The View from Behind

This morning David and I decided to hike in the canyon rather than do our usual walk.  There’s a wonderful collection of trails, and over time we’ve pieced together routes that work for us–ones that alternate between climbing and meandering with beautiful views all around.  We love to feel the unique energy of the canyon walking on the dirt and rocks. We haven’t taken one of these hikes since I started blogging so I decided to take my camera along in case there were shots I wanted to capture for a future post.

To get to the trails, we start out on the road walking side by side. Once we turn off the road we have to walk single file.  With eager anticipation I lifted up my camera  and here’s what I saw:

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Now this is my guy, and I’m happy to be gazing at him from any direction, but this wasn’t the view I was hoping for. This view, however, got me thinking.  I was on the trail bringing up the rear.  And it made me think of a time in the not-too-distant past when I would have been uncomfortable not being in the lead.

When I moved to Scottsdale twelve years ago I started hiking in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  To a newcomer like me the terrain looked scarily undifferentiated.  Plus, I was afraid of the desert wildlife, particularly rattlesnakes.  Armed with the universal warning of “watch where you put your hands and feet at all times” I  cautiously set out.  I hiked mostly alone although occasionally I had company.  I did see rattlesnakes, big ones, and I hiked more than a few times with only coyotes to keep me company. Even as I became more experienced and comfortable with the trails I knew that I needed to be very vigilant in order to be safe.  And that, in a nutshell, was my comfort zone.  I needed to know the route.  I needed to have enough water. I needed to be ready for anything. I needed to take care of myself.

During my childhood there were many ways that the vigilance=safety message was introduced and reinforced in my high-anxiety family.  On the positive side, this led to my sister and me striving to be competent and independent. What I didn’t learn, however, was how to depend on another.  In order to stave off feelings of being unsafe I had to manage everything.  On the hiking trails I had a hard time relaxing when hiking with other people if I wasn’t in the lead, and often my friends knew the trails better than  I did.  I simply couldn’t trust their competence.

When David and I first started hiking together I was often in the lead because I knew the trails a little better, but a big part of me was ready to relinquish my life-long role of “person who knows best”.  I longed to relax and let him take care of things up front–actually what I longed for was for him to take care of me. As soon as David knew his way around he did just that, and we’ve pretty much settled into a David in front, me in back routine.

In truth, the hike is glorious from both perspectives, it’s just a bit of a different hike depending on where you are.  David has the more expansive and lovely view but he also needs to be watching out for snakes and gila monsters as well as calling my attention to things like this:

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and this:

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From the back I have the more limited view, but freed from the need to be constantly scanning I can have a more meditative and peaceful experience.  And every so often I spot something pretty spectacular from the rear:

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Something I’ve learned though is that depending on David (or anyone) is not about losing anything or at any time being less than the thinking, perceiving  person I am.   I bring my skills and strength to our relationship no matter which one of us is leading the way.  The power of this healthy interdependence is far more impressive than any go-it-alone show of competence.  What I do know is that whether I am leading or following, my goal is that we  arrive together and always take time to enjoy the view.

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4 thoughts on “The View from Behind

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