100th post

I can’t really believe it, but this is my 100th post on this little blog. What started as a way to force myself to keep writing after I graduated from college has become this, a play by play account of my post grad life, filled with grammar mistakes and misspelled words and swearing. I sincerely thank you for reading this mess of a blog. I appreciate it so much.

I’ve been home for about a month and a half now, but it feels much longer. Sometimes, time goes so slowly that it scares me. Ten of those days were spent in bed and avoiding physical activity because of my wisdom teeth surgery, about two thirds of the days were spent working, and only a miniscule fraction of those days were dedicated to climbing and writing and yoga. Needless to say, I’ve been in a funk. The funkiest of funks.

My grandmother who has memory problems has been living with us. Sometimes she gets confused about where she is or who I am, but for the most part, she happily accepts her reality. With a few exceptions from her childhood and her time in the WAVES, she has little awareness of anything but the current moment. All she has is the present.

I am running around my house, barefoot and yoga pants and a sports bra. Where the hell is my climbing harness. I have to be at work at 4. My hair sticks to my lip as I turn corners. I swing open the front door, its knob hitting the the perpendicular wall, and run out to the driveway. I look in the back windows of my Subaru, and under the web of ropes and climbing shoes and Nalgenes, I spot my harness. I exhale once. I scamper up the steps of my front porch and into the house again, Grandma is sitting on the couch.

Is it cold outside? She sits up in her seat a little and points out the window.

I stand in the entry way, and realize that I have no idea if it’s cold outside or not. It could have been 100 degrees, 3 degrees, or kittens could have been falling from the sky and I wouldn’t have known. Well, hopefully I would have noticed the kittens, but you know what I mean. Things that are simple and of the present moment haven’t really been registering recently.

I don’t know grandma. I didn’t notice, I say, out of breath.

She smiles. She smiles the way my mom smiles. But weren’t you just out there? 

Suddenly I feel like I’m the one in the room with declining cognitive abilities. I can’t even describe how it feels outside after having just been outside. Lately I’ve been consumed with memories of this past summer and issues of the future: how am I going to make money, I want to move out, I want to go to Europe, what am I going to do with my life, how am I going to spend the fall climbing, I need new climbing shoes, I need to start writing more, I haven’t done enough yoga, I want to start teaching yoga again, I want a kitty, I haven’t eaten a vegetable in four days. Turning down that full time job was a good thing, right? Or do I regret that now? Where are my car keys? I think I’m gonna be an English teacher, is it really October tomorrow, what am I doing, where am I going, should I go to grad school, I need to work harder on writing a book, I miss Bishop, I miss my friends in the South, I miss the road, maybe I’ll move to Bend, the city is sucking my soul or maybe that’s just me being a brat, am I dehydrated?

Our apple tree got heavy and I didn’t notice this year.

I turned 25 on Wednesday and I’m still smiling from it, from the dancing in the living room, the twerking attempts, the good food, having all of my best friends together in once place, the Robyn music videos. A big thank you goes out to my Mom and my sister, Molly, for making it all happen. And of course, thank you to all of my friends who showed up and threw down. You guys make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world and I am always inspired by your ability to not give a damn about looking cool. Here’s to another 25 years of shaking it like Beyonce and being weird. I adore you all.

I got back late last night from Eugene, Oregon. I was up there helping my youngest sister, Cass, move into her dorm room. It blows my mind that earlier this morning she attended her first college class. Wasn’t it just yesterday I was changing her diapers and lugging her around on my hip down in the pear orchard while we played in the tree fort? Sometimes, time goes so fast that it scares me. I went up to Oregon with just a backpack full of dirty climbing clothes that I hadn’t unpacked from a trip to Yosemite last weekend. I didn’t climb at all while I was there, but it was a much needed head-clearer–just being around that granite is enough sometimes. That place…wow. What’s there to say? The valley provides.

I stand on the sandy bed of what used to be Mirror Lake. My forearm shades my eyes as I look up at Washington Column, I face a group of tourists with their iPhones aimed at Half Dome behind me. I scan the first few pitches of Astroman with intent to find an orange dot and a black dot–my friends, Ethan and Mike. Almost immediately I find them, further up than I had guessed, and I let out a single HAH! and smile big. I move my hands to my hips.  Honey, you’re facing the wrong way! If you think that rock is cool, look at the one behind you! One of the tourists wearing a Grand Canyon shirt points up to Half Dome and nods her head.

Yeah that rock is pretty sweet, but my friends are up on that one. I point up to Washington Column, some of the tourists gasp. They all snap their heads and iPhones around to face the other way. I try to explain where Ethan is on the rock, but only a few of the tourists can actually spot him. I watch the orange dot climb up a bit, and then he disappears.

Where did he go? The grand canyon woman asks. I squint my eyes. I don’t know, probably into some kind of chimney or slot-like feature. I hold my palms parallel to illustrate.

Harding slot, I hear from my right, in a heavy German accent. He has a girlfriend and crooked glasses. It is one of the most feared pitches in the world. Your friends are brave, yes? 

They are, I say as I nod confidently, but butterflies fill my stomach. Even though Ethan and Mike are very experienced climbers, the thought of anyone I love climbing something described as Most Feared sends me into Mama Bear mode and makes me wanna go up there with cookies and warm milk and give them both a hug. Fifteen minutes pass.

OHHHHHH MYYYYYY GODDDD! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I hear faintly. I LOVE YOU MIKE! The orange dot screams. I can hear him from the valley floor. He is visible again, standing on what looks to be a ledge. German guy is now standing next to me, smiling wide.

Yes yes, you are right, you have brave friends, he says.

You’re damn right I do.

We drive back up to the Bay Area late that night, and I ask Ethan about the climb. At this point I still don’t know why Harding Slot is so terrifying. It starts out wide, he explains. I used the crack for as long as I could. But then the slot gets so narrow that you can only move after you’ve exhaled all of the air out of your lungs. If I inhaled, I didn’t even have to hold on, the rock squeezed both sides of my torso. I had to let all the air out just to squirm a few inches up. 

So, the inability to move unless you’ve completely emptied your lungs of air is what grants this climb its title of One of the Most Feared. Apparently most folks don’t believe they can fit, that their torsos are too wide, and the thought of getting stuck is too consuming. I’m sure panic can ensue pretty quickly up there, and breathing isn’t really a thing that’s happening, let alone breathing with such control to allow yourself to exhale entirely. Some people look up at the pitch and attempt to climb the outside of it instead of the slot itself. Others just bail from there and go drink beer at Camp 4.

We have to think for a minute about how to spell claustrophobia.

In yoga, the exhale breath symbolizes release, surrender, letting go. We exhale completely in order to have a full and of good quality inhale, inhaling is the summoning, the growing, the building. To me, breathing is the most important part of yoga. When I am practicing and when I am teaching, I am yearning for breath. Because breath indicates life, it reminds us that we are just blood and bones, fragile and terminal. And when we know this, we are brought out of the What Happened Then and What Might Happen Soon, and into the Now. The past and the future aren’t real, they are mere constructions from our worried heads. Now is real. It’s all we have. I start my practice sitting, breathing. I only move into shapes that allow for breath, and this is different each day. Some days on the mat are filled with sweat and movement, others are so still and quiet that my dogs forget I’m right next to them. Breathing creates a reality where time passes in a true way, it isn’t distorted into something that is exceptionally slow or fast. Time passes in real time. Inhale, exhale.

As a yoga teacher and Bay Area native I’m pretty sick of talking about the present moment, but I’m still gonna do it. It’s important.

When we were climbing in the gym the other day, you were out of breath every time I lowered you down, Ethan says, looking at me from the passenger seat, his face bright from oncoming car headlights.

Yeah, I haven’t really been breathing recently, I say.

And ain’t that the truth. Of course, I’ve been breathing on some level or else I’d be having some major problems, but it hasn’t been conscious. Nothing has really been conscious lately.

It feels good to write on here again. It feels conscious. It feels present. I’ve been getting all these signs: my grandma who only has the now, just like the rest of us, my friends dancing in my living room, 100 blog posts, 25th birthdays, my baby sister living in a dorm room, friends getting married, summer ending and the leaves starting to turn, not being able to move unless you’ve completely. let. it. all. go. Damn, I know that to be true and I didn’t even do the climb.

Time passes, shit happens or doesn’t happen, we lose memory or movement, we fall in love, we fall off a boulder. We make plans. We dwell. We feel young, we feel old. It doesn’t really matter unless we’re awake for it, breathing into it, because Right Now is all we will ever have.

Just like last year, I’ll be writing every day in the month of October on this blog so get ready for some rambling.

Love always, G

Are we okay?

I haven’t really left my bed in three days now. I’ve been living off of smoothies and vegetable juice and Advil. I have a bra tied around my head with bags of frozen peas in its B-cups, pressed against my cheeks.

I can’t say that getting my wisdom teeth pulled has been a highlight of my summer.

But as with all shitty experiences, I am reminded that there is no lack of goodness in my life. My friends and family, per usual, have made this whole thing a million times more tolerable. I know I always gush about this stuff, but I’m feeling pretty lucky to have friends that will bring me fresh vegetable juices and sunflowers, that will make me CDs and laugh at my hilarious post-op selfies, that will check up on me daily and text me for hours about absolutely nothing. I appreciate it all: the sweet notes, all of the yoga/climbing documentaries and books being sent my way, the positive thoughts. Thank you all.

A big thank you goes to my Mom–she drove my drugged up ass home from the dentist as I tried to convince her that I had to go back to the office to help the nurses clean up my blood. She has also had to put up with what some of my friends call “Hungry George”–an experience I would never wish upon anyone. When you’re accustomed to eating like a climber (a human garbage disposal) and then can only eat (drink) liquids, your body kind of freaks out and thinks it’s starving to death (or is that just me?). So needless to say, Hungry George has been in full force. Thank you Mama, for putting up with me and buying every flavor of ice cream and soup that Whole Foods offers.

Sitting in bed for three days (almost four now) can do weird things to a person. More than anything it makes me so grateful for my health and mobility because I don’t think I’m one of those people who wouldn’t go insane if I was immobile for a long period of time. On one hand it has been really relaxing–I realize that I haven’t done nothing for a whole day, let alone three days, in many years. After the initial restlessness wore off and I accepted the fact that I’m not going to move for a while, my body started to sink into the rest, that full body release like at the end of a yoga class or when you’re falling asleep after a long day of climbing. I haven’t felt this relaxed since I got back from Wyoming a few weeks ago. In fact, before I got my teeth pulled, I hadn’t felt relaxed by any means of the word. I’m not even sure that I had taken a deep breath. My nervous system felt high-powered and electric from transitioning into the city and going back to work and figuring out my life and what to have for lunch.

My goal going into these few bedridden days was to figure out big girl stuff like getting a real job with benefits and settling down somewhere and saving money. As soon as the crazy dentist drugs wore off and I stopped asking my Mom to take pictures of me holding my teeth like a proud seven year old would, I started writing. I made two lists: one was of the things that are working in my life, and the other was of things that aren’t working. Thankfully I’m blessed as hell, so there wasn’t anything terrible on my “not working” list, but I’ve been told that most about-to-turn 25 year olds are overly dramatic and critical of their lives, so I felt better about listing out a handful of first world problems.

The lists kind of helped, but for the most part, seeing my life in a neat chart with two columns (that I drew with a ruler) seemed like a pretty shitty representation of how things actually are. A more accurate attempt at this would be less of a measured list and more of a wall-sized Jackson Pollock kind of thing with a lot of different colored paint and maybe some vodka. But I didn’t want to make my Mom deal with Hungry George AND cleaning up an art project, so I decided to take a nap instead.

I dreamed of Italy. Of the summer I lived there, drinking ridiculously good wine and eating gelato at 9am, of how the light would turn everything rosy in the afternoon and drench the grasses of the hillside I sit on with my friend, how she looks at me with smiling eyes and an index finger to her lips, and then runs through a farmer’s orchard and brings back a branch, heavy with olives. I dreamed of Barcelona, how in its churches I felt like, yeah, this is how it should be, of Florence and how I stared straight into the eyes of Birth of Venus and felt like, yeah, I’m pretty in love with being a woman. And then, of Paris, when I was only fifteen, and how I had a conversation with a store owner and it took me ten whole minutes to realize that I was speaking in French. I dreamed of Cinque Terre, when we ate pasta with pesto and how when it got dark we stripped off our dresses and swam out into the sea, we floated face up, fingers stretched wide, how we watched a meteor shower like that.

I dreamed of the summer I lived in the van, that stormy afternoon in the San Juan mountains, how the clouds started to twist and bleed into each other like watercolors and it rained the whole night. I remember driving through the desert for hours, with hours more ahead of me, and how sometimes I would sing really loud and that time I twisted my ankle and the beers I shared and rivers I bathed in and all of the granite, the sandstone, the limestone. I dreamed of the nights when I was scared because I was alone, and how somehow looking out the van windows at something like the moon made me feel brave again. I dreamed of that feeling you get when you can’t stop laughing with your best friends, and of sunsets that made us all get quiet.

I dreamed of how when I was ten I believed I was going to be an Olympic gymnast. I dreamed of Bishop.

(It was a long nap.)

There are so many articles, TV shows, and commentaries about being in your twenties right now. It’s pretty much all my friends and I talk about in some way or another–how we don’t know what we’re doing with our lives. Even when I meet a twenty-something who I assume has things figured out, eventually it’s revealed that they don’t have any idea either. And more than anything, when we talk about this stuff, we’re just looking to answer one question:

Are we okay?

And for most of us, after a bottle of wine and talking about it for a minute, we look each other in the eyes, pause, and nod. Yeah, we’re okay. Actually, we’re kind of doing well. Wait, we’re actually having a blast and we aren’t half as cynical as we pretend to be. We might even be happy or something weird like that.

I especially love having this conversation with people who got some useless Bachelors degree and haven’t really stopped freaking out, they just keep traveling and getting seasonal jobs and somehow making ends meet. They’re the ones that this talk is the most fun with because you can see this fleeting moment when they consider settling down, being normal, but that temptation leaves them so quickly and in the next second you’re talking about whose car you’re gonna take to Squamish.

Sometimes, when we try to answer our question–are we okay?–the answer feels like a no. Maybe something shitty happened. Maybe you have a broken leg or a broken heart. Maybe your list of “things that aren’t working” takes up nine pages. Maybe you haven’t dreamed in a very, very long time.

I’ve come to realize, through many conversations with many different kinds of twenty-somethings, that no matter what issue it is that you’re having, you are very likely to be “okay”.  In fact, the only time you aren’t okay is if you’re not planning your next trip or if you’re worrying about things like 401ks or if you decide to stop being weird. It’s when you start acting like an adult that you should be worried.

This applies to anyone of any age.

You just have to chose something, call it a dream or a goal if you’re okay with those overused words, and then just do the damn thing. What do you want? What do you actually want, right now, in the deepest parts of your bones? And I’m not talking about things, but how do you want to spend your days? What do you want? GO GET IT. Toughen up, get creative, and I promise you–it’s all yours.

I woke up from my nap and I wrote a poem, it was about the Italian Dolomites and how Spain or France or Greece has somehow been coming up in every conversation I have had in the past two weeks. It seemed like a much better life observation thing than the previous lists. I put down my pen.

I have never climbed outside of the United States. So I think it’s time for that. Europe is calling.

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