WIFE: “Do you think you should take your waterproof trousers?”
HUSBAND: “Nah, don’t think it’s going to rain today.” (Who cares, even if it does, we’re going for a walk on Dartmoor, not about to make an assault on Mount Everest).
WIFE: “What about a spare pair of socks?”
HUSBAND: “Nah, can’t see me needing those today.” (Have you gone barking mad, woman? You’ll be telling me I need to pack a first aid kit next. This is a walk, not the Duke of Edinburgh Award.)
Fast forward 2 hours. The heavens open, and I am saturated from the feet upwards. I have gone over my ankles into peat. She gives me a look, but never says the words she is thinking, thank goodness. The dreaded phrase “I told you so.”
I whip out my Blackberry to take a photo when the rain stops. (I forgot the camera, of course.) Charlotte sees me fumbling to put it back into my coat pocket.
WIFE: “Have you still got your car keys?”
HUSBAND: “Give me a break. Of course.”
Never let it be said that I don’t listen. I check for the keys (phew), and button up the pocket. Leave the pocket undone on the other side with my Blackberry in it, I’ll be needing that again for more photos.
(Footnote: the reason she asked me to check for my keys is that I once lost them on a beach. All four of us had to scour the whole beach as the tide was coming in and the sun was going down. We failed, and I had to get someone to take us home so I could break into the house with a crowbar. Ahem. Bit embarassing.)
After a stiff 40 minutes’ hike we get to our destination, an ancient and beautiful clapper bridge. Charlotte skips across it to the other side. I start to fumble for the Blackberry.
WIFE: “What do you think of it?”
HUSBAND: “It’s lovely. I’VE LOST MY BLACKBERRY.”
I get another one of those looks. Same as before, but a bit more intense. We retrace our steps. trying to work out which route we took through the granite boulders and peaty boggy ground. We’re looking for a small black object against a background of leaves, peat, dark pools of peaty water. The heavens open again. We try ringing it from hers. There is no signal, of course, we’re in the middle of Dartmoor National Park, durrr.
After twenty minutes and several more over-ankle moments, I find it. (I, please note. Moi, Yours Truly. A minor victory in a day of unrelenting failure.) I didn’t deserve to find it, far less find it working.
What can we learn from this? We learn, I think, that at a certain level, we learn nothing. I have a value and belief system that says “planning is boring” (I’m an ENFP, and for those of you who know about Myers Briggs, enough said.) Even though I know I should plan, I don’t. I am overly optimistic, never fear the worst, and often come unstuck. And yet I persist. Despite 33 years of happy marriage to an uber-planner (she’s an ISTJ, 100% my opposite), I still don’t get it.
I don’t know whether to be depressed with my failure to learn from mistakes, or just acceptant that people like me are always going to come unstuck now and then, and we can only pray it is when the stakes aren’t too high. Marcus Buckingham suggests in his Now, Discover your Strengths book, that we are better off in life playing to our strengths rather than trying to overcome our weaknesses. In my case that means letting my optimism out to play and shrugging off the setbacks when they do occur.
My boots are drying out nicely, and I expect I’ll get an extra pair of walking socks for my birthday now. So all’s well with the world.