For our second date, Byron suggested a hike through Runyon Canyon. We’d enjoyed a nice dinner the week before, and I looked forward to getting to know him better, so I said yes without hesitation.
I put on my green hiking pants and sandals, sun-blocked my face, and headed out. As we walked through the gates and onto the trail with sun shining on our faces, possibility swirled in the dust around my feet.
Then, about thirty-seconds later, the dust settled when Byron suggested we “run the entire trail.” Now, I’m not opposed to running, but I thought we were hiking and getting to know each other, so my hiking sandals and lack of a sports bra were certainly not going to cut it on a steep trail run, and I knew this.
I also, of course, just wanted to get to know Byron, and thought it would be lovely to just chill, walk with his dog, and talk amidst the dozens of people walking behind and in front of us.
So I said, “Oh, I figured we were just hiking. I didn’t really prepare to run. Do you want to just keep a steady pace and chat?”
“I just like to get my heart rate up. It is really important to me,” he replied.
“OK, well if you want to, go ahead, and I will just catch up to you, I guess.” I said this hoping he would stay with me, but he didn’t. Instead, Byron darted like a bee through the droves of people up the hill, and was gone.
I spent the next hour or so walking mostly by myself as my date zipped up and down hills like a child playing tag. His arms flailed. He almost slipped and fell on the way down the back half of one mountain. The dog yipped and tried to keep up with him.
All the while, I watched and wished I had a parachute so I could jump off the cliff and float down to escape.
I examined the sweat dripping down Byron’s face, and the metaphor of whatever relationship we could ever have, unfolding like a picture in front of me, him waiting at the bottom of the hill, and then bursting away again each time I caught up with him.
Above and beyond all the obvious symbolism and red flags, I kept hearing in my head: This is not what love looks like.
My version of what love is supposed to look like has changed over the years. How could it not? There were so many relationships and so many situations where I could have sworn it was love, but looking back now, I know it wasn’t.
Love is above all so very giving. Love cares so much about the other person’s well being. Love wants to walk by my side. It doesn’t run away up a hiking trail leaving me in the dust (literally).
Love looks so much more simple and patient to me now. It is the guy at the restaurant who grabs his wife’s coat after they eat and puts it on her. It is my godson sitting next to me on the roller coaster saying, “Aunty Shell, this is the best day with you ever.”
It is my mother and aunt cleaning out my Grandma’s house, because the dementia’s grabbed on too tight, and she won’t be able to go back there once her broken arm heals. It is my cousin calling and saying, “I wish you were here so we could try on all of grandma’s coats and hats one last time.”
Love is my friend Lindsay hiding sticky marshmallow Peeps in my purse on Easter because she knows how much I will laugh when I accidently grab onto one. And of course, it is a guy who wants to hike beside me because he wants to be around me as much as I want to be around him.
Love is being able to step back and value taking care of someone’s heart over being right. Love accepts and stops trying to make them change. Love means making an effort to be around someone and letting them know you care about the things going on in their life.
Love means trying every day to be good to others. Most importantly, love means taking care of yourself and learning to say no when it’s necessary.
Byron wrote me an email the next day and told me I was his “new favorite person,” but he needed some time to finish a project he was working on and then maybe he could hang out more.
I never wrote back.
I did, however, go hiking a week later with a couple of my best friends. We climbed so high up this hill with the sunrise and watched the ocean sparkle below.
We didn’t leave each other behind, because we wanted to walk together. We hung on each other’s every word. We listened and noticed. That is what love looks like to me…and I hope it always will.
What does love look like to you?