I recently celebrated my ten year anniversary in South America. Peru to be specific. The inspiration came from a show we saw earlier in the year where a man was diagnosed with a terminal illness and one of the last things he wanted to do while he was functioning was to traverse the Inca Trail. A 26-mile hike through the Andes Mountains that lead you to a fortress built over 500 years ago by the Inca civilization. We saw this journey and said to ourselves that looks like it would kick your behind, but how cool would it be to say that you have done it? So we did the trek and yes it did kick our collective backsides but what I learned about myself and my partnership with my wife was as priceless as the ruins we suffered to get to.
One of the first things I learned about my marriage was how well we function as a team when it comes to cooperating on a mission. There were many things to consider when taking on a task of this magnitude such as what to pack and what to leave behind. This lead to debates over how much “just in case” items do we actually take. On paper, there are plenty of things that seemed reasonable to bring but after the first day of hiking, I was glad I didn’t have the extra weight. I’m reminded of a saying the military has regarding carrying weight which is “ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain.” This element showed me that in any endeavor such as this you will never have all the right gear or all the right answers. The same goes in marriage. You maintain the fundamentals of your relationship and the rest of it you and your partner prepare to negotiate the moments as they come always keeping each other and the mission in mind.
The second leg of the trip was the worst because we hiked uphill all day until we reached an elevation of 13,000 feet above sea level which is close to the cruising altitude of some commercial airliners. This highest point yielded a view of clouds passing beneath us. Yes, I said beneath us. When was the last time you looked down at a cloud? The air was cold with very little oxygen to supply our battered lungs. This left us tired but inspired. The jewel here is in understanding that sometimes you won’t have what you want or need to be comfortable in your marriage but it’s important that together you push through until that break in the bad weather reveals itself. There is a reward on the other side of that kind of courage and it is called resolve.
Day three greeted us with rain, rain, and more rain. Soggy and tired, we pushed on trying to ignore the rhythmic squish squash from our shoes and the occasional “Oh Sh@t!” when you lost your footing on the jagged rocks that were like trying to walk down an alligator’s back while he’s doing a handstand. This treacherous footing combined with a chill that sunk into your bones helped me understand the importance of mental, emotional and spiritual fortitude. Once you get so far into a trek or a marriage, giving up in the face of adversity or discomfort becomes less of an option. Trust me when I tell you that when that feeling of despair or fatigue hits you on the side of a mountain there is only one way off and that is a twenty thousand dollar helicopter ride that your insurance won’t cover because being tired and frustrated aren’t “qualifying events.”
Day Four. We finally reached the Sun Gate which leads down to the site. With wobbly legs, bug bites and clothes that we agreed would be burned afterward, we found a burst of energy that only comes when you see the finish line approaching. Since this was a tourist attraction, naturally there were hundreds of foreigners saddled with cameras and maps jockeying for position at every turn to get the perfect shot of a building or the random Llama chilling out.
Now a lesser man would feel silly hiking all that way as he surveys all the air-conditioned buses that rolled up every hour, but we know one thing for sure. There are no shortcuts in marriage. Sure you can marry someone who already has the money or the lifestyle you desire, but it’s not as wholesome as when you attain those things together. So the folks that bypassed the trail and took the bus which we affectionately dubbed the “Loser Express” may have gotten there quicker and in greater comfort but they missed some of mother nature’s most beautiful handiwork and the serenity that can only come from unplugging from the digital world and embracing a true reality.
In closing, I want to impress on you the importance of maintaining a clarity about your marriage. We are supposed to keep each other’s well-being as a priority. Even if that means slowing down your pace so your partner can stay in step until the next rest area or the opposite where you demonstrate some courage and inspire them to find a new gear to switch to. Always be there for each other and love with an open heart. This is the gift that keeps on giving.
P.S. We did end up taking the Loser Express back to the hotel. Going back the way we came would have been painfully redundant.