I like the outdoors. Really I do.
But not like my husband. He can’t stand to stay indoors for very long. And by very long I mean more than three minutes. He can’t sit still. He gets stir-crazy. I can literally feel the anxious energy, like his sanity is about to scatter into the universe, with no hope of containing it again.
He needs the outdoors. It brings a sort of balance to his life, a sort of meaning that I glimpse every so often, but never fully understand. Not at his level.
When we were newlyweds we lived in a small basement apartment that smelled like earth. I was working full-time, and he was in school. During our few spare hours I wanted to cuddle on the couch with my new husband and watch tv.
His idea of relaxing was to try a new bike trail, or hike up the mountains near our home. These were all things I liked. Things I’d even done with him while we were dating. I’m not dumb. He’s pretty cute. But we were married now. It was time to quit impressing, drop the facade, and share a bag of potato chips.
I guess I didn’t fully realize that when he was taking me to do outdoorsy things it wasn’t to impress me with how manly he was. It was because he genuinely liked those things.
On this particular Saturday I was not interested in getting sweaty and lost in the mountains. So we did something new.
I sent him off on his own.
He was thrilled that I wasn’t insisting he stay home with me. And I was miserable. I worried and fretted every minute he was gone.
“He’s not supposed to go alone. I just sent him alone. If something happens to him, I’m not really even sure where he went. How am I going to tell Search and Rescue where to find him?”
I pulled out the map and studied the area he’d casually pointed out to me, planning the conversation I’d have with authorities.
“I’m going to be a widow and we’ve only been married a few weeks! I’m a terrible wife for letting him go alone. I should have gone with him. He’s a terrible husband for leaving. He’s going to die and nobody will ever know because he went alone. He’s not supposed to go alone!”
This circular thought pattern carried on for several hours while he was gone. It drove me crazy. When I was near tears and ready to jump out of my skin, he showed up.
He was serene. He’d found peace. It had almost been something of a spiritual experience for him.
I wanted to kill him and hug him and kill him again.
Spoiler alert: We’re still married. And during our 12 years of marriage I’ve learned some things about being married to an Outdoor Enthusiast. Things like:
- Double the amount of time Outdoor Enthusiast says something will take. This is true for distances to hike, time to travel somewhere, or an ETA for home sweet home. This also holds true regardless of whether I join him or not.
- Snacks make for a happy wife and happy kids. Always bring snacks. Lots of snacks. Don’t wait around for Outdoor Enthusiast to do it. He would eat the bark off a tree if he got hungry enough. He does not care about snacks.
- When going into bear country take your bear spray. Even if you have to stop at an overpriced gas station to purchase another can of spray because you forgot yours at home. Even if Outdoor Enthusiast makes fun of you for packing it everywhere you go. “Crystal, a bear isn’t going to attack you in the parking lot.” Don’t listen to this nonsense. This just means you’ll be the proud owner of 2 cans of $40 bear spray. Silver lining: If you’re ever attacked by two bears at once, Outdoor Enthusiast will eat his words. Bonus points if it happens in a parking lot.