Last week, a friend of mine asked me what my climbing goals were for the upcoming fall. I simply replied “Goals? To make choices based on love instead of fear.”
When I came across the above quote, it struck me square between the eyes: I too often make choices away from discomfort and pain instead of choosing to move towards my goals.
I’ve known this for awhile. I’m a big-old-scaredy-cat and its probably the biggest thing that impedes my climbing. I like to blame it on not being strong enough. I like to twist all that fear in on itself and make it about how I’m not worthy of being a better climber because my ass is just a little too big compared to all the other climber girls. I direct all that fear and frustration inward in this big ol’ arrow of self-hatred that truly benefits me not a jot. Well, that’s not entirely true. It makes me feel comfortable. Like a dirty, tattered blankie I’ve carried around for far too long, this ‘story’ about why I can’t be a better climber is my crutch. It’s my excuse to not face down the actual fear, to avoid having to actually do something that would be bring me closer to my goals even though it might be scary.
I’ve started climbing with a new partner and she just amazes me. She doesn’t climb much harder than me, but her attitude is what I find the most inspiring. When she leads through a hard, scary section of a climb, she always exclaims, “that was FUN!”
I silently think to myself, “she’s gotta be nuts! I know that is a tricky section and its gotta be scary as hell!”
And that’s when the full force of it began to grow and blossom in my brain.. when I finally started to get it.
She genuinely loves climbing and loves the challenge of pushing herself and her perceived limits. She calls it her ‘cellophane barrier.’ It’s clear, so you don’t necessarily know its there until you buck up against it. And unlike a glass ceiling, its got some flex and some give to it. It’s not as brittle, so it breaks with a gentle ‘pop’ instead of the resounding shatter of glass.
For far too long, I’ve let fear and the fear of fear, rule when it comes to climbing. If another person wants to lead, I let them. Sometimes, I even encourage it. I don’t set an agenda for a day of climbing so I don’t have to commit to climbing something potentially scary. I’m a master at making excuses for why I can’t or shouldn’t take the sharp end. ‘I didn’t sleep enough last night. It’s too humid. It rained 5 days ago, there might be wet holds up there. I need to go to the bathroom. My foot fell asleep in that hanging belay. I’ve only been out with this partner twice, I don’t think I trust them enough to catch me. I don’t have my rack with me and their’s is too different. The stars aren’t aligned properly. My horoscope isn’t good for this. I saw a black cat two Tuesdays ago, that’s a bad omen….’
In short, some are legit. Most are not. All are excuses.
A few days ago, I was out climbing with this woman and decided I was going to try this one particular climb. I had tried to lead it a season or two ago and got shut down at the crux and bailed. I figured I would give it a try that day, thinking she could finish it if I failed. I started up it with no expectation, but felt strong. At the crux, I found a wide stem that allowed me to be comfortable with a small finger jam while I fished a couple of nuts in. The inside corner crack just ate up the nuts. I tried not to think too hard about the crux, just looked for the good holds and fired it. It felt great when I blew past my previous high point and wound up at the anchor. I found that elusive flow moment, where the moves just came and so did the gear (so many bomber nuts- usually I just plug in cams when I’m gripped.) It was such a rush. Afterwards, I was so in love with climbing and the day and my life, and well, everything really. It felt so good to let go of the fear, try something, succeed, and then let the love just pour in.
I’m sure I’ll have to learn this lesson a few more times before it really takes hold, but I hope I’ll have many more chances to try- and experience- love-based decision making and all its beautiful consequences.