A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
DUEL ON HIGHWAY 91
It wasn't that Anita and I were having an argument. At least, not exactly. There was just some tension between us that night five or six years ago. Maybe it was the fact that we didn't have a job at the time. Or a house. Or any money. And we had five kids.
You know, the kinds of things that make married couples occasionally tense.
Which was the reason we decided to go walking in the first place. We knew the exercise would do us good, and maybe it would help us forget whatever it was that was making us uptight.
So we started walking, slowly at first. Anita tried to start some conversation about something; I don't remember what it was. To tell the truth, I wasn't paying much attention. I was still seething over some smarty-pants thing our son, Joe, had said to me as we were leaving, so my responses to Anita were, shall we say, unresponsive. Stung by my insensitivity, Anita turned her focus to walking. Now, you need to know this about Anita: she's about a foot shorter than me, with most of that height differential found in the comparative length of our legs. But when she shifts those stubby little legs into power-walking speed, it takes every bit of hustle I can muster to keep up.
By the time we reached our favorite walking path along Highway 91 I was practically jogging to keep up with her. This is stupid, I said to myself. I'm bigger. I'm stronger. I'm . . . well, I'm male, for Pete's sake. I should be able to absolutely bury her on this walking path. So I pushed myself as hard as I could go. I leaned forward aggressively, legs extending and arms pumping. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Anita pushing herself to keep up with me just as I had been pushing myself to keep up with her. Within 50 yards I had control of the pace.
I had done it! I showed her! I was as tough as she was!
Unfortunately, we were only about halfway through our course and I was completely burned out. About 100 yards after I took control of the pace Anita chugged past me and never looked back. For a while I struggled to keep up with her, but finally resigned myself to following meekly behind.
"You OK?" she asked, calling back over her shoulder.
"Just . . . not . . . feeling . . . very well . . . tonight," I lied.
"You want to stop?"
"No . . . I . . . think . . . I . . . can . . . make . . . it."
"OK," she said -- and she was off again.
By the time we got home I had been humbled into remembrance of some of the reasons I respect and admire my wife. I remembered how much I respect her strength, her determination and her ability to endure to the end of any task. I recalled my admiration for her patience and gentleness (about a block away from home it occurred to me that she had been holding back on our previous walks so I could walk with her, not behind her). By the time we got home I felt less tense, and we were finally able to talk about the tension that was building up between us -- and thus eliminate it.
Now, I'm not suggesting that all tensions in all relationships can be worked out that simply. But I do think there's something to be said for finding a way -- whatever it is -- to go back to the roots of that relationship. Somewhere along the way there have been reasons for mutual respect and admiration. Haul them out every once in a while and look at them thoroughly. There's a good chance that tensions will diminish as you discover that the reasons for respect and admiration still exist.
Even if you have to look at them from behind.
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--- (c) Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.