Climbing metaphorical & actual mountains with Kasia

If you said to me 5 years ago that I would be a regular hiker, I would have laughed in your trail mix.

But among the activities I’ve come to love in the last year is a good hike. In an ordinary day I will either – or all at the same time – have the radio playing, the TV on, and/or my laptop open to check my Facebook feed.  A cacophony of media, I know.

Yet every now and then I get out to nature. Given my (neurotic) need to keep the brain entertained, it’s normally with a friend or few.  So yesterday my friend Kasia and I, both freshly graduated from SDSU, decided to climb up San Diego’s Cowles Mountain.  What’s nice about this leisurely hike is the ability to prattle on about ourselves and not so much struggle with losing our breath.  As such, she’s the perfect person with whom to yackity-yack.

I’ll never forget when I met Kasia, one of the first I encountered of my cohort two years ago.  Her playful demeanor and constant smile could attract even the angriest of scholastic trolls. “Hi I’m Katherine! Well, that’s my real name. My friends call me Kasia. Or Kathy. You can call me whatever you want, haha! Where are you from?  This is my roommate Erin!”

And so our friendship began and I don’t think her rate of speech has slowed down since. We have traveled to Europe together, endured crucifying breakups in each other’s arms, and cried hysterically about research papers we would have otherwise set fire to.

As a first generation American, her parents immigrated to Chicago from Poland.  She was, then much to her distain, raised learning all things Polish.  As the years passed on she has become proud of her ancestors and keeps this heritage close to her identity.  However, I still can’t get her to cook me one little pierogi.

Polish pastries on my mind, we began our ascent up the rocky, dusty mountain.  The usual talk ensued as I discussed recent happenings in my relationship.  I have a debilitatingly hard time letting go of my love’s former f-ups, and regardless of how truly sorry he is, my far-from-pristine-self continues to bring it up and beat him with it. “How can I just LET IT GO?” I asked wiping sweat from my forehead as the 80 degree heat began getting to me. “He said he was sorry, I know that he means it, I just can’t move past it. Seriously, how do I forget about it?”  For those of you wondering what “it” is, it’s really not that big of a deal.  I’m a giant baby and also perfectionist who must control each and every situation, and if there’s a blemish, that receives my focus. God help me.

“Well,” she answered, “sometimes it’s hard. I struggle with that too, but I have learned that it never helps.  The only one who ends up suffering when you hang on to that is you.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, fully knowing this information and wishing for a Men In Black mind eraser pen.  Seriously why haven’t we come up with that yet?

As my mind started to wander, my legs started to tire.  Nearly each step required a steep lunge onto a rock or a branch, demanding more energy that I anticipated for said “leisurely” hike. “Damn I am feeling out of shape,” I think to myself.

I then realize I’m not paying attention and shake the self-doubting thoughts from my mind. Returning to the conversation, “I am just so scared.  What if that’s a sign of things that could happen?” Moving to a slippery slope I continue, “I just don’t want to wake up at 45 with a couple of kids and then have him, I dunno, run off on me or something.”  I offer this scenario as the worst possible situation I can ever imagine.

“Well,” Kasia reminds me, “that’s exactly what happened to my Mom…”

My already labored breath came to a sudden halt.  I completely forgot what had happened.  While my parents have their own horrific divorce story, Kasia too, has one of her own.

I remember at our graduation a grey haired, handome looking man standing next to Kasia’s older brother.  They stood oddly apart from one another and I quickly came to realize that he was their father.  His pressed shirt tucked into dress pants, in addition to his presence, demonstrated that he wanted to stay involved in Kasia’s life.

The trouble, however, is that this 50-something charmer has another family to attend to.  A wife around Kasia’s age, and children younger than her nephews.  Her devastated mother was placed in a deplorable predicament upon learning of the affair not many years ago, and has since taken over the struggling family restaurant.  While the details are not mine to divulge, she offered this story as a comfort.

How is that comforting?!  After thinking about it for a while, it is because these things happen.  And people survive.  She explained how her mother is now finally happy, no longer suffering verbal assaults from her husband of 25 years.  The worst that I can imagine does happen, but living in fear of it is no way to navigate a relationship.  I can’t control the present just as much as I can’t control the future.  And sometimes, people do have happy long term relationships.  Right?

Kasia continued hopping from stone to stone, as we journeyed up the increasing grade of the mountain.  With a tumultuous past, her literal and metaphorical buoyancy is inspiring. While she has had her own struggles in romantic relationships, she now is in a happy partnership. Her boyfriend, who, *ahem*, I introduced her to, is a loving devoted partner.

Yet my friend and hiking companion is facing a new challenge.  She fell in love in San Diego but received a job offer in Maryland that she could not refuse – Godfather pun unintended.  She has three weeks left until she and her man are separated for a year.

How awful!  A nightmare for a person like me.  How will you know that he is faithful?  How do you stay faithful?  This will be her second long distance relationship, the former ending in sadness and broken hearts.  But of course she has men willing to try with her. She is beautiful. Educated.  Flirty.  In fact, the nickname we gave her is “bedroom eyes,” given her sexy but harmless come-hither stare, flashed to anyone including me.  But back to the point, she is strong.  She fought back when the man who raised her demolished her trust in marriage and relationships.  Yet she will not let that stop her, and is willing to follow her passion to a job across the country, AND have faith that her love will stay true to her.  She has what I desire: trust.

I believe it is Plato who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  I am fighting my many battles, and that battle today is trust.  Kasia showed me that afternoon that everyone makes mistakes, some much larger than others.  But that doesn’t mean that we have to stop living our lives, and reside in frustration over the past.  Trying to control what may happen lest fears become realities. To move forward, we relationship-havers must shed the past, and instead have faith in the partners we fall in love with.

When I put it in that perspective, I realize the requirement to forgive and at least somewhat forget.  After all, love keeps no record of wrongs.  Therefore, in the emptiness that will have once held anger at my loved one, perhaps I can open that space instead, for trust.

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About jonierdmann
Ask thoughtful questions. Challenge tradition. Refuse to accept things are the way they are.

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