Girl, be a Lady Tonight

I’m slowly getting back to my own feet again. Metaphorically, of course—I’m getting off my feet more often. On my hands? I think I lost the thread. What I mean to say is—I’m climbing again, after a few weeks off.  A few weeks isn’t a terribly long time—I know this.  But I also know—within those weeks I wasn’t sure how long I was going to have to take off. I thought it would be the whole summer.

Enter leaping, excited, climbing ME! Enter a lot of other frustrations and tears and distress.  Enter sunshine, enter rain, enter North Bend and mosquitoes.

Despite being part of She Rocks, of course I head out to the mountains with a group of guys first.  (So why do I have to keep insisting that She Rocks isn’t a separatist movement?) The first time out found us hiking up the Little Si trail in a light mist.  We figured there wouldn’t be much climbing, but we might as well explore the area.  I hadn’t been past British Aisles, and it was nice to follow the walls through the moss-drenched forest.  We finally found some dry rock and medium grade climbs and I jumped on lead…. Only to swear and curse and hurt like a petulant child. Girl- remember you had a fractured wrist? Calm it.

Why am I so hard on myself? I’ve never been the best at anything, so what exactly am I expecting? In school I was always a strong runner, but there were women faster. I can hold my own with a paint brush, but there are people who make work that moves me more than mine own ever will.  I got into grad school, sure, but I got rejected by every school I applied to besides the one I went to.  I love writing, but I’ve yet to put together a manuscript that someone wants. This isn’t meant to come across as a litany of failure, just a realistic check-in.  Why can’t I calm myself down and be ok being ok? Especially now.

My friends laughed at me in the best way possible. They offer encouraging support and patience and are really very adult about everything. And still I was frustrated.

Exit 32- Human Foot - British Aisles

Photo credit – Jason Sellers

Then last night I watched a woman on some her first lead climbs. She moved slowly up the climb and, about ten feet from the top, got snagged.  Her partner waited patiently, shouting up what advice he had to give.  She was nearly at a clip and from the ground it looked like she could, if she just moved a hand slightly, make the clip and be safe.  Instead she was caught up in the rope, tentatively reaching, pulling back, reaching again. Freaking out.

I’ve seen a lot of bad ass climbers, but this woman sort of blew me away.  I know what she was feeling.  She was scared, tired, frustrated, in pain. She ended up above the bolt, trying to find a more secure place, and as we watched from the ground made the clip from above with a gut-wrenching move. Her partner started to cheer and say “If you want to rest…” but she was already up and moving, making her way to the anchors.  “That was so embarrassing!” she shouted.

No. No it wasn’t. It was amazing. And it made me want to keep my complaining tongue in my mouth.  She was inspiring.  She wasn’t climbing anything that people might think of as “tough” and yet it was so fun and powerful to watch her finish.  Because climbing isn’t what someone else can do, it’s what you can do. And she did it.  That’s what I was reminded of—climb for me, for where I am, and not for where I want to be or some bar that I’ve set for myself.  There’s time for that, there will always be time for that. But girl, calm down. Heal. Have fun.

The woman and her partner got to the trail-head right as we were about to leave, and I dug out a She Rocks sticker to give her.  She lives in Tacoma and she told me her name but I didn’t write it down and I completely forget what it was.  But to you—if you’re ever reading this—thank you.  You rock.

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