Last Wednesday, as he was getting ready for work, my husband suggested I should get out of the house for the day. He’s always worried that I don’t get out enough, that working from home is going to make me depressed. So, I nodded in sympathetic agreement and said, as any woman would, “I am getting out of the house. I’m going to Target!”
“That doesn’t count!” My husband insisted, “You should go hiking.”
“OK…” I murmured with some reluctance. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. Getting some fresh air and exercise would do me some good; after all, it was supposed to be a beautiful day. Sunny. 75°. A light breeze.
So I went for a solo hike after my Target run – just me, myself and I. I packed water, a banana, and a book in my hiking backpack, anticipating finding a nice bench along the trail to sit and relax. I also brought my earbuds in case I got tired of being in my own head.
Sometimes being in my own head is like a breath of fresh air in and of itself, and other times it’s like being suffocated. So, I decided it was best to be prepared either way.
I hiked up to Dante’s View – the same little garden oasis where I married my husband, where I became a McMillan almost a year ago. I found a picnic table looking out over the Griffith Observatory, basking in the sunlight. This is the perfect place to stop, I thought to myself as I took off my backpack and laid it on the table.
I sat there alone, for about half an hour, listening to the breeze and the birds, reading and occasionally glancing up to smile at hikers passing by.
Just before I was about to leave, two women walked up to a small pine tree, just three feet away from where I sat. One of the women said, “This is the tree.” The other politely questioned, “Your friend’s tree…what was his name again?”
“Martin,” she replied.
“Martin,” the other woman repeated softly while reaching out to gently place her hand on a branch. “God rest your soul.”
As the women walked away, talking about the memorial, it struck me: this was both a place of celebration and of remembrance. My maiden name is Martin, and I found it beautifully ironic that here, on this mountain, a Martin was remembered and a Martin was married.
And I wondered, in that moment, if those weren’t the same thing – being remembered and being married.
I think, sometimes, when a person gets married, they feel like they are saying goodbye to who they were and stepping into who they are becoming, a husband or a wife, which is true. But it’s also true that marriage – at its best and at its worst – is about remembering who you are. It’s not losing yourself, but finding yourself anew everyday.
It might be assumed that people leave marriages because they’ve lost themselves. But I think people actually leave marriages because they’ve found themselves. They realize, at some point, their marriage is not serving who they know to be their best, truest self.
And the same is true of people who stay in marriages for a lifetime. They stay because their marriage reminds them of who they really are at the deepest level; their marriage affirms their most authentic self. Like comedian, Pete Holmes, and his wife, Valerie, sometimes say to each other, “I see you in there.”
As I stood up to leave with this knowing, I strangely didn’t feel alone on that mountain. Martin’s Tree had been there the whole time, waiting for me to become aware of it, inviting me to remember who I’ve always been. I felt like Moses on Mount Horeb – standing on holy ground.
I tell you this story because I believe there’s usually something more going on below the surface. Often a tree is more than just a tree, and a marriage is more than just a marriage. And I firmly believe, below the surface, there’s so much more to you, too.
If you need help discovering who you are below the surface, my Blossoming for Beginners Mini Course can help. Sign up here!