how did i get here? a poem from idaho

how did I get here?

hey, quiet now, let’s not ask those kinds of questions

during a moment so dear.

I sit in a folding chair with my feet up on the tailgate,

was it luck, gumption, or fate?

oh just cut that out for now,

okay, okay, so here am I,

with a soft jaw and an ease

to my brow

it’s that simple

and it’s that easy.

I pull my cap down over my eyes, tilt

my head back and I’ve got

just a few things but it feels like a whole lot–

an open novel across my lap, a cup of tea that I twisted

into the tall grass,

and a prayer to this moment:

please last!

because I know that soon I’ll be worried

about a look someone gave me

or sitting in traffic, mind blurry

mind in a fog

mind hazed like the city smog

but for now,

and now, and now, and now,

there is a sweetness to this

that would be so sad to miss

by asking

how did i get here?

i thought I told you already,

quiet now,

so I take air into the depths of my lungs,

its summertime soothes some darkness that

once stung

and I can’t exhale without

laughing

because it’s all just so perfect

but

how did i get here?

oh just give it up, girl

okay, right, this moment, it’s a gem

a pearl,

so i push my cap back up and the light–

it’s white,

it’s gold,

and as the summer deepens I feel myself unfold,

all the corners that I had hidden,

the ones that are tattered and rough

I unfurl, I don’t even care, I’m enough

and I smile from the dissolving

fear

but I can’t help but wonder

how, in God’s name,

did I get here?

how things have changed

I haven’t climbed in a month. Well, minus one day trip to Tahoe, I haven’t climbed in a month. But tomorrow, I leave for Wyoming. Even after seeing many new places, Ten Sleep is still my favorite. So as you could imagine, I’m really excited to get back out there. There’s something about that place that just makes me feel like myself. I’ve missed it, and I can’t wait to be climbing again.

Here’s a short (true) story for you all.

I went to get my haircut at one of those low-cost salons in town. Super Cuts, or something like that. I walked in, got sat down right away, and a woman named Diane started combing out my hair.

“You work in the sun or something? Your hair is real dry.”

She had long, straight hair, and eyes with dark makeup. When she got close, I smelled cigarettes.

“I don’t work in the sun, but I spend a lot of time out there.”

“How do you spend a lot of time doin’ anything but working?”

I didn’t know how to answer. Thankfully she kept talking. “You use conditioner?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, what kind? Cause it’s not working,”

I tried to remember the last time someone said something that honest to me. I smiled. “Umm, I think it’s called Avalon Organics.”

She set the comb on the counter and put her hands on my shoulders. Through the reflection in the mirror, she looked me into the eyes for the first time.

“That organic stuff,” she said slowly. “Do not buy it. Don’t purchase it, but also, don’t buy into it. I don’t wanna go as far as to say it’s a hoax, but those companies, they’re taking too much money for a bunch of stuff that isn’t any better for your hair than your grandma’s shampoo.”

I nodded.

“You know,” she said. “I’ve been doin’ this for 35 years. Cutting hair, I mean.”

I wanted to ask her if she was bored. Instead, I said, “You must really love it then.”

“Sure. My grandmother did it, and so did my Aunt, and her daughter.”

“Then it’s in your blood,” I said.

“I guess so,” she said. The scissors made a satisfying chopping sound as my dead ends fell to the floor.

“Things sure have changed since back then though,” she pursed her lips. She stopped chopping and looked at me in the mirror again. “Just ten years back, it was all about the customer. We’d sit someone down, chat them up, help them forget about their day, and give them a nice haircut. But now, it’s all about pushing the products. Push, push, push. Our main goal is to sell them leave-in cream and hair spray.” She ran a comb from my scalp to the bottom inch of my hair. Chop. The crispy, frayed hair fell to the floor.

“I got fired from the other salon cause I wasn’t selling enough products. I’ve got no idea when that became my job. But now, it really, really is.”

“I think that’s how a lot of companies are,” I replied.

“Well. I think it’s a shame. Things have changed a lot,” she said, shaking her head.

“A whole lot.”

(nice, sweet, compassionate) meditations from the spring

I wanted to share this with all of you because I think so many people in their twenties and thirties experience this these days. It’s the new cool thing, especially in the Bay Area, to look within ourselves and find out what’s up. Going to therapy, practicing yoga, journaling, making art, meditating, and other therapeutic activities are good, and I highly encourage you to do things like that, but we have to do it in the right way. Yes, there is a wrong way. There is definitely a damaging way to go about the process of learning about yourself. I hope hearing a little part of my story about this helps you. Or maybe you will look back at a time in your own life where you felt this way and think, oh yeah, I know that one.

Thanks for reading!

Close to my mom’s house, there is a system of trails that weave through the Moraga hills. This is where I go running at least a few times a week when I’m in the Bay Area. I find it easy to check in with myself there. Even if something is just a little off, or if I’ve gone through some very subtle shift, I can see it. I think that’s because no matter how I change, that trail is always the same. It’s like a wall painted with white paint–how if you put something even slightly off-white in front of it, it’s glaringly obvious.

Do you have a place like that? I hope so.

Well actually, the trail isn’t always the same. It changes with the seasons, and pretty dramatically too, despite the mellow weather out here. Right now it’s the epitome of late spring–lots of bunnies, wild turkeys, crickets, frogs, ducks, birds, owls, flies, bees, mosquitoes even–and they’re all making a racket. This is definitely the noisiest season of all. The river even grew fat this year, despite the drought. The blossoms have fallen from the trees and litter the trail. The dirt is packed tight but grows dusty with every passing day. The grasses have almost all turned golden, but some are still clinging on to the last bit of green life.

A few days ago, I ran deep into the hills. On that particular evening, running felt easy and meditative, and there are few better feelings than when running feels easy and meditative. So I was happy. I didn’t even really “think” for the first half hour or so, it was just breathing, just movement. That’s the best.

Then I realized something.

That mindset, that “just breathing, just movement” mindset–that’s what I’ve been chasing. All of these years of climbing and traveling and adventuring–that’s what it is I’m looking for. I’ve become obsessed with it. I’ve wanted it so bad. And I sure have found it, time and time again, but it doesn’t act the way I thought it would. I thought it was this thing that I would find once and then it would stay with me forever. But that’s not how it works, that’s not how anything works. It’s fleeting, it comes in moments. I’ve found this clarity on top of mountains, in rivers, driving my van through the Rockies, under star-dense skies, all over the Sierra, in the Moraga hills. I found it, and then it would start to fade. Sometimes it would last for a few days, sometimes just minutes. But as soon as its glow would start to drain, I would freak out and try to cling to it. Please, don’t leave. Just a little longer, I would beg.

If I haven’t had one of those moments in a while, I get a little crazy. Depressed? Maybe, but not really. Depressed has a hopeless flavor to it, and this isn’t like that. I get ravenous, I get hungry, and I have to GO. Every climber knows exactly what I’m talking about.

I was far out into the hills when I was hit with this–I’ve been exceptionally hard on myself these past few years. I think that’s just called being in your twenties, but I think I took it further than most people. Yoga encourages us to look within ourselves, and I did that, I really really did that, but I went about it in the wrong way. I used the information I gathered from the yoga against myself. Look Georgie, I’d say, see? Look at all these ways you’ve messed up, hurt people, done the wrong thing. Look at all these ways in which you aren’t deserving of love. Not from others, not from yourself. You’re bad, because of that one thing you did, because you’re this way.

Here’s what was going on: I feared that if I treated myself with anything other than “tough love” for my mistakes, I would surely make the same mistakes again. If I wasn’t hard on myself, I wouldn’t learn. If I didn’t feel shame or guilt, I wouldn’t understand that what I did was bad. If I acknowledged my imperfections with love and understanding, well, that was too easy, too nice, and I would never change.

The yoga and soul seeking became a form of self-abuse. This concept has been on my radar for quite a while now, I’ve been aware that it has gone on. But it wasn’t until recently that I really let it sink in.

God, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my yoga students or friends about the importance of being sweet to yourself. All the while, I was being so hard on myself. I don’t blame myself for it really, I mean, look around–everywhere we see messages that say, “if you’re not perfect, you’re not worthy, and you must change. Oh and here’s a product that will help you do this! Can we have your credit card number?” It took me a while to know and accept that that is actually going on. Even in the yoga/therapy world, which is supposed to help us love ourselves, there are subliminal and some not so subliminal instances of this. Why? Well, it’s sad, but it’s so these industries can make money. It’s manipulative and so, so powerful. Media of all kinds is very good at this–it has to be, otherwise the whole thing would die.

I craved those moments of clarity that climbing would give me so badly because they were the only times when I didn’t punish myself for my apparent imperfections. I thought I had to, I thought that if I didn’t, it was like I was letting myself off the hook and the next thing I know I’d be robbing banks and telling people to fuck off or something. I didn’t trust in the fact that I had any goodness within me at all. No faith. I actually remember the moment when I realized there was an alternative to punishing myself–I was like, wait wait wait, you’re telling me that I can look at my imperfections with love and acceptance? Like, that’s actually an option? I won’t turn bad if I forgive myself? And other people will still love me regardless of how messy I am? Butbutbut, look at everything that yoga has shown me: I’m SO imperfect! What? That’s okay? That’s good? And everyone is imperfect? No way. Wait, hold on–you’re telling me my imperfections are actually interesting? And they are what makes me, me?

Well shit.

This spring, I felt something lift. I feel different. I no longer only feel love for myself when I’m climbing, but quite often. And loving myself hasn’t made me into some lazy, bad person like I thought it would. In fact, I’ve been getting more done, I have so much more energy, I’m more interested in other people and way more inspired, and I’ve been taking really good care of myself. Maybe I was wrong–that feeling I’ve been searching for? Maybe it’s not fleeting. Maybe it is something that I can carry with me. Sure, sometimes I slip back into Nazi Georgie, but I notice it. It’s no longer my standard mode of operating.

More than anything, I realized that there was nothing wrong with me. Like, not even one thing. And there’s nothing wrong with you either. Hah! Who knew?

Enjoy your weekend!