On being brave

Besides lead falls, there are other things I’m afraid of.

Like allowing myself to shed a frustrated tear when a boulder problem repeatedly shuts me down.

Like telling people passing through the shop that yeah, I work in a climbing shop but I really don’t climb that hard (yet.)

Like telling people that I love that I can’t be there with them because I have to selfishly pursue something as trivial as repeatedly scaling rock faces.

Like committing to a career and suffering through days behind a desk when I could be outside and doing what I love.

Climbing is an art form and lifestyle that repeatedly shoves fear in your face. It springs itself upon you and you have to decide what you’re going to do with it: listen to it and back down, ease off and choose a safer alternative? Or do you quell it and prove to yourself that you are capable, competent and strong?

I’m a climber. I’m not a particularly strong or brave climber, but goddamn it, I’ve got a little fight in me.

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F-falling!

Yesterday, I reluctantly pulled myself from my cozy bed and gathered my things to go climbing. The weather was slightly overcast and gauzy clouds draped themselves over the rocks. It seemed like conditions were going to be so-so, but we pushed forward with our plans.

We started on a damp 10- climb that’s spooked me in the past. Given the conditions, I decided not to lead it. Normally, Alan (one of my constant partners at Smith) will pull the rope and laugh at me when I tell him that I’m scared. With him, I’ve consistently onsighted and attempted harder climbs than with any other partner. Each time I climb with Alan, I feel like I get a little stronger. It also helps that he’s a solid 12 climber and projects 13s and 14s.

Fast forward a few climbs and I’m leading a 10c, feet above my last bolt and a small ledge. Fear creeps into my mind and down into my now shaking foot.

I call down to my belayer, “Chris, I think I’m gonna fall.”

Immediately, both of the guys start cheering me on, telling me to stick with it, find my feet, move up, you got this, etc.

But my mind isn’t having any of that positivity nonsense. Instead, I’m fixated on the fact that when I inevitably fall, it’s going to be a long whip given the distance between me and my last bolt. And it happens.

And – surprise – I’m totally fine.

I’m shaking, laughing nervously and finding myself temporarily unable to make eye contact with the guys because I’m embarrassed. I hate falling on lead not for the fear that caused me to fall, but for the way it messes with my headgame.

If lead climbing – especially onsight climbing – is a blank canvas open to your creative interpretation; falling is a disjunctive ink splatter that disrupts the flow.

But it’s not the end of the world. You can incorporate the splatter and then later use your experience to make better art, climb harder, etc. But it still gets to me and the guys knew it.

I start to try to talk my way out of the climb, “I don’t know guys… I just got really scared.” I’m still smiling and laughing, but shaking like a leaf. The adrenaline jolt has woken me up and the part of my brain that handles fear is galvanized. But, being good climbing partners, they tell me that they’re not going to let me down that easy.

I take a moment. Gather my thoughts. And prepare myself to continue up. They’re right, I shouldn’t give up that easy. They also give me good pointers about using my feet, focusing my attention and shifting my weight to better grip the rock. It becomes obvious to me that these guys have been climbing longer and harder than I have; and I’m grateful for it.

Yesterday, I realized the length of the road ahead in my climbing career. I’m going to have to struggle my way up many more climbs, finesse others and fall from time to time. And  you know what? I’m psyched.

Meaning

Today I was asked — point blank — why do you climb?

As someone who chronically find themselves overthinking, philosophizing and sometimes detaching completely from the present… I have to admit, I gave a totally weak answer: something, something about “there’s nothing else I’d rather do.”

But I’ve been thinking some more about this idea and a more profound truth came to me: there is no “why I climb.” Pure and simple, climbing is just what I love to do. Why wouldn’t I do what I love?

And now that I’m thinking a bit more critically about it, I wonder why someone would need an answer to stand behind doing something that they love. Too often, I think that we are told that we should do things we’re good at, we should do things that will make us money and that we should do things.

When your life becomes a constant cycle of “What should I be doing?” or “I’m doing what I should be doing,” I think it becomes all to easy to lose sight of your simplest, truest “why.” In other words, when you’re doing what you’re naturally suited to do, you don’t need a reason because you have no reason to doubt yourself. You’re just manifesting your truth.

Happiness

Happiness is not:

A van. A man. A place. A time. A grade. A thing.

Happiness is carefully saving your money, investing your time and energy into building out your van so that you can comfortably live your dream for weeks on end.

Happiness is trusting a man to let you live your dream and come back to him when you’re ready. Happiness is recognizing that he’s sad to see you go, but happy to see you chase your dreams.

Happiness is following your heart to a new home, new homies and a new landscape hundreds of miles from where you grew up and feeling accepted, welcome, ready to relax and enjoy what life has to offer.

Happiness is recognizing that you’re on a lifelong journey with highs, lows, summits and valleys. Happiness is accepting where and who you are along each step of the way.

Happiness is recognizing that you’ve worked really hard to lead 10+, recognizing that grades are irrelevant and joy is the real reason why you do what you do.

Happiness is a state of mind.

 

Lemonade

Life gave me the gift of lemons today. For a moment, I found myself flung from the presence and mindfulness that has rooted me to my new home. It’s hard for me to admit this publicly, but I know we all experience it from time to time: I was grappling with a bout of social anxiety.

My whole life, I’ve been quirky. It started when I pushed my mom away as a toddler, telling her: I do it by all myself. I’ve been a tomboy. I’ve been loud. I’ve been outspoken. I’ve used vulgarity. I’ve been terrifically sarcastic. I’ve been justly and unjustly opinionated. Throughout my whole life, I’ve been very, very Mallorie. Love me or hate me, I’m just me. I don’t know how to be anything else.

At a glance, I’m kind of like a kiwi or something. Kinda gnarly and rough at first take, but soft on the inside. When there’s drama in my life, I really struggle. I’ve never been the type of girl to have a solid girl-crew or even to claim my femininity. I’d much rather keep up with the boys; no drama, no bullshit, just do it.

Girls have always been a sore subject for me. I’m friendly with girls, sure, but I don’t understand how to be a delicate lady-flower. I don’t know how to tone it down. I don’t know how to be cute. I don’t know how to be pretty. I can be pretty singularly-focused and often times, it’s to the detriment of my female relationships.

[Realizing as I’m writing this: Uh-oh, this might be a long one…]

In high school, I had a few female best friends, but nothing that lasted more than two years (ish.) There was a moment when I was incredibly dedicated to springboard diving. It was my entire life. I spent hours each day developing dive sequences, dreaming up my next trick for an upcoming meet… I was so singularly focused that I lost sight of my team and drew resentment from the girls that didn’t understand me. They didn’t understand my need for isolation to obtain complete concentration to push my diving to new heights, new tricks and record setting scores.

One girl in particular decided that she’d had enough of my obscurity and turned otherwise un-opinionated teammates against me, talking behind my oblivious back. And let me tell you: it utterly broke my heart.

My whole world was diving and when I was able to see beyond my blinders, I only saw girls that had no desire to engage with me. This was only compounded by the fact that other members of my small sphere had decided that my relationship with my coach was inappropriate, as evidenced by the favoritism he demonstrated by attentively coaching me and providing me with every opportunity to thrive (how dare he.) I’d like to publicly say that he never did anything wrong and never overstepped a single boundary. But in a small community, gossip is fun — even at the cost of a teenage girl’s happiness and relative sanity.

So, all of that baggage out of the way: when a girl decides she has beef with me, I freak out. I don’t know what to do. I already feel like the odd-girl-out as it is, which I’ll acknowledge is part self-fulfilling prophecy and part I-don’t-give-a-shit-I-just-want-to-keep-up-with-the-boys. If you’re an odd girl like me, be strong. I’d never trade my bold personality to fit the norm. When I encounter odd girls like me, it stokes me out because I know that “well behaved women seldom make history.” Be brave. Go forth. Make history. Make motherfucking lemonade.

This Must Be the Place

Do me a favor, blast this song while you read this post.

I was driving Highway 97 by myself, windows down, some garbage pop song playing loud on the radio and I just knew: I can’t leave Terrebonne.

I’d just come down from climbing in the Marsupials — an obscure crag by Smith-classics standards — and was on my way to meet a friend to climb boulders outside of Bend when it became absolutely clear to me. Between my job, the climbing that I’m doing, the progress that I’m making, the people that I’m meeting, the life that I’m loving, I know this must be the place for me. This is home for now.