Spousal Arguments and Lightning

The lookout. Our destination.

The lookout. Our destination.

“I am having the worst time on this hike!” I said a few weeks ago.

My voice was in that high-pitched place where ladies’ voices go right before they’re going to start sobbing. I was having the worst time because we were hiking at about 8,700 feet elevation in the middle of a Flagstaff, AZ monsoon shower on the Elden Lookout Trail.

This is the part where I sheepishly admit to making a dumb mistake with my hiking plans. I know better. I know that I shouldn’t hike in the afternoon in monsoon season in the Arizona high country. Because that’s how people get struck by lightning.

But when we entered the trail head late that morning, I didn’t mention any of this because I didn’t want to piss off my husband, Lou.

Just a few weeks prior, Lou and I got in an argument at the Grand Canyon. We got off to a late start on the Bright Angel Trail and though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, I was already terrified that a lightning-filled monsoon storm would roll in and trap us mid-hike. Lou, who doesn’t share my chilling fear of indiscriminate sky swords that deliver pure death, was frustrated with my anxiety.

“If you’re not willing to take risks then we shouldn’t even leave the house!” he snapped.

For the next 2 1/2 miles into the canyon, we voiced our bitchy retorts and snippy comments between the brief moments when other hikers weren’t in earshot. Other hikers would pass, we’d both smile and say hello, then a few seconds later I’d hiss, “I’m just saayyying I don’t want to be rescued or DIE on a trail a month before my effing hiking book comes out!”

It’s a ridiculous way to have an argument with your spouse.

Even while arguing, we make a great team. Lou graciously snapped this photo of me mid-hike and mid-fight.

Even while arguing, we make a great team. Lou graciously snapped this photo of me mid-hike and mid-fight.

To top it off, we were missing some of the most spectacular views on planet. I finally convinced Lou to turn around just before we hit the 3-Mile rest house.

On the way out, I was wishing for clouds after just half a mile of climbing. It was early August and insanely hot in the canyon. We were soon dribbling water over each others heads. To hot and miserable to care what others thought of us, we made loud and gross moaning sounds as the cool water trickled down our backs. After we finally crawled our way off the scorching trail, we went on with our happy trip at the Grand Canyon with me repeating, “Yes, you were totally right.” throughout the remainder of our visit.

So when we hit the trail late on Mt. Elden in Flagstaff, I decided to shut up and climb.

Taking a break from the intense climbing.

Taking a break from the intense climbing.

We saw the clouds rolling in when we neared the lookout tower (our turn-around spot). We pushed ahead, made a quick tour of the structure, then hauled ass down the trail. Then the rain started. Our strategy was to descend as quick as possible and the minute we heard thunder, we’d take cover and wait out the lightning storm (this is what the experts recommend).

I was convinced that I wouldn’t hear any thunder because I’d be too busy getting hit by lightning and turning into a dead person. Or worse, I’d be too busy becoming a widow.

After 30 minutes of repeatedly imagining my husband’s tragic death while trying not to slip on the slick trail, my high-pitched, lady-about-to-lose-it voice burst out of me. Lou gave me a reassuring hug and we pushed on.

Ten minutes later, the skies cleared and I was a carefree little hiker.

“We won’t do this again,” Lou said. I assumed he was finally beginning to share my fear of lightning. Then he said, “we won’t do this again because I never, ever want you to have a crappy time. Especially when we’re on a hike.”

I win.

Don't worry. We're still crazy about each other.

Don’t worry. We’re still crazy about each other.

Check out photos, gps information, and other details of  the Mt. Elden on my Everytrail.com siteThe Mt. Elden Trail in Flagstaff, AZ is featured as an option my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores November 19th and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Pita Jungle Tears

Who knew a falafel pita would stir such emotion?

Who knew a felafel pita would stir such emotion?

This is a story about how Pita Jungle made me cry in my cubicle.

I had a lunchtime meeting so I asked Lou to grab me some Mediterranean food (the benefit of working in the same office with your sweet husband). With my order in hand, he and a friend scooted out to Pita Jungle.

I was disappointed. I don’t like Pita Jungle as much as the little pita place around the corner.

That’s okay. I thought. His friend probably wanted to go to Pita Jungle so he could ogle the under-21 female wait staff. Haha, what a dog.

I was smirking in my cubicle. Then I imagined Lou would probably ogle as well.

Suddenly, I saw red. My eyes stung as I pictured the short skirts and lack of bra-wearing that always seems to happen at Pita Jungle.

What was this? I never think this way!

Then I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and utterly confused. My emotions were out of control. I felt like a little kid. I was in elementary school, crying in the middle of class for no reason.

Lucky for me, I’m now armed with higher levels of reasoning.

It’s because we recently stopped using birth control. I’m not currently knocked up, but I might be soon. And then I’ll be a mom. And that means he won’t like me. Especially if the scales tip more to “mom” than “wife”, I’ll lose him.

This is a very vulgar and misguided interpretation of what happened to my parents. It’s humiliating to admit that I experienced any of these feelings. But, clearly, this unfair formula became one of those hard-wired laws in my silly emotional being. I just hadn’t undone the equation yet.

During the drive home later that day (yes, we are the annoying couple that carpools to work), I sheepishly told Lou what happened. (Oh, I skipped the part in this story where I sent him a nasty text, shortly followed by the “I’m CRAZY” apologetic text.) He was, of course, understanding and reassuring as always.

Then, poof, it was all gone. I’m totally fine now.

Maybe that’s part of being a grown up. If you think hard enough, you can usually figure out why you’re crying, share it with a trusted partner, and probably never feel that way again. Children can’t do that.

I’ll have to remember this when my future kid cries for no reason. Poor little future kid…what a rough gig.

Like Humans Do

I can’t help but to wonder…

When I see a stranger on the street, my imagination is spurred. These are just a few of the things that happen as I’m silently contemplating other nameless human beings.

If it’s an adult, I assume the person has most likely had sex. Like, passionate love-making sex. And then I picture their facial expressions and I get embarrassed.

If the person is old, I imagine they’ve raised children, buried friends, buried their parents, seen a war, and now feel forgotten.

If it’s a cute girl, I try to assess how she has managed to look cute, then I make a mental notes to steal her style.

Unfortunately, due to my morbid curiosity, I often imagine what unattractive strangers look like when they are buck naked.

When the person is an old man, I automatically assume that he’s “seen some shit” so no one should fuck with him.

I imagine every person has broken down and sobbed at least once in their life.

If it’s a homeless person, I wonder if they have ever been in love.

If it’s a teenager, I assume that they’ve probably started having sex. And then I get grossed out as I realize that my friends and I were that young when we did it for the first time.

If they have a unique outfit on (good or bad), I imagine that person getting ready for the day, looking in the mirror, and saying, “Okay, yes, this works!”

If it’s a cute boy, I immediately feel guilty for even noticing that the guy is cute (and now I feel guilty for writing that — sorry Lou!).

If it’s a small child, I worry about their home life.

And if I recognize a “stranger” to be someone I know, I get really excited (I ran into my brother in a Target parking lot one time and I got giddy…even though I had just seen him the day before at family dinner).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Now enjoy this song about humans…

Stalk It Out

By Riebart, flickr, Creative Commons

I like it when kitties stalk. When humans do it…not so much.

WordPress is great. It gives me all kinds of information about how many people visit my blog, how they find me, and what they click when they get here.

Yesterday, I posted a number of photographs from my recent hikes. My stats told me that I had quite a few clicks on photos for the day.

Hooray! I thought. Someone enjoyed those snapshots of beautiful AZ!

Upon further investigation, however, I began to feel yucky on my insides. Every single click (except for one of an image of the shrunken head from Beetlejuice) was on a picture of me. And some are from blog posts way back in February.

Ew.

Best case scenario: it’s an old high school friend who is innocently curious about what adult Lilia looks like. Worst case scenario: it’s a psycho killer who is planning to rape and dismember my body. Then rape my body parts.

(Apologies. I’ve been watching a lot of Investigation Discovery shows recently.)

Yes, yes, I realize it all comes with the territory. But it’s still unsettling. Especially because I did this to myself by blogging, exposing, and posting pictures of myself.

And now, with this post, I’ve potentially isolated or offended one of my readers.

Dangit!

Dream Lou

By Alpha TangoBravo Adam Baker on flickr Creative Commons.

Terrible creatures can ruin a good night’s sleep.

I’ve always had vivid dreams and nightmares.

Since I met Lou, my general sense of safety has changed. I feel more secure and the nightmares have subsided.

But, every once in a while, a bad dream worms its way into my slumber.

I had one last week. It was about Lou.

In the dream, we were still married. But he was distant.

No matter how hard I tried to engage him, he resisted conversation. And when I mentioned the palpable shift in our connection, he only rolled his eyes. With increasing anxiety and devastation, my attempts to reach him escalated. I was sobbing and begging. But my desperation only made him recoil in disgust.

He was done with me. And there was no getting him back.

In real life, my alarm clock chimed and I could feel Lou next to me.

We were both half asleep when I rolled over and mumbled, “You love me and you still want to be married to me, right?”

“Yes!” he said. “And I’ll never, ever leave you ever.”

I didn’t have to explain the details. I’ve had dreams like these since we first started dating.

“Dream Lou is a real dick,” Lou always says.

Yes, he is.

But real Lou is the best.

My Friday Morning, A True Story

By chatfly, flickr. Creative Commons

We only see what we choose to.

I had to run a few errands early this morning. For the entire trip, I listened to NPR on my iPhone. This way, as I hopped in and out of my car to complete necessary tasks, I could continue to listen to the day’s news.

After finishing, I returned home. I was listening to a story about the Women’s Olympic soccer event as I pulled into the driveway, unlocked the door, and rushed into the my office. I was running late. I was also thinking that I would talk to Lou when he got home from work. Our yard is overgrown and looks like hell. I’m embarrassed.

Still listening to the news on my iPhone speakers, I powered up my laptop. Then a man walked into the room.

I thought I was alone in the house.

I screamed.

Then I noticed this person was wearing my husband’s shirt. Then I noticed this person was my husband.

Lou grabbed me, pulled me close, apologized, laughed, and kissed me.

“Didn’t you see me?” he asked.

I hadn’t.

Then he explained that not only was his car still in the driveway, but he had been sitting on the couch when I walked in the house. As I cruised by, he waved and said hello.

“I thought you were mad at me so I followed you in here.”

I didn’t notice any of it. Not his car, not the wave, and not his hello. I had assumed that by the time I got back, he’d be gone. So my eyes and ears ignored all evidence of his presence.

Dude.

Four Years Ago Today

If our relationship was a human, it would look like this. Our relationship would be able to count to ten, begin to distinguish fantasy from reality, and accurately identify at least four colors.

Four years ago today, I walked into a bar all by myself and met my husband.

Yes, yes, I know I’ve told this story about a million times. If you haven’t read about the magical, whimsical, gives-me-goose-bumps way that I met my Lou, read it here.

We’ve been talking about our four years together quite a bit recently. I don’t think I need to blog about how happy we are (if you want proof, read this, this, this or this).

I realize that four years isn’t an eternity. But, it’s the longest time either of us have been consistently thrilled to be in the same relationship.

I keep saying, “Four years…we’ve been together as long as high school lasts!”

Here are some other things we can expect in a four-year time-span:

The Olympics

Human ability to count to ten

FIFA World Cup

Bamboo canes reach maturity

United States Presidential Term

Leap Year

Total solar eclipse

Quidditch World Cup

A hair strand’s maximum life expectancy

And, in another four years, (unless one of us tragically dies in a car accident or plane crash [please, please, universe, please don't let this happen!!!!]) you can expect Lou and I to be happy, in love, and closer than ever.

Lou, I love ya, babe! Thanks for giving me the happiest four years of my entire life!

Ghost Marriage

By rohitdixit, Flickr Creative Commons.

Marriage can be abstract.

This is how I look at things: there’s me, Lou, and the marriage.

The marriage is a third entity — an ever-present ghost. Because I dearly cherish my marriage, I love this ghost and will do anything to defend it.

When Lou and I are nice to each other, it makes the ghost feel good.

Sometimes, Lou accidentally hurts my feelings and I’m so hurt, that I want to make him feel terrible, too.

That’s when I have to try really hard to remember the ghost. Transferring my thoughts to this conceptual third party defuses my rage.

“I will explain this to you for the benefit of our marriage,” I say in a measured tone when I’m angry. “But I want you to know that I’m resisting the temptation to say something harsh….because I want us to have a good marriage.”

And then I calmly tell Lou whatever the hell it is I feel I need to say. And it’s usually a text-book statement like, “I felt ______ when you did/said ______.”

Because that’s the way the experts say one should communicate with a partner.

And, this way, I don’t hurt Lou or the ghost.

It’s a handy trick.

Author’s Note: This has nothing to do with me being recently mad at Lou or anything silly like that. It actually stems from a conversation he and I have shared many times — when we aren’t mad at each other — about how we can practice good communication. Go team!

Coping with Anxiety

Come with us now on a journey through time and space…

I have a mild case of anxiety.

Not right now. But, frequently, I feel the irregular pulse, the erratic thoughts, and the potentially-debilitating nervousness that can ultimately cause an experience of sheer terror.

One time, I had a full-on anxiety attack in the Chandler mall (go figure). If you’ve never experienced this, it feels like a heart attack. I was convinced that there was something medically wrong with me. So Lou rushed me to Urgent Care and I braced myself for the news that the doctor finally found the hole in my heart that I’ve always suspected was there.

“It’s lucky we found it now,” Dr. X would say. “There’s no cure. But if you stop eating all delicious things and quit drinking entirely, you might live to be 35.”

Of course, the real-life doctor took one look at my EKG and sent me home with a pill.

Shortly after, I tried a low dose of a daily anti-anxiety medication. It turned me into a zombie.

So, after a few unsuccessful trials with that, I decided to ditch the medication and talk to a therapist. A good one. I’m lucky for finding her but I’m also lucky to only have a mild case — my heart breaks for people who suffer from severe anxiety because it is fucking Hell, people!

Anyway, my therapist taught me a meditation technique that has worked extremely well.

Here’s how it works.

Close your eyes. Let your mind wander. As it drifts, identify what happens using four categories:

Touch, Feel, Image, and Talk.

Anything tangible that happens during your meditation (e.g. the cat jumps in your lap, you hear your husband snoring, or you suddenly notice the feel of your shirt fabric) falls under the Touch category.

All emotional feelings (e.g. nervousness, anger, fear, relaxation, etc.) are included in the Feel category.

The pictures that run through your mind (e.g. what you imagine the cat in your lap looks like, how you remember the way someone’s face is put together, or any other picture) is categorized as Image.

And, finally, the voices in your head that fire off a bunch of messages (e.g. “I should get up and check my email,” or, “I’m hungry,” or “I should be sleeping instead of meditating because it’s 3 a.m. and I have to work tomorrow,” etc.) fall into the Talk category.

When I first started to practice, I would set a timer for two minutes. I’d close my eyes and say the words out loud. I probably looked like a lunatic, but I was surprised how quickly I fell into the rhythm.

“Talk…Feel…Image…Image…Touch…Image…” and so forth.

The goal is merely to continue identifying the things that happen in your head. That’s it. You don’t have to clear your mind (which is something I’ve never understood).

Allow your mind to stay active, acknowledge the activity, label it, and then move on to the next one.

Now I don’t have to speak out loud (unless I’m really in the depths). Most of the time, I don’t have to do it all. But if I have a bad week, I’ll set the timer (for ten minutes now that I’ve had more practice) and meditate each morning for a few days.

It’s magic. My symptoms subside…

…until they return, of course, because there’s no sure-fire way to cure this type of thing for good.

So, if you’re like me and you have similar difficulties, try this.

Seriously.

(I have more tricks up my sleeve for dealing with anxiety so maybe I’ll blog about that later.)

Zzzzzz…

By soundman 1024 on flickr Creative Commons

This is not the solution.

Less than three hours of sleep last night.

This morning before he left for work, Lou told me that I should take a nap today. He should know better by now.

I suck at napping.

If I’m tired enough to fall asleep in the middle of the day, I won’t stop. A “nap” for me means at least two hours will be lost forever. Most likely, it will be four hours. And, when I finally manage to wake up, there’s a high probability that I might start crying.

I don’t know why this happens but I always feel sad after I wake up from a nap.

Especially as a teenager, I’d weep every single time. Eventually, I just stopped napping. The experience is just too emotional.

So, today, I’ll resume my zombie-like approach to my checklist for the day and try to make it through dinner.