Belaying myself down
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On Letting Go

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.

Belaying myself down
Belaying myself down

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.

Stef belaying
Stef belaying our friend on Sardegna

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.

Cala Gonone
Sardinia has the most beautiful climbing spots

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.)

Ropes

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?

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14 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. I felt the same about climbing, when I did it two years ago. That’s why I only did bouldering and not the super high walls. There are just so many “what if I break something”s in your head when you do it. I liked to challenge my body, but I don’t want to put it in danger (especially with the kind of job I have). So I quit as well.

    1. Yes, I should try more bouldering. Less equipment, not so high, more relaxed. Although it still surrounded by guys with no shirts on showing off. Wait… maybe that’s not so bad actually hehe.

  2. This year I’m letting go of guild. With all that’s been happening in my life lately, I just don’t have the time nor the energy to feel guilty. Mainly feeling guilty about not blogging every make, not sewing every minute of my free time, not feeling guilty about just wanting to stay in and watch TV with the family, not feeling guilty about eating a piece of chocolate and not feeling guilty when my house isn’t entirely in order. And I know what you mean with the climbing, I feel the same about skiing…

    1. Guilt is a good one! And I have exactly the same, not with skiing but with snowboarding. I gave up ‘liking’ that last year!

  3. Such a good post! I’ve tried climbing once and hated it. I’m way too cautious. I’m not sure what I’ll try to let go this year… but I’ll be thinking about it, thanks to this post!

  4. I agree with Stephanie on skiing! I let it go. I just felt like there was no point in saying I loved skiing in big resorts with loads of people when really I could never totally enjoy it. I like skiing in smaller resorts, on smaller mountains, where you still have trees, so the scenery is beautiful, and since it’s smaller it’s also cheaper and people are nicer. win! I don’t like to ski for the challenge, it’s a dangerous sport and I like to do it at my own pace. This way I can actually, you know, enjoy it ;) And, actually, the type of skiing I enjoy most is cross country skiing, which is really uncool. but this year I don’t care.

    1. Your way of skiing sounds much more fun! And you’re right that there’s a big ‘coolness’ vibe with winter sports, too. Good for you going against that!

  5. Thank you for this post. It is pretty rare that I meditate on what Im giving up in a positive tone. Im working on giving up expectations that are only leading to resentment and other negative emotions. Its a process, but I am trying.

  6. I gave up trying to like motorcycle racing. It was so so so cool but so dangerous, and also so expensive. After seeing a couple of bad crashes with serious injuries, and how the riders were injured by other people’s mistakes, that was it for me. I sold my bike and moved on.

    I know a few other former racers, they have mostly taken up triathlons. Seems like something worth trying?

    1. That sounds even more dangerous than climbing. I can imagine you’d be relieved to give that up. I wonder what the appeal of triathlons is to racers? Doesn’t seem that related to me. Maybe it’s the same adrenaline rush?

  7. I think the relation is adrenaline by way of competition – most racers are die hard competitors! For me it was always more of a self challenge, and that would be good motivation for a tri too.

  8. Hello! I found your blog because I love sewing and I absolutely love your first two patterns. I clicked on this post because I also love rock climbing, and have been climbing for over ten years. I know EXACTLY where you’re coming from when you say you feel you “should” get more excited about a route than scared, or that your drive to want to climb harder and stronger should be greater than your fear. There’s this perception in the climbing world that you’re supposed to be absolutely loving every minute of your climbing experience, and the truth is there’s a lot of unpleasantness about some of it. It hurts. It’s scary. Your hands get callused. The weather doesn’t cooperate. And, dudes be competitive, yo. I don’t want to compete against some other bro who acts like sending that 5.12 is the greatest accomplishment in their life.
    I guess what’s gotten me over this is this very simple mantra: I climb for ME. I’m not here to show you bros how strong I am, but I am strong. I’m not here to crush the hardest route, I’m here to solve physical problems and get my mind and body a workout. I’m not here to blindly face fear just for the sake of facing fears, I’m going to make calculated and thoughtful decisions about what’s right for me in the moment.
    Anyway, I appreciate your writing this, and your choice is your own. But I hope you can find a comfortable place for climbing in your life at some point down the road. Because it’s awesome.
    And good luck in your new business! Your work so far is beautiful!!!

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