Climbing the Wall
Shortly after I silently declared that I must write or die, I got the flu. Since the mental barriers were not successful in keeping me off the keyboard, my body jumped into the fray. My body has a point. I’ve put off writing anything for a long time. It’s worked like a charm – an editor’s voice isn’t in my head saying “that sounds pretentious” and anxiety attacks have been rare. Until this week. I was in a rock climbing class, halfway up a wall and I froze. My heart pounded so hard that I could hear nothing else. Taking short, shallow breaths, I desperately tried to remember what I was supposed to say to my belay partner on the ground. My first thought was “get out of the way – I’m coming down!”
My fellow classmates were reassuring – they assumed that I had a fear of heights. A fear of heights seems like a human, rational response to being high off the ground and not having wings or a jet pack. I smiled weakly and nodded in acceptance. I am not pathologically afraid of heights. I’m just not fond of them. I am, however, terrified of making mistakes. I was paralyzed by the fear that I could not find the next foothold. In a class that contained mostly, I think, petite spider monkeys, I was intimidated by their agility and boldness. No one has ever described me as bold or agile. I am slow and persistent and in the world of fables, I’d win the race.
Rock climbing is the latest physical venture I’ve undertaken. When I was 43, I started training in Taekwondo. Any time I try something new, I do the research. I read online, I check out books from the library and download to my Kindle. I research a task from every angle. I have a library of Taekwondo books so I can read about how to improve various stances, punches and kicks. Rock climbing, however, is a lot like writing, it’s do or die. No amount of studying can prepare you psychologically for the physical and mental demands or your body’s responses to those demands.
Every article I read on writing speaks to the difficulty, the awkwardness, the sheer torture of approaching a clean piece of paper or screen. This should be my bailiwick. If I can make my unwieldy body do a high front kick or climb, even halfway up a rock wall, I should be up to the challenge of sitting down to write. Like rock climbing, writing requires a level of trust. I have to trust that I can get through it, that I won’t die, that people won’t stand and point and laugh at me. And I have to trust if there is pointing and laughing, I’ll live on to type another day.
I’m going back to that wall to finish the climb – slowly and persistently. And so, another blogger is born.