Megan and I hiked Wasson Peak before joining friends and sons for Thanksgiving dinner.
The walk was a good one: sun, wind, expansive vistas. And having some time to think and talk combined all of the ingredients to cook up a sweet morning. We would walk the Sweetwater Trail to Kings Canyon and then up to the Hugh Norris Trail. I love the names and have a history with this place.
We will climb about 2,000 feet. My shoes don't quite fit, but I don't care. My toes will bump against the boots on the way down and I will get the usual blue toe nails of the weekend warrior hiker.
That unsuitability of boot to foot was not the only thing out of whack, though. We had some bones to pick and took the time to bicker. Never underestimate the power of people to find something wrong with a gift horse. Yes, our dream day wasn't all puppy romps and love light.
Couples who have been together as long as we have need to vent once in a while. The shortcomings of the partner fester when days are too busy for honest tete a tetes.
And we are diverging some in what we want for the coming years.
There are "pressures." She wants me to give things up. I want her to give me time and space. We are on the cusp of a new stage of life -- empty nesters.
So, as I loaded my pack, it began.
My foibles as a handyman, thoughtful kitchen cleaner, desires for bike rides instead of chores, and choices about clothing accessories all came spilling out in not so pleasant tones.
And I can give as good as I get.
So you can imagine this lovely day as two lone hikers in paradise tromp along in fumes of irritation and disappointment. Silly.
The point of this is not to be right, find fault or air dirty private laundry, but to ruminate on the over-inflated expectations of relationships.
Specifically, we Boomers and others tend to expect a partner to be and do and fulfill everything we want. We have learned to want both security and passion, fidelity and hot, kinky sex, intellectual stimulation and toilet fixing, physical beauty and lots of free, leisurely time, super man and intimate man (or woman). This list is long.
And nobody can be all things to someone else. No real person anyway.
Relationships have gotten very difficult and I feel inadequate to meet the expectations, the demands.
I don't blame my partner for this, but rather the times, the cultural stew that shapes these crazy needs.
As we plodded along up the beautiful, sunlit trail, I mused on my defects. They are many. And I want to be OK with them or willing to work on them in my own time. I don't need the constant reminders of how I fall short. I just want to be accepted for who I am.
But if want to get something, you've to be willing to return something. Can I do the same for my partner?
I see that I am in the same quandary she is. I want her to be beautiful, playful, financially independent, supportive of my interests, out of my way. I also want her to fit some of my fantasies. I put impossible demands on her too.
So we walk along, each less than happy with the other on a stunningly clear gift of a day.
But as the trail wore on, the dissatisfaction began to fade and the effort of the climb put me back in my body. It was Thanksgiving, after all.
I reminded Megan of other hikes -- the moonlight hike up to the peak from the Esperanza (hope) Trailhead in June, the time we watched the lights of the city glitter below us like diamonds. Or the Christmas hike when a bitter wind blew through the needles of the cholla so hard you could hear them whistle. Or the time the sky was lit blood red with a sunset that made the cacti shimmer in the low light.
She softened in my eyes. She is lovely in her desires, her restlessness. I see the mystery of her that I saw many years ago when we first met. And now she is going through yet another transition. She wants me to grow with her. I am afraid and reluctant to let go of what I know, what I want. We will have to work this out.
She is aging. I am too. That adds another layer of urgency. We both feel the need to go after what we want. Limits loom larger as bodies decline, opportunities move out of reach.
I am aware that she cannot be all things to me, nor I to her. And she is my partner.
As such, I have been wounded by her; she by me. I see all too well that she is flawed. I am too. She has also enhanced my life in ways I can only vaguely fathom. She has been party to the alchemy that moved me from boy to man, my finding joy in learning to father, to provide, to surrender to things bigger than myself, my boyish ego. We have been on a spiritual path in which we have both shed confining skins in order to learn to both give beyond what we thought possible and receive beyond what we could imagine.
The walk hurts sometimes, but, I take steps forward, so far on the same trail, even though my toes will show bruises for my efforts. What to do with all these stirrings of the heart, these crazy, impossible desires, this life passing faster and faster, the end that grows closer with each step?