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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