Life Lessons From Rock Climbing

So, our newest obsession is rock climbing. There’s a free climbing wall at the sports park right near our house and our friend had some gear that we went and used one day. And then, naturally, we had to buy our own gear because when you have a free climbing wall that close to you, you immediately vow to take advantage of it and become a master climber. Happily, there was a killer sale going on at a store in Hong Kong so on our last trip down we got everything we need to become awesome.

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The real trick is to frame the photo so you can’t tell how high off the ground I actually am. πŸ˜‰

And even more happily, all of our friends are becoming likewise obsessed so now we have plenty of harnesses and ropes and shoes to go around for all of us.

We’ve been out several times and let me tell you – it’s hard. I’ve climbed before, but not much, and the thing I remember most about it (besides how fun it is and how awesome you feel doing it) is how much it totally kills my body. I swear, it’s difficult to squeeze the toothpaste tube afterwards. But we keep trying and it’s a total blast. Terry made it to the top of the wall without any problem – I had a bit more trouble with it. I’d make it up about a third of the wall before my legs and hands refused to support me anymore.

This last weekend, we gave it another go. I got to about the same spot I’ve always gotten to and then just a bit further. And then – I looked down.

I’ve never really thought I had a fear of heights but when there’s nothing between me and certain death except for a cord attached to a harness that I’m sitting in, it turns out I kind of do (note to Mom and Dayna: ‘certain death’ has been embellished to make this blog post more entertaining. I swear we’re not really risking our lives out here. And we’re super safe and smart about it. No worries. πŸ˜‰ We’d do anything to avoid a Chinese hospital).

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I had Terry let me down and I spent the next while chatting with my friends and watching some of them make the climb (on their first try, no less, those little smarties!). When I was ready to give it another go, I strapped in again and decided that if they could all make it to the top, so could I.

I just wouldn’t look down.

I made it to the same spot I always had and found I had more strength than the first many times I’d tried this climb. That was step one – building strength and using it, and deciding to go all the way. Step two was moving up, any way I could. I’m sure there’s a smarter way to climb that’s more technical and uses more planning, but at that point, I just had to go for it.

Step three was harder. I am quite literally not tall enough to reach the only available handhold after a certain point. I called down that I couldn’t do it. My friends cheered me Β on but the real help came when my friend who was belaying me timed one good pull to go along with my wild jump, just barely allowing me to catch that hold.

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Step four is to keep going. Don’t stop. The more you rest, the harder it is to get going again and the more tired you make yourself.

Step five is to keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look down.

Step six is to believe your friends when they’re all telling you you’re almost there, that it’s within reach now, that you really can do it.

Step seven is to reach the top.

Step seven rocks.

I got back down to the ground a little shaky but psyched at my success. I kept it inside me the rest of the day, reveling in the triumph of doing something hard for me.

And then I got to thinking – that’s really not so different from writing.

Step one is to give it a try, use those skills I’ve been taught and picked up along the way, to just go for it.

Step two is to move along, any way I can. I’m sure there’s a smarter and better way to write but to begin with, I just have to get it all out there.

Step three is harder. Step three means there’s a chance of failure, a chance of falling. Step three takes work and more than a little faith, trust, and luck. Step three is throwing out what isn’t working and changing it into something that does work, something that’s better than before. Step three is when I start believing in my story.

Step four is to keep going. Don’t stop. The more you rest the harder it is to get going again and the more tired you make yourself. Don’t let that momentum die.

Step five is to keep your eyes on the prize. Do anything you have to to make it just that much better, that much more polished. Don’t let the critiques pull you down, use them to push off of.

Step six is to believe your friends when they read your book and tell you they like it, that it’s a good story, that it’s beautiful writing.

Step seven is to reach the top.

I bet step seven rocks.

So here’s to step seven. Here’s to wearing the right shoes and using the right tools to help you along the way. Here’s to friends that keep you going. Here’s to reaching, reaching, reaching, even when it’s always just a bit further away.

Here’s to the climb before the fall.

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