Last Thursday I could not open a heavy door by myself. I could not take off my shirt, I could not blow dry my hair, I could not completely straighten my arm. I could not. I was in a lot, a lot, a lot of pain. My hands were so swollen that I could not wear my rings. I limped when I walked. I had attempted to climb the boulders and the boulders had left a mark.
On Saturday I had finally had a day where I wasn’t in so much pain, so I worked out. I wanted to see if I could still do some pushups. I didn’t want the trial I had just gone through to go to waste, I didn’t want to lose any strength. I did pushups, I didn’t die. On Sunday I was still sore.
By Monday I was almost all better, but I was still fatigued when I lifted my arms above my head. I tried to stretch. And I waited.
Wednesday I still had fatigue, but this time it didn’t matter because time was up and we were back at the rock gym, ready for another 2 hours scrambling up boulders and reaching reaching reaching while balancing on my tippy toes, the inside part of my foot, the outside edge. Reach, step up, trust your legs, straighten your arms, don’t hesitate too much, and then when you can’t go any further, attempt to find the strength to come back down.
I have no problem fighting my way up. It’s not that I make it to the top every time, but I will go go go until my hands are raw, my legs are shaking, and my shoulders offer up a searing pain in response to my demand for more. It’s the coming down that’s a problem. I’ve already spent all of my energy, I’ve stopped because I’m physically incapable of going any further. My hands are losing grip, my legs are slipping off the holds, I’m really tired.
Going down is really scary.
Going down is so scary it makes me not want to go all the way up. You can’t see where you’re going, you are shaky and tired, your muscles are unpredictable and may give out on you at any moment. You could fall. I could fall. I don’t want to fall. And I certainly don’t want to fall from 10 feet up. That may not seem like a lot, but you’re on a wall with a bunch of pokey things sticking out of it, and for me – who is not awesome about heights in the first place – that is really high.
But you know what I learned on Wednesday? I’m really good with foot work. I can balance both my feet on a tiny shard and switch between them, I can move my knee in one direction to get more length in the opposite direction, I can pull myself up, hoist my body further. I can reach the goals I set for myself in my mind before I climb. I will reach the crease, I will reach the crease, I will reach the crease until I do.
And I felt stronger, I felt more capable, more confident. The week before it had been all new, maybe too new and too foreign. My brain was working just to wrap itself around the idea of going… up? That? With my bare hands? This week I wanted the challenge, I was ready for the Thursday ache. But it didn’t really come. I can wash my hair without feeling like it’s some intense physical task, I can open doors without psyching myself up first, and I can even take my own shirt off. When I want to.
But do I like this climbing thing enough to join the gym? Do I like it enough to pay money and go on a semi regular basis? To buy climbing shoes? (Climbing shoes are kind of exciting.) This is where I am stuck. I can’t decide. I don’t know if I really ever want to climb to the top. But I do know that I love the new strength (though small compared to others) I’m gaining in my arms and shoulders and back. It’s not like I have definition or anything, I’m no Michelle Obama, but the fact that I can do things that I didn’t think I was capable of, that I can tell I’m getting better at… that is really intriguing, that’s the part that makes me want more.
But what if I never have the desire to get to the top, not because it is hard, but because I just don’t want to. I don’t want to be faced with the task of coming down. I could probably master it, after a while. I could probably become comfortable and have better endurance. I could probably learn techniques on how to come down without falling or jumping. But at this stage in the game I need to decide where I stand. Is it worth it? Because that would be a lot of mental energy, a lot of overcoming some pretty majorly uncomfortable fears. Do I want to figure out how to get to the top? And is getting to the top all that necessary to enjoy the sport? Sometimes I think it is, but mostly I’m not sure.