Yesterday, Wendy kicked me, the kids, and the dog out of the house for three hours so that she could spend some time with friends. That’s the kind of thing she hardly ever does, and I was glad she took the opportunity. Plus, I was happy finally to take the kids on a hike up to Boise’s most prominent geological feature: Table Rock.
Wendy can’t go there because she has a raging allergy to sagebrush. Last year we biked all around the nearby Castle Rock formation, and Wendy paid for it with two weeks of swollen hands and legs. Plus nonstop lacrimation. (Look it up! I hate to use a long, ugly, Latin word like that, but I can’t find any tidy alternative.)
The weather this week was perfect for a hike: cool, crisp, and clear. When the time came, I excitedly packed the kids and our dog into the truck and headed up to the trailhead. It was a beautiful hike. There were tons of hikers and bikers and dogs. Everyone was friendly and happy. The sky was perfectly clear and afforded views of over 100 miles away— all the way to Oregon!
But the trail was also more steep and more tiring than I’d anticipated. By the time we reached the top, we were hot and sticky and we were out of water. The kids slowly devolved from being enthusiastic to just tolerant. And then when we reached the top, they saw something they hadn’t expected: something that spun them quickly into a furious rage. Olivia turned to me with sincere disgust and said, “I seriously hate you so much.”
From the kids’ point of view, I was a jerk who made them do something the hard way just for the sake of being miserable. I’d done something mean and heavy-handed to remind them of how much harder our pioneer ancestors had it or something ridiculous like that.
I wasn’t much better. I had pushed the pace to get us to the top, not allowing much time to enjoy ourselves along the way. And now, from my point of view, we’d worked really hard to get somewhere I didn’t even enjoy being. It was overcrowded, covered with litter, strewn with satellite towers and defaced with etchings and graffiti.
Fortunately, we all quickly got over our irritations. We discovered that the wind erosion around the area had created all kinds of exciting caves and crawl spaces for the kids to explore. And we were able to take a long walk around the rim of the plateau to get some of the quiet and solitude that I’d been craving.
By the time we headed back down the trail to our truck, we were happy and energized. Instead of going straight down the main trail, we explored side trails. We experimented with running, jumping, skipping, and galloping. And if any section of the trail was particularly fun to run down, we backtracked and did it over again.
Today, as I reflect on our trip, I can’t help but think of what a mistake it is to focus just on arriving at destinations instead of enjoying ourselves along the way. Who cares if someone gets there faster or by an easier route? Once you get there, you might realize that the destination was never going to be as wonderful as the journey anyway.
From Dieter Uchtdorf in the Fall 2012 LDS General Conference:
Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey. I don’t go cycling with my wife because I’m excited about finishing. I go because the experience of being with her is sweet and enjoyable.
Doesn’t it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?
Do we listen to beautiful music waiting for the final note to fade before we allow ourselves to truly enjoy it? No. We listen and connect to the variations of melody, rhythm, and harmony throughout the composition.
Do we say our prayers with only the “amen” or the end in mind? Of course not. We pray to be close to our Heavenly Father, to receive His Spirit and feel His love.
We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available—all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect. “This is the day which the Lord hath made … ,” the Psalmist wrote. “Rejoice and be glad in it.”