My mentor recently pointed out to me why the climbing community is such a positive group. Though he’s never climbed before his logic made complete sense, ”they’re all optimists,” he said,”you’d have to be”.
While his assessment was right on target, there is something more there that I’ve only recently been lucky enough to tap into. In order to find success on a wall you have to live in the moment. Lord knows the odds (and gravity) are stacked against you. Thinking too far ahead about everything that could stand in your way would make anyone blanch.
How many times have I been on the wall distracted and nervous thinking about obstacles I haven’t even come across yet. “I can’t make that dyno, pull that roof, stick that hold, get that clip…”. Over and over and on and on. Energy wasted worrying about problems not yet encountered.
In fact, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last few years wasting energy and letting obstacles get in my way. There was the frustration over the job that wasn’t producing money to allow me to go back to school. There was the family whose rejection I feared. The relationship I left with more baggage than I could fit in my old beat-up jeep. The period of sickness I couldn’t shake. The opportunities not given to me. An endless list of employers, friends, acquaintances, and grocery store clerks whose fault it was that I was stuck in a rut.
Three years ago I walked into work on a beautiful, sunny day that would promise to be a blast and that would surely give the opportunity to make quite a bit of money. I was incredibly lucky, there were people all around me who couldn’t get work. But a feeling rose to the surface after being buried deep down for quite a while. I was miserable. A little thought crept into my mind, born seemingly out of nowhere. I should move home. In ten years I hadn’t spent more than two nights there. I could think of a million reasons why it would be a terrible idea. And yet, just like that I called my sister and offered to take care of her kids for the year. On the phone she was incredulous, “you want to do WHAT?”. It made no sense but from moment to moment over the next month it was as if someone other than myself was in charge. I’d need to get out of my condo, leave a career I’d worked so hard for, leave dearly loved friends and drag everything I owned back to the house I grew up in. It was a lot. If I had stopped to think about all the reasons to maintain the old status quo I never would have budged. I’ll never know why I was struck with that urge on that day, but I set in motion a series of events that have made me a far happier person than I’ve ever been. It was all about living in the moment.
Last week I showed up to Sportrock with the weight of the world on my shoulders. A little excitement, a drop of anxiety, a mountain of unfinished work with a dash of confusion and an inkling of self-doubt for good measure don’t sound like they would result in the best mental state for an undertaking such as climbing. I was surprised to discover however, it was just what I needed. My mind was so full I had no choice but to tune it all out. For the first time I truly experienced climbing-as-meditation. Climbing- living- in the moment. It’s an amazing space to exist in, so utterly absent of all other things. Just your breath, your hands, your feet, your gaze, your mind all working together as they should to accomplish one little goal after another, one at a time, again and again. Living in the moment. Being present. Seeing through the obstacles. As I clipped the rope into the anchors that day I looked down from the top of the wall and allowed myself a smile.
It’s good to be an optimist.