table for her meager house. At that point Cindy stopped and sobbed convulsively, inducing an accident to happen simultaneously.
As I attended to cleaning up the accident Cindy became calm and matter-of-fact, as she always is when I help her “use the woods.” What would mortify you or me her mind has adjusted to accept as normal.
Hmmm. Is our marriage in review a good strategy or not for preoccupying our minds? The issue, of course, is not “what happened to us?” but “what happened to Cindy?”