Climbing Lessons

I went rock climbing – on real rock – for the first time. I’ve had several opportunities, but I’ve always been too chicken to try – I hate being the noob. My brother and his family were here on vacation, so my sister, her boyfriend, and I took them rock climbing. Since I wasn’t going to be the only novice climber, I thought it was the perfect time to try.

After watching everyone’s first attempts, it was my turn. They weren’t going to let me weasel out of it, so I roped up, put my I’m-not-going-to-think-I’m-just-going-to-do-it blinders on, and started up the rock.

Sissy's first climb-2
Buddy check
Sissy's first climb-4
Trusting my belayer

Climbing isn’t about having strong arms or tremendous finger strength, although they do help. It’s mostly about trust. First of all, you have to trust your equipment. You have to trust that the hardware bolted to the rock is secure. You have to trust that your rope won’t break if you should fall. You have to trust that your shoes will grip the rock and you have to trust the harness to securely connect you to the rope and consequently, to your belayer.

Secondly, you have to trust your belayer. They literally have your life in their hands. Their job is to allow you enough slack to move up the rock, yet not too much so that if you fall, you won’t fall far. You have to trust that your belayer is going to pay attention and knows what they’re doing.

Finally, you have to trust yourself. You have to get past the fear that tells you that you can’t do it, that you’ll fall, and if you fall, you’ll die. You know that voice is just fear yammering in your ear. You know that you’re as safe as you can be. Your only job is to focus on the rock right in front of you, to look for those tiny places to put your fingers and toes, and take one step at a time. Oh yes. And don’t forget to breathe.

Sissy's first climb-5Sissy's first climb-6Sissy's first climb-7

There was a point where I didn’t think I’d be able to go any further. The bump in the rock where I had my toe was so small and the blip of rock where I had my fingers was so miniscule, that I thought there was no way I could take another step. However, I dug deep and decided to trust my belayer – my sister – to catch me. I took a deep breath and pushed up. To my surprise, I didn’t fall. For me, that was the crux. After that, I knew I could make it all the way.

Sissy's first climb-8

I turned around to look at Long’s Peak and the lake below – there is never a better view than the one at the summit. I even looked down at my family below, who were cheering wildly for me, and I had no fear of the height. It was a big accomplishment for me, in more ways than one.

Sissy's first climb-9
Yay me! And thank you, Jessica.

I enjoyed the high of my accomplishment for a whole day. Then as is my way, I crashed into a funk. As great as that weekend had been, I fell back to reality with a thud. The view from reality wasn’t as pretty as the view from the top of that rock.

I had been doing so well, too: trusting the Universe, playing by the rules of the Law of Attraction, and being patient. Certainly I was on my way to a great job, or better yet, a great big wad of cash was going to fall in my lap, because I was doing everything right, right?

However, I checked my bank account and realized that the well had finally gone dry. I’m in big-time debt and I have very little coming in. Just enough to eat on and put gas in the car that I can no longer pay for. And to top it all off, even Big Lots turned me down for a job. I can’t even get a minimum wage retail job. What the hell is going on?

My old friends, Fear and Control, came to set up shop in my gut. Fear said, “You’re going to lose everything. You’re going to be out on the streets. No will hire you. Ever. You’re fucked.” Control said, “You have no choice. You can’t have a job you’ll enjoy. You have to take whatever miserable job comes along, if any of them will have you.  You’re desperate. Sell your bikes. How dare you think you can have any fun when you can’t even pay your bills!” Fear and Control work well together, don’t you think?

I cried for days. Fear had me in its grip and I couldn’t see any way out. Then it dawned on me that this is the way I always handle tough situations. I get scared and I try to wrestle the fear to the ground by trying to control it. I try to force things to go the only way I believe they can. I’ve always done things from a place of desperation and low expectations, yet I’ve never been happy with the outcome.

However, my mantra over the last year has been “Do It Different” and the first step to doing it different is to know when you’re doing it the same. Now that I’ve recognized that I’m reacting in the same way, how do I do it different?

I thought about what the opposite of control and fear is and realized that it’s trust and faith. But how does one have trust and faith when there is no certainty? I don’t even know for sure there is a “Universe/God/Creator”, but I believe that there is and that’s as close to certainty as I can get, so I might as well give it a go.

Then I realized that climbing that rock for the first time wasn’t just about climbing a rock; it was a lesson in trust. I looked up trust in the dictionary. It said:

Trust: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

In order to climb, to move forward and up, I had to trust that Jeff had tied me correctly to the harness. I had to trust that Jessica had her belay device set up properly. I had to trust the anchors at the top would hold me and that the rope wouldn’t break. Most importantly, I had to trust my sister.

The only thing I had control of was my own mind, which is, in reality, the only thing over which we ever have control.

I had to trust my way to the top. I had no choice. What I discovered that day is that when you trust, things flow much more smoothly. It wasn’t a struggle or a chore. I didn’t have to keep checking the rope for wear. I didn’t have to remind my sister not to drop me. I could just have fun. All I had to do was focus on the task in front of me and trust that the rest was taken care of. To me, that felt like freedom. Trust is surrender to the process. Trust is allowing others to support you, even when you don’t think you deserve it. Trust is a relief.

Sissy's first climb-10

What I learned in the mountains that day is that I can trust my family, that they have my best interest at heart, and that it’s okay to allow them to help and support me. You may think that’s obvious, but it wasn’t to me until now. After decades of believing I was all alone, it’s a relief to finally allow myself to belong.

I’m still working on surrendering my control of work and money to the Universe, but now that I know what it’s like to trust, I don’t think it’ll be that hard.

Alone in the Spotlight

Writing my story is much harder than I thought it would be, but it’s also more rewarding and freeing than I ever imagined. I’m only halfway done, but I’ve already had many, many epiphanies and I’m sure there are more to come. But along with all the unlearning of old beliefs and breaking of old patterns of thought comes a new fear.

Last night, I watched the latest episode of CMT’s Nashville. One of the lead characters is Deacon Claybourne, a country musician and recovering alcoholic. He was trying to support a rising artist by pushing her to record a song that exposes her truth about her relationship with an abusive ex-husband. She said that she just wasn’t feeling it and decided to quit recording for the evening. Deacon then said something to her that hit me right in the heart. He told her that he knew how scary it was when all of the obstacles to everything you want are gone and you’re left standing there, alone, in front of the mic.

I started bawling like I’d just lost my best friend – and honestly, I cry every time I think about it. Right now, I’m standing alone and the spotlight is on me. All of the obstacles that I’ve set up to keep me from doing what I want to do – because I was made to believe that what I wanted was wrong – are being destroyed, one by one, and I’m left standing here, exposed, raw, and unsure of what to do now.

However, I know the truth now. I know who he really was. I know that I’ve been living the lie he gave me for most of my life, but I also know that I don’t have to believe the lie anymore. I know that it’s up to me to sing my own truth or walk away from the spotlight, but leaving the spotlight is not an option. I know too much. I have to stand in that spotlight alone and be my authentic self. And that scares me to death.

No That’s Not A Mugshot

 

As you can plainly see, I’m not comfortable in front of a camera, but I’ll sacrifice my dignity for you, my dear reader.

As you may know, I just relocated to Colorful Colorado. It was great the first few weeks, when I was brand new and everything was exciting. I went out scouting for a good bike shop and to find where all the natural foods stores and yoga studios were. I suppose I was trying to bring back a sense of security. When I found those places, I would feel more at home.

It worked, too, until I hit a snag. I spent eleven days in a wheat-induced depression. Yes. I accidentally ingested a small crumb of onion ring coating and spent the next week and a half in a dark funk. That’s what wheat does to me.

During those eleven days, I went from feeling like I was getting a fresh start at a new life to feeling like nothing would ever work out for me. To top it all off, I had to start looking for a job and that’s never fun, even on a good day.

However, on day twelve, I woke up feeling like someone had lifted all the wet wool blankets off my shoulders and just like that, I felt good again. Thank goodness, but I still had that pesky job to look for.

At this point in my life, I don’t want a job. I’ve it with toiling day after day doing something I don’t like to do in order for some old man to grant me some peanuts so I can have a place to live and food to eat. As I’ve said before, I’ve hated virtually every one of my jobs. It would be so much easier if I were a massage therapist or an herbalist or a yoga teacher or an acupuncturist. I were a “something” it would make those job search engines work better for me. But I’m not a “something”. There is no job called “I just need a job, man.”

The one thing I might be is a would-be entrepreneur. I have a ton of ideas for businesses, but nothing’s really stuck yet. Besides, I have no money, no connections, and I’m a big fraidy cat when it comes to selling my ideas to strangers. Those are all excuses, I know. I have an Elizabeth Gilbert quote on my wall that reads

“You’re supposed to start before you’re ready and before you’re good at it and that’s how you get ready and that’s how you get good at it.”

It takes a lot of courage to start before you’re ready. People tell me that they think I was brave for picking up and moving to a new place just because I wanted to. I don’t necessarily think it was brave. It’s taken me years to actually move. I finally told myself that I had to shit or get off the pot and I’m never one to back down from a dare, but I had to tackle a lot of demons before I was ready. So after several years of therapy and with demons mostly tackled, I moved. I still have a few straggler demons to slay, though, and they’re big and mean and really strong.

One of them rules over my work life. It looms dark and menacing over every bright idea I come up with. It snarls at me, “You can’t make a living doing that. You’ve got to get a job and work hard. You’re not talented enough or smart enough. You’ve never been very good at any of your previous jobs, so you won’t be any good at this either. What if you fail? There’s nothing left after that. Better just stick to what you know.” (My demons talk a lot.)

I know, though, that in order to diminish this demon, I have think different. I can’t go about finding work and thinking about money in the same way I always have if I want things to be different this time. So, as I said in my previous blog post, I’m not going to look for a job. I’m going to let it come to me.

I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah right. People just come to your door and hand you a job.” That’s not what I mean. I mean that I’m going expect the right job (or a giant wad of cash, which would be even better) to come along at the right moment. I’m not going to worry or stress about it and I’m not going to take a job that feels wrong in my gut just because I’m scared. I have faith that the Universe will bring me an opportunity that will make me say “Heck yeah!” instead of, “It’s better than nothing.” It’s a relief to hand the management of my financial life over to the Universe. It has a lot more resources at its disposal than I do.

The other demon that still has its claws in me is the one that tells me that I’m not creative, that I will never be able to make a living doing what I love. (And of course, the only reason to do anything is so that we can make money from it, right?) In the past couple of years, though, I’ve allowed myself to delve into what I love – art. I’ve taken several graphic design classes and a couple of art classes and they have given me so much joy, it makes me cry. (Like right now, I’m literally tearing up.) I stress myself out a little, because I don’t want to wait until I get good enough to make it part of my résumé, but at this point, I’m really not good enough. I don’t have the portfolio and that fear of never being good enough has stopped me from even working on one right now. I can’t get myself to draw or paint or work on my logo or even do tutorials off of YouTube. This demon will not let me play.

However, the demon will allow me to write this blog and practice my photography. I don’t know why. Perhaps all that other stuff is simply play for me – and there’s nothing wrong with playing. What I truly love to do is write and take photographs. Maybe my love is stronger than that nasty, ol’ demon and that’s why it can’t stop me. So instead of fussing over finding a job, I’m making writing and photography my focus. I’m going to be more consistent with my blog and perhaps even up my blog game with a wordpress upgrade.

I’m also opening a new Instagram account within the next couple of days that will be devoted to a 365 photography project. I’m excited to watch the progression of my photography over the next year and I hope to finally find my “voice” (or is it “eye”). I’m going to step outside of my comfort zone of landscapes and flowers, and bring more of myself into my photography. (And nothing is more out of my comfort zone than a selfie. See above.)

I’ve been focused on this concept of “doing it different” for some time now, but I didn’t quite understand how to do that. Now I see that doing things different requires a shift in perspective. I can’t see and think about things in the same way I always have and expect different results. Isn’t that the definition of crazy? I have to approach my life and how I think about things in a different way. They talk about the shift in consciousness that’s going on in the world right now. I believe that shift in consciousness starts with each of us. I’m happy to have finally figured that out and I hope that my shift adds some momentum to the big one that’s underway.

I hope you’ll stick with me as I work my way through doing my life different. If you find yourself “doing it different” as well, I hope you’ll share with me in the comments. I’d love to hear all about it.

Lean In To Love

I’m feeling a bit panicky lately. I suppose it has to do with the fact that I took the first step, let go of the bowstring, and all the other analogies of letting go that I can think of. Change can be exciting and energizing. It can also be scary and uncomfortable.

It could also be the fact that tomorrow, the president-elect will be sworn in (if lightning doesn’t strike him) and this country that we all love will be fully in the hands of a small group of people who do not care in the least for the rest of us. They’ve worked for twenty years to divide us and weaken the power of the people. They’ve done an excellent job and now they’re free to enrich themselves at our expense.

Most of us are still in shock and hoping that someone will wake us from this nightmare.

We’re also embarrassed that we let this happen. We’re embarrassed that the once great United States is now the laughing stock of the world. And our government, the powers that be, have no clue. They are, after all, going to “Make America Great Again.” Was it ever really that great? Really?

I’m just as scared as the next person, but I do believe that this is the change we needed. We allowed the fear and frustration of a great many people to go on for far too long. We got comfortable, thinking that if we just elected the right people, they’d fix it all for us. The only ones that can fix this is us. We, The People.

Just like I allowed my misery to become comfortable and keep me stuck, the US has been stuck for a long time. And just like it took me getting fired, it took the election of a two-bit reality show, pseudo-celeb to the highest office in the country to shake us out of our complacency.

We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. We have to do things differently. We have to start talking to each other and really listening, instead of yelling at each other behind the safety of our computer monitors and phones. We need to stop relying on the old way of doing things and find a better way to take care of each other.

There’s a reason this man got elected and we need to figure out why.

The country is in a free fall right now. We don’t know if there is going to be a net to catch us or if we’ll grow wings and fly or if we’ll hit the ground with an earth-shattering thud. The only thing I know is that I’m not giving up. I believe that the people of this country are basically loving and caring. There’s only a tiny percentage that really do hate. The power of hate is no match to the power of love. We just have to lean in to the love and it will be okay.