As everyone is coming near the end of making lists, goals and resolutions, I’ve wondered about something else: What are you leaving behind this year? What are you letting go? Making a resolution is a promise to become a different person in a way. A person who will do a certain thing. Maybe it’s just as interesting to look at what that person in the future won’t do. How that person becomes more free, not by setting a goal but by accepting that a goal will not be reached and that this is ok. This is the story of what I’m letting go this year.
I started climbing about 10 years ago. The great thing about climbing is that you feel every muscle in your body move. You discover how strong your fingers are. This feeling that you can’t do something, it’s too hard, and then you try and then you are just doing it. That feeling is amazing. And it happens at least a couple of times in each route as you overcome difficult passages. Once you’re back down on the ground and you look up You climbed that wall using only your body, your strength and perseverance. That is why I love climbing.
Climbing is exhilarating but also scary. I am not afraid of heights, but I am very good at imagining ‘what-if’ situations. What if I slip, what if the rope breaks, what if my belaying partner isn’t paying attention and lets me slip, what if my harness isn’t tight enough. These fears are something every climber experiences. The idea is not to totally overcome that fear, but to move on despite of it, to persevere and believe in your own strength. I’ve never really succeeded at this. I always felt a little reluctant when facing a difficult route.
Since we lived in what the French call ‘The low lands’ we only climbed indoors. After 6 years of climbing (on and off) I had only once or twice done a route outdoors on real rock. When we were living in Norway for a couple of months we met two German guys who became good friends. They took us on climbing trips and taught me how to lead climb outdoors. I don’t mean this to be a how-to-climb post so I won’t explain all the details, but lead climbing is even more scary that what I was used to. If you fall, you fall a longer distance. And outdoors there’s rock you bounce off of instead of a relatively smooth wall.
On the one hand we (Stef was climbing now too) saw this as an opportunity to go out on our own and to become better. We even got our own outdoor climbing gear. On the other hand I became a bit more scared than before. I hadn’t found a way to control my mind entirely, to get more excited than scared when facing a new route. There were even more ‘what-if’ scenarios now. On top of that, I felt as if I should be liking it, my drive to ‘top’ a route had to be bigger than my fear. I felt as if admitting that I’d rather sit back and watch others would be like failing. I’d be weak, and uncool. (The climbers world is very much about showing off and being cool.)
For years I have been listing climbing as my hobby. But inside me there has always been this struggle. And I’m tired of pretending that I love climbing and I can’t wait to get up the wall. I am going to let myself off the hook and say that I do not have to like climbing. I am not giving it up entirely, controlling fear is still something I’d want to get better at. But I can decide if I like it or not. I can quit. And it won’t make me a weaker person.
So tell me, beside the goals or resolutions you might have, do you also have something you’re letting go of this year?