I had taken two weeks off from work, what we call the last of my ‘use or loose leave,’ before the first pay-period of 2017. My sister came to town a couple of days post Christmas, of course this was two days into a weird winter warm up. The good two feet of snow that had still been on the ground Christmas day was gone along with any further plans of snowshoeing while she was here.
I should back up and say that my middle sister is a fellow adventure and contained gypsies soul. Twelve years active duty Navy has afforded her the new scenery and constant moving around every few years, and I dare say each of her locations has been pretty amazing… California (3 duty stations), Florida, Italy…
So one of the things we had talked about was going rock climbing. I have never been, my sister has been doing this a couple of years now, both at indoor gyms and outside. Frankly. This scares the crap outta me.
1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
1.be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.
Somewhere as an adult, I cannot remember exactly when, but I developed some stupid fear of heights. I remember one night on patrol over ten years ago, my partner and I were standing on top of a 8 story building. He walked right up to the edge and peered over. I walked up ….woah…. and back peddled a few steps fast!
Recently, I decided this was stupid and it was time to get rid of it. So in some wild hair idea, I decided rock climbing was the answer. It is something I have expressed interest in for a few years. A few of the guys I have dated over the years all said they wanted to go or would take me, but the actions always fell short. My sister on the other hand, saying I wanted to go and that there are two indoor rock climbing gyms here in Grand Rapids, there was no back peddling now. Of course I also did not tell her about this stupid fear of heights I had developed, like the asshole that I am.
We decided on a week day evening to go, of course we get to the gym about an hour after it opened and it is packed. My nerves are at an all time high, I can feel the adrenaline running and I am doing my best outwardly to remain calm. What the fuck am I do. I’m listening and paying close attention to the individual teaching me how to put the harness on, how to tie in for climbing, then how to belay…. all while I can hear my own blood pumping in my ears. Get it together woman, you were a paratrooper, get your shit together…
My sister does the first climb while I belay her. fuck she moves almost faster than I can keep up with her. But she comes down with a beaming smile upon her face and my instructor smiles and says have fun ladies My sister looks to me and says, “alright your turn.”
Deep breath. We switch, my hands are sweating and I can feel my heart racing inside my chest.
My first climb is kind of a blur, I remember looking for hand holds and just going up, refusing to look down. But I survived. I didn’t fall to my death. In fact, I absolutely loved it, but I still want to hide in the corner of the gym with the easier climbs and hopefully none of these insane climbers will notice the obvious newb in the corner.
Two more climbs on the beginner routes and I feel a bit more confident. Confident enough to move up a level. The holds are spread out a little more, my amazon height is a glorious help here. Before I started this climb, two other seasoned climbers have moved into the little corner I’ve been wanting to hide in and we had made social with them before I started. Now as I am climbing I can hear pointers being called out and it is openly welcomed. In fact a few holds before the top, I missed a grip and slipped a little. In the half a heartbeat my mind flashed, I hope she has the rope. A split second later I felt the tug of the rope and I just hung there.
I can hear my sister call how she has me. I can feel the fatigue in my fingers and grip. I shake my hands out at the same time my sister calls for me to collect myself before trying again and how she isn’t letting me down the wall until I reach the top. Bitch, I laugh to myself. She knows exactly the encouragement I need, at this point I had already fessed up to doing this to kill my fear of heights. She knows now that the first climb my heart was racing wildly.
I take a few moments to shake out my hands, take a could of deep breaths all while staring at the wall above me looking at the holds. The roof and final grip seems so far away, but in truth it’s not. It’s all in my head and I know it. I mentally tell myself I’m not coming down until I reach that final stupid rock on the wall.
What felt like an eternity to me was probably less than 20 seconds reality. I shook my hands out, chalked my fingers and re-set myself. I had 3 or 4 rocks to reach and each one I could feel the pull in my forearms and finger tips, taking my time, I remember telling myself to keep my own head together…nothing out loud, everything in my head. I’m pretty sure I resorted to my yoga breathing when I’m trying to hold some pose and my limbs are burning or balance when I’m trying not to fall over and introduce my face to the floor. I felt extremely proud of myself when this breathing kicked in naturally to keep myself focused. Next thing I realized, both my hands were on the final rock and my sister was calling that she had me.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
After 4 climbs, my sister took me over to teach/work on bouldering. My heart was already soaring and my soul happy. We each took a handful of turns working on a route we had picked out and not deciding to call it quits or the day until we had reached the top.
To many, the routes or climbs I did that evening would be very easy. To me, it was about learning something new and conquering a fear that had taken seed and I no longer had room for it in my life.