One time, when I was 16 years old and still a newb to climbing, my friends Steve and I started a climb at Storm Island Picnic Area in Big Cottonwood Canyon; it was a short, steep clean wall – set back on the island of rock and was not a huge draw. At the time, we had no idea about climbing safety or any of that, as I said we were new. I was lucky that I had a harness and rope at the time, little did we know of ‘beeners or draws at the time or how to use them, we utilized a body belay for hell sake.
I was on lead and about thirty feet up the sixty foot wall and I froze. I was trapped. I stood on what felt like the edges of a dime, and was barely holding onto the same with my fingertips, for what seemed like fifteen minutes. Steve called out to me a few times, but I was trapped on a cliff, thirty feet up, thirty feet to go and I was going to die. I knew it. I couldn’t breathe, my muscles were getting ready to let go. Steven decided the best course of action was to get above me and lower the rope to me so I could use it to go up or down. Naïve as we were, I untied (not that the rope would have done me any good, we were not placing gear) and came off our silly-assed belay. And waited.
I waited with my thoughts, thinking if we could get a fire truck in here, or what Steve would tell my parents when I fell and died or even worse, what if I was hurt beyond fix? Resigned to the wheelchair or something? I realize now in that moment, I became aware of mortality, I had shed the youthful reckless abandon that we all face. It was at that moment that I gave up on faith and religion and self-esteem. I had gotten my own dumb ass into a situation I could not get out of and I was going to die.
I waited for Steve for another thirty minutes, I was trapped and wanted to scream.
Today, I feel the same way. I am trapped. Not by family or responsibility, but by the situations I have created for myself that I seem to not be able to get myself out of. Primarily I am talking about three things, and they are intertwined. My weight, my laziness and my self-esteem. All three are perpetuating and feeding off of each other. I am lazy, so I do not take my working out as serious as I once did, and that impacts my self-esteem; or, frighteningly enough, my self-esteem is low, so I am lazy and do not work out enough. See, you can spin it either way, but it is a situation that has spiraled out of control and I am trapped and want to scream, because surely, this pattern is killing me, it is certainly impacting the moods of those around me, as they can no longer be happy either.
I write it here in a sort of honesty that I have reserved for the mirror late at night when I tell myself, I will do something about this, or I will start tomorrow. I do, I usually hang on for about a week these days before sabotaging myself. I find myself wondering what will Amanda do when she wakes up to me being dead? What will she tell the kids? My parents?
I have trapped myself so securely in fat and low esteem, that it is hard to be around me. Hell, two of my kids did what they could to not be around me and that actually just kind of feeds the spiral. I treasure the alone at the same time damn the silence of who I am. I am fat so people automatically expect less of me. I am not expected to perform at levels fit people do and for as long.
But that is not who I am inside the trapped body. At heart, I am a one-hundred and seventy pound athlete about to turn the corner on his life at forty and make the next decade the best I have ever had. I watch triathlon and think that I can do that. But I can’t; I have built walls around myself to keep out the expectation and scared, these walls are made of sugar, gluten, fat and soda. Sugar has been the cause of and solution to most of my life’s problems (so has alcohol, but I digress). It has been a long fight with fat and for some time I was winning.
I had beaten one hundred and twenty pounds of fat back and was gaining confidence, but I have told that story and have rested on the laurels of what I have done enough in my life. That is part of the trap I am in; I am only as good to someone as the last thing I have done. And that is completely self-imposed.
I have an associate, in business that is humbly confident. It is who he is. It would be unfair to say that he hasn’t a care in the world, but he speaks and lives like he does not. In response to someone winning over one-hundred thousand dollars compared to his one thousand, he replied, and this is totally him:
“Yeah, But I am 6’2” and you are only 5’9””
That is confidence; utter and unashamed. I have tasted it before but all too briefly. I am tired of being trapped, because I can feel the walls closing in. Am I happy? With certain aspects of my life absolutely. I am in a committed marriage, with wonderful kids, but I have been reacting to them even as if they are pushing me away when it is I who is building up the walls against those who love me most and it is so unfair I have seriously considered disappearing. For their benefit, not mine.
At least I tell myself that, but really, isn’t that just cowardice again? Cowardice is part of a greater issue of being scared to release myself from the trap, and just puts up bigger barriers. Besides, I may be going insane but I am not there yet, I would miss them too much to actually run off to Guatemala.
The good news is that getting this out is cathartic and I already feel better. For now. No, a run around the block or a ride on the bike right now won’t help, but neither will brooding over it like I am want to do from time to time. I am one of the lucky ones. I have had the keys to happiness in my hands and know what I need to do to find my happy:
- Actively play with the kids
- Spend the small amounts of time I have with Amanda as quality, and less “Walking Dead” and “Dexter”
- Engage my own active athletic burning desire in SMALL portions (join a co-ed softball team or something similar for starters)
- Do something active, EVERY day – for at least 30 minutes
- Go outside (this has always been a favorite) and share it with those I love, friends and family
- Steer my career in the path I want it to go whether at C1B or outside of their culture. Find my heart in my work, not theirs.
- Blog more – but creatively and with joy, not depressing (this blog has sounded a little down, but reading it and re-reading it, there is actually a lot of hope)
- Be the Mr. Amazing that so many people believe I am or could be, and
- For the love of all that is holy, stop living yesterday – live today and go get tomorrow.
I appreciate you joining me on the blog today, it had to get out I guess. What was that? How did my climb end? Well, I am here today so I did not die…
Steve eventually risked his own neck, trail ran almost 2 miles and climbed up the backside of the cliff in thirty minutes and lowered the rope to me. I was able to get down. Shaky, scared and I cried. I was alone, because Steve was still up on the cliff, but I was so sure I was going to die, that I cried.
We learned how to climb and as we gained experience that year, Steve wanted to go back and conquer that cliff, so we did. We went back, he flashed it. Took ten minutes to climb and then lower. It was my turn on lead. I got up thirty feet, but this time we had placed protection and I was a lot more secure in my ability and safety.
But I got stuck. The wall mentally beat me, and I was again trapped. I could not go up, but I could go down, Steve lowered me and again, the wall beat me. I vowed never to go back and that actually dictated a lot of my life and many of the ways I have been since. Steve became the better climber because we kept climbing the same things over and over, he got better and I just stayed flat. I was not challenging myself, but I was not failing either. Over the next decade of my life, my relationship with most things would be defined by this odd quirk in Steve and my relationship. I was always the guy that would talk to the girls, Steve would bed them. I mean the same girls I had just warmed up for him. Steve was always better than me in my mind. He and I climbed on and off for a few years, but not as much. We still hung out and partied weekly, but no climbing.
Two years later, I met another climber, David Pope and we climbed the stuff I had climbed and he got bored. When we met he had not climbed much and I crushed him, but within weeks he was my speed and maybe a little better. We started climbing things that were way beyond us and numerous times I was eating dirt. But his confidence and easy going grace kept it fun, and I never felt like it was something I was working at.
Eventually Steve wanted to go climbing with me again. I took him on a few new routes and he floundered. He was a third the climber he had use to be, and half the climber I had become. I wanted him to keep climbing with me, so I thought long and hard; our old cliff. I didn’t want to, in my heart. I knew it was an easy climb for Steve, but it was hard work for me.
We went to Storm Island and Steve went first, he struggled a little but not much, his old form was coming back. Before I wanted it to be, it was my lead. I tied in and was on belay. I shut down my mind and my fears and saw only the rock, as I had taught myself over the last six months of hard climbing. I saw the small imperfections in the rock and new right away, this cliff was my bitch this time. Before I knew it I was standing on top and hardly realized I had sailed this bitch. I did something then I have done few times since, I raised my fist in the air, jumped up and yelled out at the top of my lungs, “ALLEZ! Mother fucker!” It was stupid, but a moment when all my walls and assumptions of the world had fallen for a few moments of ecstasy.
I need to find that. That place, that moment, that feeling so I can once again scream
ALLEZ! Mother fucker!