11 June 2019

La Plata Peak

Back in the day when I was trying to move all my trip reports from a website that doesn't exist anymore to here, I deliberately left this one out because of the lesson I learned during the climb. I wanted to share the experience that strengthened my marriage as a lesson in love, not as a 14er trip report. Now, ten years later, I'm about to celebrate a big silver anniversary (at work), and La Plata, which means silver, will always stand out to me as a lesson of love. I guess I sort of saved the best for last.

29 August 2009

Both of us were a little grouchy and cranky when the alarm went off because we hadn't had enough rest. Friday had been difficult for both of us. I'd worked clear through lunch, and too much stress was encountered. Lizard had Friday off, but he'd volunteered to use his free time to set up a website for a friend who was planning to run for office. The future politician was supposed to set up an account with the web host of choice, then buy a suitable domain name. When Lizard logged into the account, he discovered the not-so savvy friend had purchased cloud space, not a website. No matter what Lizard did with what he was sent, it would not be publicly accessible. He was going to have to build something from scratch... after buying it himself.

I'd asked him around lunchtime if there was anything I could do to help, and his reply was, "No." Plain and simple. He didn't communicate with me the rest of the workday. I could feel his frustration.

He'd planned to ride and didn't get to because of this project. We planned to climb La Plata Peak today with Mike, one of our 14er friends. Lizard spent Friday thinking he wouldn't be able to go because he had to finish the website.

The politician wannabe had offered to pay Lizard $200. After buying a website and a domain, plus all the time he put into developing the website, Lizard wasn't going to make a single dime. He'd probably be in the red. I was frustrated because my weekends with him are sacred. I didn't want anyone taking a weekend away. I'd been looking forward to this particular getaway for too long.

I didn't realize I was only adding to the pressure when I asked why he didn't use his problem-solving skills. Why wasn't he resourceful? Why didn't he just set up a website on our web space that he could move to the candidate's when the politician-to-be finally got their act together? The questions may have been valid, but I made Lizard feel like crap. That was not my intent at all.

By the time I got home from work Friday, the project had driven a wedge between us. Lizard was frustrated with me, or maybe hurt because of what I said. He didn't want to spend any more time on the project. We needed to get up in five hours, already short on rest. We went to bed without ironing out the wrinkles. Both of us knew you should never go to bed with hard feelings. It was only our third or fourth tiff in our entire relationship. We were much better off than most couples. I knew we would get through this. But Friday night, it sure didn't feel very comforting.

We got up at 1 a.m. and were on the road with our 14er friend an hour and a half later. Lizard and I weren't talking very much. He was distant. I kept trying, but he wasn't terribly responsive. Both of us were tired. He probably hadn't sleep any better than I had.

We started up the trailhead by about 5 a.m., and boy, was it steep. I'd climbed this mountain before, and I had done it alone. But I was in much better shape then, even though my knee pain then was relentless. This mountain proved to be difficult for all three of us.

I fueled properly, and I hydrated adequately. It was long and hard, but I felt like I could do it. Didn't even faze me when I remembered the false summit. We still had a long way to go, but I knew I could make it.

However, I had to stop much more frequently than Lizard and Mike. Clouds were building, and I was worried they would not reach the peak if they kept my pace. I'd already done it, so I told them to go on, and I would keep following.

Lizard told me to head down instead. He is correct in assuming my downhill speed makes a descent in dark skies dangerous. But I felt strong. I didn't think there would be any lightning, but I did think we were going to get soaked. I really wanted to keep going.

I'd been telling myself all morning that it's dangerous to set a pattern of turning back. Each time you turn back, it makes it a little easier the next time, and eventually, it's too easy to say, "I can't" instead of even trying. I didn't want to go through that. I knew I could make this peak. Just not as fast as the boys.

Lizard insisted I head down. I wanted to cry and beg, "Please, Lizard, don't take this peak from me! I can do it!"

Yet I knew he was doing this because he cares about me, and he knows how hard going down is for me. I knew he wanted me off that ridge before any chance of lightning. There is no place to hide once a storm sets in when you're at 13,500 feet.

I also knew if I showed respect for Lizard's wishes, he would see how much I love him. That was the most important thing to me. So I gave him a crocheted bear, which we've now named Winnie, even though we didn't do the Winfield trailhead. And I headed back down. I fought the tears for about two miles. I really wanted to keep climbing.

Winnie the Bear

For a long time, I kept thanking Heavenly Father for helping me make it as far as I did. I thanked Him for the privilege of being in the mountains and being well enough to even try. I thanked Him for all the pika I got to enjoy during my hike. And I thanked Him for Lizard.

That helped me fight off the feelings I was battling. I didn't want to tell people who were on their way up that my husband made me turn back because of the weather. After all, they were still going up! Why couldn't I?

I kept hoping the weather wouldn't happen so I could tell him, "See, I could have made it." Which is just too closely related to, "See, I told you so!" Which just doesn't need to be said in a partnership of any kind. Unless it's done with humor.

Eventually, I realized my attitude was that of a spoiled teenager. I want what I want, and what you want doesn't matter. Entirely selfish and immature. Such character traits have no place in marriage.

The clouds did build – three times. They also dissipated – three times. This helped me realize it didn't matter what the weather did. What was important was I respected my husband and did what he asked because he cares about me and because I wanted to show him his love is more important to me than anything else. I decided I would tell him this after we dropped Mike off at his car. I didn't want to embarrass Lizard in any way.

I was incredibly slow going down. I began sliding twice, but I did what Lizard taught me two years ago. I ran. "Momentum is your friend," he would say. Running bruised up my toe, and it still hurts right now. Sock seams over the blister I popped are impossible. It almost feels as if I broke the blister again. I'll probably lose the toenail. But I never fell on my rear end.

Lizard had a difficult time with all the "stairs" on this mountain, too. He was still sore from last week's attempt on Mount Harvard. I'd side-stepped all the "stairs".

I stopped in the meadow for about half an hour. Then I stopped at the first bridge and stuck my feet in the icy water. Waited about another half hour. I took about 70 pictures on the way down, about 130 all together. So I took an extra two hours or so going down, but the guys never caught up to me.

I sat on a rock in the parking area. Lizard arrived first. So I told him my thoughts. It has made all the difference in the world. He apologized for not letting me keep going, but he also told me he thought I was sending them on because I hurt. He didn't know I was asking them to go ahead of me only because of my speed. He truly was trying to protect me.

We talked about how events and circumstances in both our lives made both of us prone to feeling we were unloved, unworthy of being loved and never good enough. We talked about how we need to be tolerant of when one of us is feeling that way because we both know these feelings are not reality, but sort of automatic, somewhat ingrained. Our reactions when we feel this way are what cause the microscopic tiffs we do have.

I told Lizard what I learned today was worth more than any summit.

I wouldn't trade today for the world. I do wish I had been able to summit, but I'm more satisfied with what I got. I don't regret how we learned this lesson at all.

30 August 2009

Punctuation for yesterday's experience. Today's Sunday school lesson was eternal marriage. Lizard and I have not been sealed for eternity in the temple. Yet. I'm hoping one day we make it there together.

While I was waiting for the lesson to begin, a couple of things came to mind. They added perspective to what I learned yesterday.

First, I wondered what might have happened if this had occurred during my first marriage, which was a temple sealing.

I would not have relented. I would have been rebellious, disrespectful and selfish. Of course, that marriage accommodated such emotions. Nevertheless, I tried to picture myself having the same conversation with my first husband. He wouldn't have been telling me to start back because he was worried about my safety. It would have been a control issue. And I would have responded in kind.

"You're not telling me what to do," I would have snidely barked before marching right up ahead of him, tail in his face.

And yet, none of this ever would have happened anyway. He wouldn't have been climbing a mountain with me. He wouldn't have been hiking with me. He'd have been in a bowling alley. All night long. He might not come home for days, and I just had to live with it.

He and I would not have been able to work past Friday night. We had too many of those. Too frequently. We both criticized each other relentlessly. He never gave thought to how he made me feel, and sometimes I literally wanted to hurt him with words so he could see how it felt.

Didn't work.

I tried all those years to build a relationship around that. I always felt like such a failure.

Age brings wisdom, experience and maturity. I think I was in a situation where it was not really possible to progress. I truly did give it my all. There were times when he tried, as well. But he came from a different world than me. I don't think he had a desire for closeness to another human being. He'd never experienced it. He'd never experienced trust, devotion or sacrifice. How could he want what I wanted when he had never experienced it?

Then I experienced so many years alone. Horribly alone, and yet, never truly alone. Back then, I was looking at the single set of footprints in the sand and wondering what I had done to deserve such abandonment. I now know upon Whose footprints I had gazed.

The death of the first marriage, the vacuum of the years that followed, the life-sucking needs of my adopted special-needs children and the maturity (finally) of age brought a desire to really make my marriage to Lizard work. Not just for me, but for both of us. I didn't want either of us to be miserable. I wanted both of us to feel fulfilled. And loved.

So I work harder at it. And it's worth it.

I realized while I was waiting for Sunday school to begin that my marriage today is richer because of what we went through Friday and Saturday. We are closer now because we worked through a difficult spot. I don't think either of us ever thought of walking away or giving up. We felt hurt, we felt sad, and we wondered what to do next. But the thought of quitting never entered our minds.

Well, I take that back. The thought of giving up on the political website project probably weighed very heavily on BOTH our minds!!!

But we never thought of giving up on each other. Even when things seemed hard.

I think so many couples in the world today believe such moments are the end of love. They can't work past it. They walk away. Then they never experience what Lizard and I are experiencing now. They lose the opportunity to grow and grow closer. They move through life, continually searching, never finding, because they never know what it is they need. They just know something is missing.

I feel like both of us will do all we can to make this marriage work out. We both give. We both sacrifice. We both share. We both appreciate. We both try not to take things for granted. We both go out of our way to do something kind for one another.

How odd that I finally got what I thought marriage should be by marrying someone who doesn't share my faith.

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