“The cool water of the running stream may be scooped up with open, over-flowing palms. It cannot be grasped up to the mouth with clenching fists, no matter what thirst motivates our desperate grab.”-Sheldon B. Kopp, from If You Meet the Buddha in the Road, Kill Him
Five days, I thought. This is taking too long. Five days on a route that I, however illogically, began to work with an assigned value of three or four days, tops. Sure, I’m recovering from an injury, but I finally feel ready to try hard again. Someone told me the grade, someone else told me they thought it was a bit harder than that. It had a powerful, dynamic crux, with a steep, sustained approach. Big pulls between decent holds would do their best to try to power me down for the throw. I recognized that maybe it was a style that isn’t exactly my strength, but in a way, the uncharacteristic movement it forced was exciting, and it made me want to do the route. I took these factors into account and made my assessment, and yet still, here it was at the end of day 5, and I hadn’t redpointed. The route was taking too long.
Day 5 was an angry day. It wasn’t one of my normal lower-with-a-smile-no-matter-what days. The expression on my face must have travelled back and forth between sheer pissed-offed-ness and bewilderment, the deep furrows on my brow more active than usual. I heard the mean little voice inside my head tell me that I’ll never be fit again, that if I haven’t sent by now I should just give up and start working a different route, and then the real voice, the audible one formed by my own breath and vocal chords, say, “This is taking too long.” I had failed to abide by one of my own rules…to keep the negative thoughts quiet. As soon as it came out, I realized how stupid it sounded. After years spent redpointing routes, and even coaching others in the process, I had fallen into the trap I was constantly warning others against:
“Expectations only get in the way of progress. You’ll send when you’re ready. It’s only when you let go of the outcome that you’ll be successful. You can’t force it, you have to allow it. ‘The cool water of the running stream…cannot be grasped…’”
The rest day that followed was dedicated to a range of emotion. I was frustrated with myself, more for the way I was responding to my lack of success than to the lack itself. I know better. It’s not just in climbing. It’s in everything. The way you do anything is the way you do everything, and this isn’t how I do things. I had to regain control, but I could only do that by letting go.
Day 6 came, and I still wasn’t ready to send. But unlike Day 5, Day 6 wasn’t an angry day. Day 6 was a day for falling in love again. Every time I tied in, I told myself I was just getting ready for a high point burn. I promised myself that I would focus on the movement that had drawn me in from the beginning, that I would wait for the brief flashes of perfection, of nothingness, to find me when everything between my fingertips and toes was in the precise place, with the precise amount of tension to make each move with as little effort as possible. Even though I didn’t send, Day 6 was a lovely day.
And on the 7th Day…I was out of my own way, and the thing I had been wanting came to me. Clip! the chains, and then the inevitable thought…what next? Almost immediately, the process begins anew.
The truth is that the more we desire a result, the harder we make it to attain. We become so focused on the result that the process suffers for it. Yes, work towards an objective with all of your energies and resources, but focus on the work while you’re doing it. Success is only a result, a symptom. The “being” is in the work. And, if success comes easily, then what is there to learn from? How boring is that? And what’s the point of continuing onward, anyway?
On Friday, we hiked down from the crag for the last time this season. Three months in one place and we’re ready for a change of scene and some fresh motivation. Charlie mentioned that the crazy part is that we’re not going home. Home is where we are, and we’re going rock climbing. We’re not going back to the town we know so well, back to work, or to a local crag. We’re going to South Dakota, and then the Red, and then, who knows? Years of planning and preparing our dream, and now this is our life. We always told ourselves that something could happen and circumstances could change our course. They still might. But we allowed little pieces of the dream to infiltrate our waking hours and influence our decisions until there was no longer any need to dream, and here we are, wide awake as ever.
Try hard. Get stronger. Get smarter. No expectations, no limitations. Don’t hold on too tightly. It’s not taking too long. You’ll send when you’re ready.
Featured Photo at Top: Caleb Krausman
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