Who knew getting lost in the woods could teach me about love?!
A few years ago I got lost in the woods. I headed up north to camp by myself before my son came in from his 30 day canoe trip. Before I went to the banquet later that day I thought I’d hike around one of the lakes close by. I should not have gotten lost, I was on a well marked trail. But I did, and this is what I learned about love from the experience.
1. Pay attention to what's going on in your body.
Stress and pain can distract you from responding appropriately, or making a good decision. I was on a 5 mile hike with some ups and downs around a beautiful lake, and I was enjoying the air, the birds and the sights. It was my first hike of the season, and I always forget I have bum knees until about mile 3. By mile 4 I was getting ready to be done, and wasn't noticing much else but my knees. This distracted me from taking the correct path. The correct path went downhill, and in one split second that I didn’t even realize until later, and I missed my opportunity because my knees did not want to go downhill.
This is a tricky one, because it was only in hindsight that I realized what had happened. Now I’m more attentive, not only the uneasy feeling that comes up in my belly, but also to times when I’m feeling tired and shouldn’t be having this discussion with my lover or making an important decision about a relationship.
2. Walking back and forth and back and forth on a trail doesn’t get you anywhere.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been lost, but it’s a wacky experience, and I found myself walking back and forth along the same length of the trail thinking somehow, in some way, I missed the turn off that I was seeking.
3. Sometimes you have to be willing to go back to the beginning, no matter what the cost.
After shouting for help until my voice was hoarse, collapsing in despair, and crying my eyes out, I decided that I should just go back to the beginning. My hips and knees protested heartily (I’m old, what can I say?).
I had to make peace with the fact that I may indeed be sleeping in the woods with bears, and had only a handful of gorp left and a few sips of water. But it was necessary, and really the only option I had. The same is sometimes true in relationships. Are you willing to start over?
4. You are more resilient, resourceful and capable than you think you are.
Yes, I made it out of the woods. And I didn’t need to go all of the way back, because not long past the stretch that I had hammered back and forth on, I noticed a fork. That tiny fork I had missed earlier because my painful knees were shouting at me. I got on my bum, and made my way down that hill, and within a few hundred feet I could hear the cars driving down the road by the parking lot. Relationships can be resilient too. And when both parties dig deep, it can be a life changing and life giving experience.
I got to the banquet that evening just on time. I had a swim in the lake, changed my clothes and hobbled on in and gave my son a great big bear hug. Because sometimes a hug requires that kind love.