Sitting in the van parked outside Redpoint: a climbing/beer/wifi/coffee/meet up spot outside Smith Rock. I’m exhausted. Hands still have chalk caked in the nail beds and some blood smudges from an attempt to drag my body up a layback. Today was a full climbing day. My first in a long while. Woke up at 6, met at the parking lot at 7, scrambled down the lower gorge, up to the Marsupials by 8:30. Got back out of the park and to the car (and necessary water refill) at 5:30. It’s amazing how motivated people bring out the tired in you. This type of day has always been my favorite.
I miss this feeling of being worked like this. It’s easier to get physically tired, but the complete mental drain comes with climbing for me more than with anything else I've discovered. Trying to re-train a brain’s natural response to fear does not happen quickly. It gets quicker with practice, but there's always a lull. I tend to hyper-analyze myself: the movement, the possibility of the movement, the potential fall, the fall factors, my incoming adrenaline, why I can’t calm down, why I’m thinking about those very things I’m not supposed to be thinking about. And as with any other form of meditation, it takes time to remember the flow, the state where you can be actively present and involved and controlled, and simultaneously open to and accepting of the shifts that are unavoidable as you change your position in space and against the rock. The stimuli is ever-changing, and the terrain is terrifying;I've never liked heights. My mind needs to remember how to deal with that. And it will. But I'm not a patient person. I'm working on it.
So then you get the emotional wreckage, because you try to swallow the fear when the brain won’t have it yet, no matter what rational explanations you try to sate it with: The fall is clean. You’ll be fine. There’s no real danger here. But the brain won’t have it, no, no. Nope. Cute but no. And you’re left feeling as if you failed simply because you feared. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s a lifetime practice. It’s the reason I keep climbing, and also the reason I’ve taken an extended break. It’s often too much, and it’s been difficult maintaining compassion for myself and reasonable expectations amidst my climbing history, probably because of who I am. I love to work hard. I’m an achiever. Progress makes me feel successful. I’m not a risk taker. I don’t enjoy the rush of adrenaline. And, I’m a control freak; the thought of losing control is difficult for me to accept, much less propel—especially in a situation wherein my body’s going to free fall directly following.
I also get a bit hangry. This is currently happening.
I’m explaining too much. This isn’t what I want to do right now. Let's leave it at this: I’m tired. My brain's fried. This is a full day of climbing. This was life on the road for my first two years of it, and has been shoved to the background for the better part of the last year. Four people are sitting at a table drinking beer while I’m in this crowded van, sharing a tiny corner of space with dusty climbing bags and water bottles and a cooler that stinks because the ice has long since melted. I should really go join them. Old friends I love. I miss. They help me reminisce in vivid color. I feel a special affection to be back in this space with them.
My running shirt from the day before is hanging on the door handle tickling my leg, helping distract me. It's dangling in front of one of our newest decorations for the space: A “Betshi Moosh” sign Yoav’s brother got us as a wedding gift, explaining in Heblish that you can pee in this bathroom, but only we can poop here. You poop at home. I think that’s fair. Or are we asking too much?
I promised myself I’d write every day. I’m going to do that. Climbing, just another one of my physical obsessions, can’t absorb all of my attention again.
But what about old friends! And new ones, too. Good energy abounds in certain spaces like this one, and the red sharp cliffs cut into the sky and further off cascades line and clear quiet desert air I missed. Weird how it’s been two years since I’ve been here. Last time I was at Redpoint, I gave a speech about dumpster diving at an old friend E’s funding event for her political-meets-climbing mag. I was single. Still in the Element. Heading to Utah, I think. Still friends with E at that time, who’d introduced me to climbing. Being back, feeling the exact same in almost every significant way amidst so many seemingly significant things that have changed—I guess they're right when they say some things never do and yeah, whatever they're saying, generally, about getting older and watching the past superimpose itself on the present.
Time to stuff my face with rice and beans and tahini. I hope we still have tomatoes.