Eid Al-Adha

Tangier, 2018. we were making a brief south to north tour of Morocco, and found our trip in confluence with Eid al-Adha. Most everything closed for the holiday, but it was still nice just walking through the medina, learning to navigate the white walls of that coastal city. On the way back to the hostel, I wanted to stop and check out a celebration nearby- there was a fire, goats being slaughtered, and buckets of blood.  Sure signs of a good time. A crowd consistently solely of men was dancing raucously; the buzz of excitement fueled by fervor permeated the air. Boys too young to join watched with what only can be described as adoration and the deepest of longing. I could have stayed to the end. // At the hostel, I mentioned what we saw to the guy running it-an atheist through and through. he was blasé–I’m so over that kind of stuff, he said. It’s a kind of religion that makes you pick sides. Don’t you think our beliefs should be far more nuanced than that? I finished a smoke and the beer and left, went off to play with some cats. I thought about what he said for a long time afterward, how culture comes off differently depending on just inured you are to how it shapes the landscape of our lives.

Rainy Days

Just this morning, I was reading about how the Ancient Greeks saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs, with the past receding away before their eyes. How else could one face the future? Only with what we’ve built up from before, by projecting from what we already know. Most of the time the past shows us that these projections were wrong. But you can’t forget the past, because there is nothing else to know. 

I find myself chasing a kind of feeling I can’t even articulate—a kind of deeper reach, a connection with someone that dictates the flow of my life. Ironically, in a way that lacks a deeper look into why– I find myself instinctually doing so. These chases keep me going, both physically and mentally, in a way where it feels impossible to slow things down in a sustainable way. The way time passes makes even less sense now than it did to me as a child, since everything seems to be about timing: when to ask, when to speak, when to seek. 

Wall Thoughts

Since I can’t really climb right now, I might as well just write and talk about it. One of the reasons why I’m so obsessed with climbing is its ability to alter and perceive ourselves in ways beyond the sport itself. On the wall, your success and failures are laid bare. There’s no grey area about whether or not you solved a problem, unlike most things in life. You either did or didn’t. What’s even better, the rock is imperturbable, totally indifferent about the outcome. It’s just you on the wall, figuring it out.

For a while now, I was operating under the false assumption that when I’m climbing, my mind is clear. I’m in a meditative state, hopefully achieving some form of flow. With Pieter, we’d joke around, go at projects with brute strength, not being strategic or speaking of deeper emotions or affects. 

Different people see different things. All it took was one climbing trip with Vivek and he saw how I was getting in the way of myself. Your mind is holding you back, he said. Let it go and then things will flow.

I realized my negative self-talk, something so internalized I didn’t realize I was doing it. My mind was a reel of ‘I can’t do this,’ ‘I wish I were stronger,’ ‘why am I doing this.’ As this was my first time climbing since the Batian accident, a feeling of hesitation burgeoning into fear added to the mix.  

My advantage is a willpower and tenacity to want to keep on trying. I like how you just keep on going at it, Vivek said. Can’t help but respect that. There’s a drive within me that’s far more about proving things to myself than it is to other people (even though it goes without saying that doing some of your worst climbing in front of a new partner is hardly an ego-boost). These realizations would have been difficult for me to articulate before that day at Lukenya in late October. But perhaps it’s this very mental edge that has created a barrier that gets in the way of me approaching a problem with logic and a strategy. I try too hard without a plan. As I grew more frustrated and tired, I defenestrated all the basic things from my mind– footwork, pushing more than pulling, sequence beta. What I do know (e.g. the sequence for the first section of As Good as it Gets) become so undervalued as my head fixates on how much my fingers hurt, how badly I’m doing, how heavy I am, how weak I feel, that they are practically of no use to me. It takes someone perceptive and knowledgeable about climbing to point these things out. I’m not really sure what it is, Vivek said. You want it so badly that practically keeps you from getting it.

And then there’s what Sam said: think of the consequences. Would you rather deal with a bit of pain or blood now, or fall off and have to start from scratch again? Push through it and you will be glad that you sacrificed some discomfort to get to what you’ll have to face eventually. 

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