Life on the road. This time around is no different from any other time I’ve lived in a tent or car–it’s been beautiful, messy, emotional, sore, freeing, scary, dirty. My favorite thing in the whole world.
Living in close quarters with two southern boys, both of whom know you and all of your shit better than just about anyone, is more enlightening than any yoga class I’ve ever been to. And the cool thing about these boys is that they don’t give a damn if they hurt my feelings or not (I guess that happens when you used to date the blonde one and the bearded one is as honest as they come). I came into the trip as this sensitive, vulnerable yoga teacher from Northern California who cries at episodes of Keeping up with the Kardashians and can’t shoot whiskey anymore. Living in Berkeley for more than a few months will do that to you. We have to get out of here every once in a while, to toughen up, to challenge ourselves, to get that glazed-over look out of our eyes and to wake the hell up from this luxurious dream that we call city life.
You’re a human, remember?
It was like Alex and Joe could see how incredibly thin my skin had gotten when they picked me up in the Las Vegas airport three weeks ago. So they started lovingly giving me shit, calling me out, reminding me that even in 70mph winds and hot desert days, that even if I can’t shower for two weeks and or eat kale, that even when I’m high above my last bolt on runout slab and or if I have to be lowered from a 5.10a, that I will survive and be just fine. In fact, I may even thrive. I may even be better.
I am known among my friends as a climber with a strong head. I can calmly and confidently climb anything within my physical limits with just a few deep breaths and some yogi mind powers. I actually climb stronger in situations where some risk is involved, and I crave the feeling of air under my feet, of looking down and seeing that vast distance between me and the earth, of having to trust that I am strong. Even when I would climb in the gym I would skip clips to get even the slightest feeling of doing something committing. While bouldering I was always drawn to highballs, and all I wanted to do were lines that were perhaps physically easy but mentally provoking and challenging. The Pollengrains is my favorite bouldering area, where the boulders come in sizes large, extra large, and XXX large.
Bishop, California. After a few weeks of bouldering we decide to head down to the Owen’s Gorge to rope up and do some sport climbing. I eventually get on a 5.10a, expect to be able to do the route easily, but get about 40 feet off the ground and quietly but completely freak out. I’m about ten feet above my last bolt on a balance-intensive slab that requires me to step off of the main face and out on to a tiny footchip, to trust that my hands, feet, and head won’t all slip at once, that I won’t take a fall and cheese-grate down the side of this rock. I freeze. I know that I can physically do the moves but my fear is draining all of my strength, thoughts of all of my injured friends flash into my mind, and I just can’t keep climbing. I down climb to my last bolt. Down climbing slab is probably more dangerous and definitely more difficult than climbing up just about anything, but I don’t have a choice, I can’t climb up anymore. I find a ledge to stand on, start to breathe, look up at the face of volcanic tuff that’s kicking my ass, and tell myself I can do it. That I’m fine. That the moves are easy and to get my head set. I think of that time some climber who I had never met came up to me and said, damn girl, you’ve got a strong head, and those times my friends told me I can’t believe you went for that move, or that was a bold send. I try to rekindle that part of me that’s brave, not in a stupid way, but the kind of brave where I know exactly what my limits are and charge forward confidently. I find it for a moment but as soon as I decide to try to climb again that girl is gone. And instead I am some girl I don’t know, scared and shaking, clinging to the side of a gorge.
You okay? Joe, who is belaying, yells up to me.
No, not really, I’m freaking out. I respond, looking down.
You’re good. I’ve got you. He smiles up at me.
I stand on the ledge for about twenty more minutes, just trying to breathe, and right as I start to calm down I freak out all over again, silently, think about how badly I want to get the hell off of this rock, to have Joe lower me, but my pride is too big for that, I have to do the route, it’s so easy, I can do it, but what if I fall or something goes wrong, what if there is a rattle snake in the next hold and I get bit, my stomach feels like an afternoon thunderstorm, dry mouth, hands so sweaty even though I keep chalking up, I think about falling, plan out how I would make the fall safer, think about how my shoes feel loose, think about breaking a hold, a carabiner someone left on the route next to us, how badly I want to be on the ground.
You don’t have to do it, George. Don’t do anything you don’t wanna do. It’s okay, ya know? I hear from below.
Eventually, after a few more minutes of debate, I have Joe lower me. Because he is right. I didn’t wanna do it, all I wanted to do was get down, so that’s what I decided to do. Because climbing wasn’t fun in that moment. Because pushing yourself when you’re scared and shaking ten feet above a bolt on slab is not the kind of climbing I want to be doing. Because it’s just rock climbing.
I expect to feel like shit later that night about not doing the route, or trying it again, but I don’t. Because I am sitting at a campfire eating dinner, surrounded by two hilarious Catalans, four extremely nice Canadians, and two badass Southern boys. And I think about how the ones I met just a few days before hardly feel like strangers anymore, how our little group has turned into a family, and how I’m thankful to be a Northern California softie because I can appreciate the hell out of things like that. We laugh, drink wine, talk about how amazing of a trip down to Bishop it was. How it always is.
As I drift off to sleep I think about the route. I tell myself not to write a blog about it because it’s too self-involved and whiney. I wonder what happened to me, what happened to that strong headed girl who trusted her abilities. How far away I feel from that. But for some reason I trust that it will come back. Because I feel tough, less sensitive, more sure of myself than I did when I was living in Berkeley. Well, the city is what I’m blaming it on at least.
We have to hold on to the parts of ourselves that we admire, even when we think it’s gone, lost, or that we’ve gotten too old, too weak, too whatever. It’s still there. It will come back. Trust it, trust yourself.
“Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown. Once you’re brown, you’ll find out you’re blue. As blue as indigo. And you know what that means. Indigo. Indigoing. Indigone.” -Tom Robbins
More blogs to come soon my friends. I have a computer now so you will be hearing more about my travels. Be well!