This is the sound of my brain while cruxing:
Fear: I can’t do that.
Reason: Of course you can, that’d be no sweat on top rope!
Fear: But…what if I fall?
Reason: What if you fall? Your gear is good. The fall is clean. Your rope and harness are strong.
Fear: No. I don’t want to do it.
Reason: It’s really not that bad! Remember that other time you fell? It was actually kind of fun!
Fear: Okay…uh, just let me chalk up first.
Reason: Yeah, come on, you can do it! Right foot smeared high, left foot pasted in the crack, up to the rail with your right hand, stand up, left hand in the finger lock. You got it.
Fear: Okay [wimper wimper]…let me look at it again.
Reason: You got it!
Fear: But I’m afraid of falling! [wimper wimper]
Reason: Jenny, the gear is at your waist. You’re fine.
Fear: Okay, I’ll try…here…I…go.
Fear: [after making a half-hearted attempt and taking on my gear] I can’t do that.
Ugh. It’s a terrible debate. It takes place all too often. And fear usually wins, and I pull on gear, or hang my way up a climb, or lower off a route and get someone to clean up after me. And then I wallow in self-pity at the base, frustrated with myself, Reason screaming, “You should have gone for it! It was so safe!!!”
What I need is to learn how to be more like this:
I love this video, because I’m TOTALLY this girl (minus the part where she actually overcomes her fear). That dialogue is the exact same one that goes on in my head. “I’ll be fine, I’ll do it. [wimper wimper] Well…here goes something, I guess. [wimper wimper] You can do this. I’m gonna, I’m gonna jump…I got it. [wimper wimper] Okay, here…I…GO.” And what I really love is her absolute ELATION when she lets go, trusts, and realizes that everything is okay. More than okay, it’s awesome.
There was a time, not so long ago, when I swore I would never lead a trad route. Fear. Then I started leading and I thought I’d keep it around easy 5.10 and under. Fear. But somewhere during the last year of my life, the sky has become the limit. I’m not restricted anymore, not by anyone but myself. Fear. And I don’t think it’s necessarily so much about overcoming the feeling of fear as much as it is about managing the feeling. Not letting it overcome me. About learning to say “here…I…GO” when I stand on top of the ski jump amidst the cacophonous sounds of Fear wimpering and shouting NO!
Back in the fall my friend Chris had a story published in the Alpinist, a story that left a huge mark on my climbing life and my personal life. I certainly can’t do it justice, and you should definitely just read it. He writes,
Pursue what you dream most deeply. Try hard, and don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is just falling. Falling is part of flying. Act spontaneously, and deal with the consequences when they come. Don’t be afraid to miss; don’t be afraid to fall…Get all cumbersome and off balance. Start to waiver. And right when you feel as if you’re already falling, as if everything is lost, reach out. Stick it. And hope that it holds.
Like so much else in climbing, it’s not really about climbing at all, is it? It’s about life, love, relationships, pursuing that for which you hope and long. It’s about being motivated by passion and desire rather than the predicability and stability of fear. Whether it’s pulling a hard move above gear, or trusting your heart instead of your brain, or falling in love, or having that conversation, or starting the hard road towards healing, or taking the big step to pursue what you really want to do, it’s all the same. In order to send, you have to be willing to fall. In order to succeed, you have to be willing to fail. And then, more often than not, you send. You succeed. When you accept the realities of failure, you give yourself the space to try hard and win. Gosh, climbing’s life metaphors continue to enthrall me.
Lately, I’ve been learning to stop overactuating (if you haven’t read Chris’ piece yet, stop and read it, it’s so, so good), to not be so in need of certainty before moving forward. To say “no” when fear tells me to avoid relationships, remain paralyzed by decisions, stay on the fringes of communities, pinhole myself into pursuing what I’m “supposed” to instead of what I want to, back off the climb once again. I’ve been learning to trust my instincts and the goodness of life, to trust the gear and my rope. I’m letting go, moving up to the crux, past the realm of safety, into the dangerous and the unknown. Maybe I’ll “get all cumbersome and off balance [and] start to waiver.” And then, more than likely, I’ll stick it.