Tell Me A Story

I’ve been hiking with my husband for a long time. Even before I considered myself a hiker, one of our early dates was on  Humphrey’s peak.  Never mind that it’s the highest point in Arizona and I didn’t have hiking boots, I went along because I was in the “I’ll follow him anywhere” stage of young love. Hiking grew on me and as I fell in love with my husband, I fell in love with hiking too.

Scene 1

There’s been a theme on our hikes. For the most part, on the uphill climbs, I often can’t keep up with my husband. I can remember quite a few hikes that have ended in tears, anger, or irritation. Sometimes expressed and sometimes withheld. Criticism and blame. Pouting and withdrawing. At times, I would allow those feelings to pass and at others, I would hang on to them for dear life, milking the punishment all the way up and all the way back down.

My story might have gone something like this…

“He’s walking so quickly, so far ahead of me. He doesn’t even notice or care that I am way behind. It’s so rude and inconsiderate that he is not staying closer to me. He would never do that if he was with a friend. Why bother hiking together if we are not going to be together. Why is getting a more intense workout, pushing himself,  more important than spending time with me? What if I got hurt, he wouldn’t even notice because he is so far ahead. In fact, I don’t even think he knows where I am. Can’t he modify his pace to be closer to mine.”

And the implication, the powerful punchline to the story….“If he really loved me he would…..”

My thoughts created an unhappy tale. A “poor me” story.

A thought storm. A series of thoughts strung together to make a little, sometimes big, story. Fiction with characters from real life.  Made up crap that comes from the place thoughts come from. Wherever that is.

And instead of the thoughts passing through me,  I latched on to them. Repeating them, revising them, engaging with them until they were completely out of control. They felt solid. Like a rock. Real. And very important. Thought wind turned to thought rain turned to thought hail. Ouch.

A story like this one can ruin a beautiful hike in nature.

Thinking creates feeling creates experience of reality.

Scene 2

Last week, as part of my personal birthday celebration, I wanted to hike our local Camelback Mountain. My ego wanted a little affirmation that I could still do it. When we arrived,  there was a long line of cars waiting to get in the parking lot. Neither of us wanted to spend extra time in the car, so we moved on to plan B. This turned out to be a hike in an area we had been in before but on some trails we had not explored. We were both able to switch gears and go with the new flow.  Beautiful.

My husband had grown a bit impatient at all the fumbling around and was antsy to get moving. Almost from the beginning, he was hiking a distance ahead of me. At first, I didn’t even notice. I was just walking along, savoring the moments, enjoying the warm February desert, the smells, sights, and sounds. I was feeling really good with nothing much on my mind.

Then, a light bulb went off.

I noticed I was not upset, angry, or thinking things should be any other way. I just had a nice feeling. Huh. A nice feeling and he was hiking a good distance ahead of me. Huh! That was different. It wasn’t that I tried to let go of anything  or attempt to make up a new story. I just didn’t have the same old story of the past. Poof. It had vanished. The story I held on to for 38 years dissolved into thin air.

No story. No unhappy feelings. Space to notice something new.

I noticed I didn’t mind that my husband was hiking at a speed which put him a distance ahead of me.  Initially it didn’t register in my awareness.  And when I did notice, I saw clearly that he had some pent up energy to release. Just that. Nothing to do with me.  And wow, given our eleven year age difference, how cool, that he can still hike faster than me on an uphill grade.

A fresh insight. An inner knowing that seemed to come from nowhere. I love when that happens.

We experience life from the inside out. I find this really comforting. Nobody else needs to change their behavior for me to change my experience. As I rise to a new level of consciousness, I see things I have never seen before. Just like that.

We had a lovely hike. On the flat and the downhill we were together. And on the last third of third of the hike my husband slowed a little closer to my pace and at the same time, I was energized to speed up a bit.  And low and behold, we ended up hiking together. Just like that.

And happy together too.

gayle nobel