Rock Climbing as Life Analogy

How often do you try something new and actually feel like it’s an actual life lesson? I’d have to say for me, not that often. Maybe that’s because I’m set in my ways and don’t often try new things, or maybe it’s because the new things I do try aren’t really that far out of my comfort zone. But I went rock climbing recently – yes, rock climbing – and it turns out that it was kind of a profound experience.

Forget the fact that when I initially signed up for this girls’ trip, I thought it was a spa trip. I understood it offered hiking and biking and outdoorsy things, but I assumed you did a little of that, and then spent the afternoons/evenings getting facials and massages. Yeah, no. None of the spa stuff.

So, I embraced the idea that I’d be doing activities like Mountain Biking 101 and Rock Climbing, figuring at least I could say I tried them. But then something unexpected happened. The rock climbing turned out to be kind of deeply moving for me. I realized that it was really an analogy for so many things in life – so many things in MY life – and I feel like it changed me a little bit.

I have to admit, when it was my turn, I wasn’t that scared, despite the fact that it was basically a 90 degree climb up a rock wall. Mostly because I thought about how I was paying for this trip organized by REI, and it would be really bad PR if they let me plummet to my death while at this retreat. So I strapped on my harness and started climbing.

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The first few minutes were pretty easy, and it seemed obvious where to place my hands and feet to keep climbing. But pretty soon, the divots weren’t so clear, and I realized I was basically hanging onto a sheer rock face 50 feet off the ground. With nowhere to go. And I was stuck. That’s when I started getting scared.

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I could hear the cheers of encouragement coming from below, but I started quietly whimpering to myself. OMG there is literally no place to put my hands or feet! I’m stuck! How am I going to do this? I thought about the woman who had gone right before me, and how easy she made it look as she scampered to the top. I remembered that just like me, she had never done it before either. And then I heard the instructor yell from the ground, “You’re doing great! It’s all about problem solving!” And that’s when I had the clarity to realize that this was really one of those things that represented my life.

Just like you, I’ve had my fair share of challenges and tough times. Most of mine came in the last decade or so, as my marriage fell apart and I realized that I had to be a strong, single mom to my two kids. That I had to make enough money to support myself and help provide for the kids while living the way I wanted in New York City. That I had to work my ass off to excel and succeed at my job in order to be the kind of role model I wanted to be for my kids. That while I love my family and friends deeply and dearly, I need to rely on myself, and that I am the only one that can give me the life I want.

These thoughts came pouring out as I clung to the side of that rock face, and I realized that I needed to solve the problem the same way I’ve dealt with most of my other shit. And that is, just do it and get through it. Put one foot in front of the other. Literally. And it’s going to be scary and it’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be so empowering and fulfilling on the other side. So we do it anyway.

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I kept climbing and moving. And I figured out little tiny crevices where I could fit a few fingers and I used all my strength to pull myself up so that I could stick the tip of my foot into another teeny crevice and keep going. Because that’s what it’s all about. Just being able to keep going, no matter what.

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When I finally pulled myself up to the very top and stood up and looked down, I got teary eyed thinking about (and realizing what) I had just done. What I had just accomplished. And how excited and proud I was to tell my kids.

Wouldn’t you know it, just a few days later my daughter was getting ready to do something she had never done before, and she admitted to me that she was nervous and scared. I felt a lump in my throat as I proudly told her, “I know. And I was scared when I was rock climbing. But that’s what makes us strong and brave. We do it anyway.” Just like life.