Yesterday a friend of mine from the Nebraska Writing Project, Erica, took me to the climbing wall at UNL's Rec Center. As we gorged on Thai food at the Blue Orchid (which by the way is one of my new favorite restaurants) the night before, climbing was brought up and Erica invited me to come along. I immediately said yes, but my brain was screaming....Idiot! You're afraid of heights!
Despite the lack of buy in with this whole climbing thing from my brain, I went.
Erica was kind enough to borrow me her daughter's harness and explain to me some tricks of the trade. I started up the simplest route and got about 2/3 of the way up before my legs and arms were shaking uncontrollably. I turned around, hands and feet still clinging to the wall, and said ever so stoically--I think I'd like to come down now. I thought for sure Erica, who has been climbing for just about a year now, would laugh and think I was a bit of a weenie for wanting to come down so soon and respond with something like, Really? Already? Hmmmm....well I guess if you want to chicken out you can come down now captain weenie. Instead she simply said in a non-condescending way, okay. You can not even imagine how relieved I was. Once I was lowered to the ground I made my way over to the bench to settle my quivering legs.
As I sat down I felt embarassed and a bit defeated as I am a highly competitive person. It's not that I'm out of shape and physically can't climb the wall, it's more of a mental thing. Which I think is harder to deal with. You can do something to get your body in better shape--but overcoming a mental battle isn't that easy. As I settled my body down--the adrenaline was really flowing--I watched Erica and many other scale the wall. These people made it look so easy.
About 20 minutes later I decided to head up another route. There was a kid on the one that I was previously on, so the route I was climbing was a bit more difficult and had a place where the wall jutted out. It started off fairly well--I made good headway until the jut. In fact I even got my hands to cling to "rocks" above the jut, but when I went to move my legs to propel myself over the bulge---I froze. I knew where to go, my brain was sending signals to my legs as to where to move next, but I could not move. I clung to the wall for what seemed like forever and then my legs started quivering. One of the climbers who was patiently waiting her turn cheered me on from down below--Erica tried coaching me as to where to make my next move. But my body was not responding. I soon lowered myself down.
It's amazing how much a physical obstacle--like that bulge portruding from the climbing wall--can slow us down or even stop us dead in our tracks. They suddently turn into mental obstacles.
As I drink my coffee, nurse my aching upper body muscles, and reflect on my new adventure--I find myself feeling proud and this surprises me. I didn't even make it up the wall. But I did face a fear--despite being terrified of heights, I stepped out of my safe bubble and got on the climbing wall. I remember Erica saying something to me right before I got on the wall--as she tightened all the cinches on the harnes I said, By the way--I'm freaked out by heights. And she responded with something like, Don't let anything or anyone stand in your way. We've all heard this advice whether it was while sitting on a parent's lap confessing what we wanted to be when we grew up or right before we faced a fear. It's simple really--but I wonder what my life would be like if I didn't let my fears conquer me.
I hope to go climbing again--I live hours away from this wall, but I do have intentions of coming back and making it to the top of at least one route.