Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rock Climbing and the Shame Brain

I have been rock climbing in a very non-committal way for about 2 years.  We started taking my sons first, and it was really boring to sit around waiting for them, so my husband and I decided to climb too.  Actually, it kindof turned into a bit of a date night, because the kids got to climb with their teachers while we climbed on our own.  The kids would check in with us every now and then, but mostly my husband and I got a couple of hours together to do something fun.  I liked this weekly family/date night event, but my husband quickly figured out that rock climbing is a good workout, and started going on his own.  He encouraged me to go on my own, too, but I got scared.  Mostly of the beefy shirtless guys who lurk in what's called the Bouldering Cave.

The Bouldering Cave (capitalized to convey its serious intimidating cave-i-ness) is literally a caved out area where one can, if so inclined, climb alone and without ropes because the routes are low to the ground.  That's good, because I don't want to die for the sake of a workout.  The problem is that the Bouldering routes are also typically really hard, which makes them magnets for intimidating beefy shirtless guys. 

So, for almost 2 whole years, I avoided going to the rock climbing gym on my own because I was scared of the beefy shirtless guys.  The internal monologue went something like this:

"Beefy shirtless guys are going to think I'm a dork for even being at the rock climbing gym, and they're going to be annoyed that I am in the way of their Very Important Bouldering Cave activity.  They are going to notice that I am beefy, and not in the same way that they are beefy.  Not in a good way.  I'm beefy in a bad way.  Beefy shirtless guys don't like me.  I am unworthy of sharing the Bouldering Cave with the almighty beefy shirtless guys."  I get that this is ridiculous, at least intellectually.

But, emotionally, that made total sense to me.  Shame is a familiar not-friend in my brain, and likes to use shame logic to keep me from doing fun stuff.  Shame thinks beefy guys should control my life, since they are obviously better than me.  I think Shame is full of poop, so I decided, finally, to go BY MYSELF to a women's climbing group on Wednesday nights.  It took me a long time to say it, but screw you, Shame Brain.

I would love to report that my heroic courage in entering the Bouldering Cave on my own has made me a fantastic, able, and skilled rock climber.  Unfortunately, I still think most of the routes in the bouldering cave are really hard.  There are days (like today) where I can't get all the way up a single route.  I am learning that I grip too hard, and that I need to relax, and that I need to use my feet, and turn into the wall as I reach up.  I am learning I have to trust my body, and be patient.

Here I am again with the life lessons.  So, I'm not a fantastic rock climber (yet).  So I get frustrated at my amazing lack of skill and/or ability.  I have been promised that those will come with time.  But at least for now, when I enter the Bouldering Cave, I am there, present, so that I can engage with the life lessons. I get to feel the frustration and the slow trickle of progress, one movement at a time.  I  get to experience my unabashed lack of finesse.  I get to feel excited about climbing halfway up a route one of my friends can do one-armed and wearing flip-flops.  And, sometimes I get to hang out with surprisingly friendly and shockingly supportive guys who happen to be both beefy and shirtless.


Pauli said...

Rachel - I love that you're writing. I also love your writing! Thank you for expressing yourself in words for the rest of us to read. It makes my day brighter. :)

Anonymous said...

Your step daddy is proud of you!

Anonymous said...

Your step daddy is proud of you!

Rachel said...

Thanks, Jeff and Pauli!