“I can see it in your eyes”, he told me.
It was the kind of day where you could so easily slip into the weather, let it take you by the hand and guide your mood.
“No…”, I managed to mutter.
My breath quivered and hung in the air, a sliver of silver. I watched it rise, coalesce and crash into itself, tumble outward and grow until it vanished, a slim shadow thickening into the gray sky.
He was right. I was frustrated and doing a poor job of hiding it. I had tried a route, “Third Millennium” that I deliberately sought out because I hoped it would be challenging. The most difficult series of movement on the route is the very first dozen or so moves. On my first attempt I tried the sequences repeatedly, but did not even come close to doing any of them. I pulled on the rope, slumped deep in my harness and looked up. I saw seven quickdraws, slapping and shuddering in the wind. This is when I felt my mind split into two.
One part of me was highly motivated by the challenge. This level of physical difficulty in climbing is what I had been looking for over the past few months. I wanted to clench the route and crack it open, light it up, examine it deeply from all angles until I found a way. I felt unfrightened, curious, driven, and eager. I wanted to continue up the climb.
The other part of me was angry and sullen. It told me I was weak, a bad rock climber, not cut out for routes of this difficulty. I felt stressed, inadequate, disappointed, sad. I felt like I was expected to give up.
I had to make a decision to keep climbing or to stop.
I belayed two other climbers who made easy work of the route. I was speeding down the mental pathway I chose, a bottomless flood rising behind me with no way to get back once crossed.
I was not always like this. Sometime in the past few years, I have forgotten how to ignore this insidious blackout. Now I run into it, arms wide open.
I did return to the route the following day, and thanks to considerate, careful, and kind support from my partner, managed to figure out the moves. A dozen or so working attempts later, I finished the route. Despite my consistent progress, I was still chained up, a prisoner living inside myself.
In the hour after I sent, I was struck by a memory, sweeping and strong in its clarity. In 2015, I signed up to run a half-marathon a mere two weeks before the race. I had just gone through a tumultuous break up with someone I loved and who loved me. I had not ran that distance in a long time, but somehow, I felt the race would help me heal.
I remember my foot jolting against the pavement on my first stride. I saw his face, stricken and cold. I saw the dull glow of my bedroom light. I felt the blades of grass tickling my cheek as I leaned in, charged and warm with desire. I heard the clicking of my bicycle chain, the wind blunt against me.
The air smashed into my ribs and my legs screamed, but it did not hurt. Nothing could hurt. I got second place in that race, beating some semi-professional runners and blew past my own personal record.
I knew then that I have a unique energy. It can transform me, send a shock of electricity that leaves me crackling and glowing. I am capable of more than I think, physically, mentally, emotionally, if I just let myself try.
Of course, I am entirely aggrandizing certain chronic habits and ideas. I’ve always liked to write, but lately I have been indulging on an almost gluttonous level.
As with everything else, I wonder why.