I was just climbing in Yosemite. The towering granite always manages to make me–and my problems–feel oh so small. I love it! This story is not new to any climber, but I just have to share about why I am tingling from my days in the mountains. I was lie-backing a crack on a new route my friend Bob Steed had just put up (How lucky was I?! A second ascent in Yosemite! And Go Bob!). It was a very physical climb, and my muscles were getting totally pumped out–I felt I had nothing left. The lactic acid building up burned, and I felt I had little control over my arms and hands. “Watch me, Bob! I think I’m going to pump out!” (aka FALL!). I then realized that I had a choice–either pop off thinking I had nothing left, or keep going until my body decided on its own that it had nothing left. The first would be giving up based on an assumption. The latter would be having given it my best. The consequence of both would be a fall. A consequence of the first would be that I would have not known if I indeed had nothing left. A consequence of the latter would be that I would have learned my true limits.
This is one of the reasons I love to climb. You get put into these situations that are so real, and your choices are so clear. In a split second you decide. And I decided to keep going and to let my body tell me what it knew.
I was shocked as I progressed further and further up the crack, actually amazed that I hadn’t fallen yet. “Nice!” Bob said as I then moved beyond the roof and onto the next vertical portion of the crack.” Shocked again that I was still moving up, I just put one hand in front of the other, panting like I hadn’t in a LONG time, trying to place my feet deliberately despite my fatigue and sweat. I was in awe as high-speed swifts would dive into the narrow crack above me and then shoot out at amazing speeds with a loud swish…I’d have to contemplate that one later…How DO they do that into and out of such a small crack? Next thing I knew I saw the anchors, and I was standing at the belay! Once again, shocked. And so freakin’ happy!!!! The view was spectacular, with the skyline of The Rostrum shooting up in the distance, the clearest blue sky, relaxing safely above the mosquitoes, the pumping Merced River at high flow below–the deep green of its flatwater blending in with the trees, the white foam of its rapids standing out in a deep contrasting line. I took long, deep breaths and inhaled the familiar Yosemite air.
I was so glad I didn’t just give up and let go. I was so glad I didn’t just assume I had nothing left. How often we convince ourselves we can’t take any more in all aspects of our lives. We are CONVINCED of it–we think we KNOW we are DONE. Yet climbing has taught me time and time again the tricks that the mind can play to keep us seemingly “safe.” But in reality, these mind trips of our self-imposed limits keep us small in the most stifling way.
This, of course, means I need to climb something harder next. To know my limits and to know–really know–what I’m made of. Ironically, I will only know that when I fall. So, in the end, I guess if I want to grow, I set out to fall (even though I’d never admit that at the base of the climb!). Then I set out to learn more and more so I can push past that limit, and the next, and the next. After all, that limit is only temporary. It tells me where I need to focus my energies to grow, and improve. Each time we do that for ourselves–when we stop thinking we’ll “”just try” and instead we DO and go for it–we offer ourselves the opportunity for growth. Sometimes we fall and sometimes we don’t–but when it is a surprise, that is very tingly nonetheless!
So, this weekend, take a leap of sorts, and go for it. Don’t just “try.” Go for it! You can even be afraid of falling–just don’t let go assuming you’ll fall. Wondering “what if” is way less fun. Surprise yourself! And watch out for that sneaky little mind of yours that tries to convince you that you are anything less than the great being you ARE.