"I think I'm ready to come down," I said as I hung there clenching the rock wall.
"Really? ...No, you're not coming down," she responded.
"There's nowhere for me to grab."
At this point I think I was stuck in the same spot halfway up the rock wall for more than 10 minutes. My hands were sweaty, I could barely feel my arms, and I was in pain from the harness digging into my groin.
What does she mean I can't come down? I thought.
Just before this, I watched another woman attempt this same route, the hardest route. I was stuck in the same spot she got stuck. They let her down. Why aren't they letting me down? I just failed to complete the 3rd route. Who am I to think I can complete this one?
"Try moving to the left a little, where you see that metal clip," one of the belayers suggested.
I carefully shifted left, pushed through the pain, and began scaling the wall again. Three quarters of the way up, I placed my hand on a ledge and encountered the biggest Tennessee Daddy Long Leg I've ever seen.
I let out a quiet squeal and let go to shake off this monster of a spider crawling up my right arm, not caring that I might drop. I turned my head to the left to see another sitting right on my left shoulder.
What the fuck?! Why didn't they let me come down when I asked?!
That lit a fire under my ass. I started moving, fast. A short while later I let out a sigh of relief as I slapped the metal clip at the top.
I let myself dangle there for a few seconds and reveled at the fact that I was the only participant that weekend to make it to the top of the hardest route. I had only just tried rock climbing for the first time the day before. But I made it to the top and I hung there thinking, "I'm a total freaking badass!"
And then I came down and removed my gear. As the adrenaline settled and I walked back to basecamp, I started thinking about what my first experience rock climbing was teaching me. Here's what I reflected on during my walk and in the days following this adventurous trip to TN.
The middle sucks.
Starting was the easiest part of rock climbing. The first few moves on each route were a breeze. My body wasn't physically worn out. I felt strong and capable. I could clearly see what my next move needed to be. Halfway up the wall, however, the hand- and footholds got smaller and more difficult to grip. My arms were so tired I could barely hold on at times. I couldn't lean too far back to examine the rock or I risked losing balance. I had difficulty getting a good grip with my foot and using my legs to push up. And my hands were sweaty. I was stuck in the same spot feeling around, searching for somewhere else to grab for several minutes.
It was utterly painful at times. It 100% mimicked what the journey is like when we go after something. We are bright eyed and optimistic when we first start out. Things start off easy and we feel good about what we're doing. Along the way we encounter resistance, there are barriers to progress, we're told "No," or we can't figure out what our next step should be. Unfortunately, I can't offer any solace here. The middle sucks. It's sometimes brutal, but it's a necessary and required part of the journey. There are things that help, however, which leads me to my next point.
Lean on to others.
As I scaled the rock wall, there were certain areas where it was difficult to determine where to grab or place my foot. The belayers down below had a better view and more experience climbing the wall. They were able to guide me toward even the smallest of hand- and footholds. If they had not guided me to the left on the hardest route, I would have never made it to the top.
Sometimes our positioning doesn't allow us to see all possible moves. We need to lean on others for guidance and direction if we're going to make it to the "top."
Get with people who won't let you quit.
In the very short time I spent at the rock wall that weekend, the women quickly recognized my capabilities and my seemingly natural ability for rock climbing. When I asked to be let down because I didn't think I could finish, they said "No," and made me keep going. Because of that, I finished. These are the type of people we all need - people who encourage us to keep going, people who can call out and affirm our strengths, and people who don't let us throw in the towel so easily.
I don't trust God.
I really don't want to admit this one ya'll, but my actions clearly indicate it's true.
Although the thought that I could fall crossed my mind, I never at any point believed I actually would. I had complete and total trust in my belayer down below. I had to ask myself as I walked back to basecamp alone, if I completely trusted my belayer to not let me fall, why do I not trust God to do the same? He's infinitely more powerful and capable. I know this, and yet I'm afraid to hop on the metaphorical wall and climb toward the things He's asked me to do. Maybe the following is why...
I don't know who I am or what I can do.
I'd like to say I know myself really well, but I honestly don't think I'm fully aware of my own strength or what I'm capable of. When I look in the mirror, I don't see a body that is physically strong, and yet I can do physically taxing things with little training and not give up. My 45 mile bike ride that I did not train for is another example of this. But this isn't just about physical strength or the ability to mentally push beyond pain even when my body begs me to quit.
I wondered how a new friend who I had spent very little time with prior to this could watch me climb a wall and know that I'm strategic. Or that I have a quiet, but deep inner strength that hasn't been unleashed yet. I question how my husband can think that my potential is greater than his. I'm baffled when other friends call me out as a strong woman in our church community who should be stepping up to lead other women.
A friend looked me in my eyes several months ago and said to me, "You don't know who you are yet." ...I think her words were true.
That my friends, is something I need to sit with for a moment or two. In the meantime, chat with me. It's been awhile!
What new (physical) activities are you trying out? What are you learning about yourself?