Climbing and I have a complicated relationship. Sometimes my connection with climbing is tenuous at best, and though it may always appear bright from our shiny Instagram-filtered worlds, only I am aware of its lackluster days. It is for these reasons that climbing has been my greatest mirror, and best metaphor for personal relationships.
It is the longest relationship I have had (outside of familial ones), and like all meaningful relationships, we find ourselves feeling accomplished, worthy, truly loved, happy, free and (literally) on top of the world at times, but it is not without its challenges. In fact, it is this constant struggle that I have with climbing to continue to grow my physical strength and technique and emotional capacity to deal with failure and unforeseen situations that makes it a truly special relationship.
We all know the aforementioned positive emotions well – how freeing it can feel to be on top – whether it’s the first overhanging v0 we sent after repeat visits to the 45 degree wall, or the first rays of light we reach at the the summit after days of climbing up steep alpine terrain with unforgiving mountain conditions. These feelings fuel our very being, give us life and light and hope. But we speak less of the lackluster days – we know those well, too. The ones where, despite days/weeks/months of projecting project X, we still can’t seem to nail that crux move, or we had to back away from the summit bid due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g. we simply ran out of time). Or maybe it’s just that we had a bad climbing day – our heart wasn’t in it, we felt uninspired, and we simply didn’t want it badly enough. Climbing can feel treacherous like that – one day we’re BFFs, and the next it’s like ‘hey, I thought we were friends, man – what’s up?’. And we want to run. Far away. From the flappers, shoulder tendinitis, badly chipped manicures, toe spurs, callouses, crooked bulging fingers, and lingering lower back pain. But we can’t. Because it hurts so good.
Am I advocating masochism here? Surely not. The pain to which I refer is the pain of growth – of becoming. And I think that all meaningful relationships to our personhood are like that – they’re rocky and beautiful, tense and intense and all-around awesome all at the same time, within the same hour of the same day. They envelope us in their womb of loving kindness and shape us in ways we could not even imagine. They stretch us to become the kind of person that we used to only read about in magazines and see in social feeds and never believed we could truly be. Until we do.
And so yes, it’s been a rocky relationship, and I celebrate your rugged edges, Climbing.
Happy New Year.