Everything about the way I do relationships has changed over the past few years. Monogamy is out the door. I no longer worry if I could raise children with a potential partner because I do not plan on having kids. My sexual preferences play a much more important role. The only people I imagine growing old with now are my sisters. I don’t have unrealistic expectations on a single person to fulfill all my needs.

I also speak my mind. The other night my partner and I went camping. After driving down several dirt roads, we found a beautifully secluded campsite overlooking a canyon to rival the Grand Canyon itself. The striations along the canyon walls were a tapestry of rustic red and burnt orange. Sheer cliffs twisted into formations sculpted by millennia of wind, water, and slowly shifting plates. The three-dimensional aspect of nature is vividly apparent when you gaze across a canyon. A small river surrounded by trees flowed through the bottom of the canyon, an oasis or perhaps even a mirage amidst the stark desert landscape.

The colors of the canyon were contrasted by a crystal clear blue sky. Salt Lake City has air pollution to rival some of the largest cities in the country on a bad day. We were hours away from the city, and its smog cocktail of vehicle fume and factory waste that leave the sky a sickly gray. As the sun set, the evening glow gave us one final spectacular view of the canyon. When the orange ball of fire disappeared over the mountains to the west, the eastern horizon turned a deep dark purple. We sat around our fire with our home brewed beer and realized there was no moon that night.

Stars began to appear. Slowly at first, then lighting up the night. We picked out the few constellations we knew then looked for satellites, airplanes, and shooting stars. The Milky Way stretched across the sky, a constant reminder of how large the universe is. The colors of the canyon were replaced by pitch black in the absence of light.

Did I mention I have a fear of heights? I think it’s a perfectly reasonable fear. However, now and then it gets the best of me. The campsite we found was literally along the edge of the canyon. My partner thought it would be fun to set up our air mattress inches from a ten-foot drop that gave way to a brief incline leading to a much larger drop. Just thinking about sleeping there provided waves of anxiety.

I have this problem with being a people pleaser. In the past, I might have bottled up my feelings and slept next to the cliff. Well, by sleep I mean lie there awake miserably in fear of developing a late onset sleepwalking disorder and waltzing right into the abyss. Afterward, I would have been cranky at him, even though it was my fault for not telling him how I felt.

New and improved me told him quite firmly I was not sleeping there. He moved the air mattress to a spot where I’d feel comfortable. We put on Wish You Were Here and drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms. In the morning, I knew I could tell him how I felt, and he’d listen. This is how you know you’ve found someone. They accept your crazy even if it makes no sense to them.

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