The hubs and I are in our 20th year of marriage. The actual anniversary date is still a few months off. But on some days, leading up to the big day, I find myself pondering in amazement…20 years… that’s a long time.
Our 20th year together is in many ways much easier than our first. Even though that first year was filled with adventure, romance, travels and fewer responsibilities, we were still figuring out the difference between what we expected from marriage and what was really in store.
It was during that first year of marriage, that the hubs accompanied me on a “working” trip to Hawaii and I discovered how expectations could sabotage an adventure.
The island of Kauai is everything I imagined it could be. Lush, mossy green mountains set a backdrop to a tropical island paradise dotted with palm trees and resort hotels. It was a brief trip and we didn’t know if we’d ever get another chance to return; so we crammed activities into every free moment. We played golf. We snorkeled. We took a helicopter tour of the island complete with a booming Yanni soundtrack playing in our earphones.
Each experience made me delirious with joy. Except… the hike.
The hubs overheard other hotel guests discussing a hiking trail that led to a waterfall. Waterfalls are his jam. We’d already been on countless hikes on other trips, through the Canadian wilderness in search of la chutes d’eau. The French word made him laugh and the triumph of finding a tucked away falls made him behave as if he’d summited a great mountaintop. And word was, that people were swimming under these secluded Hawaiian falls. We simply had to check it out.
It was said to be a three-mile hike. In our estimation, the trek would take around an hour and we would be frolicking under a waterfall like newlyweds in a romantic comedy.
That afternoon, we drove to the trailhead at the end of a road located near a deserted beach, parked the rental car and set out on our adventure. I expected to get some exercise, take pictures of some beautiful scenery and be back at the hotel in time for dinner. I brought along a backpack containing a jacket, a beach towel and a water bottle.
After about an hour of ambling along a dirt path through an island jungle, we began to get thirsty. It was warm. The water went quickly. We hadn’t thought to bring extra water, snacks or a flashlight for such a short jaunt. We shrugged off the minor discomfort of thirst and kept walking. Lots of hikers passed us. They were heading in the opposite direction, each telling the hubs we were almost there and that reaching the falls was totally worth the trip. These comments stoked his determination and fueled his ability to tune out my rumblings about getting tired and hungry.
We’d surely covered the estimated three miles and yet, no waterfall. The farther we traveled inland, the muddier and slipperier the path became. My stomach growled. The hubs checked his watch. He knew we needed to allow enough time to hike out before it got dark. We picked up the pace.
Finally! We reached a sign. It was the 3-mile marker. The destination we thought we’d been aiming for. But, no. This was not the spot where young dreamers would discover a jungle paradise. This was just a sign informing us that we’d reached the path that would lead us to the waterfall in approximately two more miles. What?!
We’d been misled. Deceived. We thought the trip would be easier. We weren’t prepared for this abrupt change of plans. Not fair.
I wanted to go back. But in the distance we could hear a faint sound; a spilling flow of water. The hubs begged me to press on. But we’d need to go faster if we were going to make it back out in daylight. He led. I followed. I whined. I slipped on muddy rocks. I couldn’t go faster because my mental capacity had been pre-set for what I’d believed would be an easy excursion. The hubs kept checking his watch as we marched deeper into the trees and brush. A steady stream of wet hikers passed us, heading out. “You’re almost there,” they’d say. I lost count of how many people told us we were almost there.
We reached a ravine. We’d have to hike down, cross over some boulders and logs in a stream and hike up the other side to continue. It was beginning to dawn on the hubs that continuing was unwise. In the clearing it was easier to hear what we thought were people splashing under the waterfall. We walked a bit farther, thinking we must be almost there. We were not. We could now see the falls in the distance and realized we’d never make there in time.
Feeling famished and dehydrated we high-tailed it back toward the trailhead in the gloaming. We couldn’t hear water or people anymore. No other hikers came by. It was getting darker by the minute. We lost the trail for a bit. I was practically in tears, asking the hubs if he knew any divorce lawyers on the mainland.
We exited the tree line at sunset, trudged across the sand to the parking lot and plopped into the rental car in our muddy shoes. We drove back to the hotel in silence. I’d never been so grateful for a hot shower and a Snickers bar.
I later decided divorce would have be an overreaction, especially since the hubs ultimately chose my comfort and safety over his personal desire to get to that damned waterfall. Since then, we’ve been on longer, more difficult hikes with less drama. That’s partly because we are more careful about being prepared for contingencies.
But more importantly, I’ve learned that my mind can play tricks on me when I have a certain set of expectations and life has other plans. The trouble in Hawaii wasn’t entirely about lacking supplies since we were only three miles from civilization. It was that I expected the trip to be easier and that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable. My mind was unprepared to endure hardship. But endure we did.
Married life has not always been what I originally expected it to be. And sometimes we’ve been caught completely unprepared for a given situation or have been unsure about how to proceed. But by putting one foot in front of the other, periodically stopping to evaluate our errors in judgement, and being committed to going in the same direction–even if that means one of us needs to change direction–we’ve managed to travel through almost 20 years of life together.