Facing the Climb

Everybody in the gym was muscled and thin, eager to scale the tall walls and fly down in the belay seat.

My eldest son and I were on a “date,” precious time alone at Planet Rock, one of his favorite places, and he was tenderly trying to teach me to face my fear of heights and scale the wall.

climbing-000050228776_Double I did a little bouldering. And I do mean “a little.” I climbed up as far as I felt I could go without the breath sucked in and my stomach knotted. Then I jumped down to the cushy mat, peering up at the very top and wondering how my son flitted up there in no time like a live spiderman.

Later, he would self-belay up a very steep wall and I would nearly fall over backwards from the angle of my neck-tilt peering up at his heights.

It was, in a word, breathtaking. The staring fear in its face. The going forward despite physical hesitations. I was there to be with him, plain and simple, and I really didn’t care if I scaled a wall.

But as we left into the dark night, I felt inspired to try.

To learn the ins and outs of belaying, and step one lift at a time up the wall until I reach the top.

StruggleI remember facing fears at retreats and trainings, riding the surge of a swing from high up in a tree all the way down and across the landscape just to conquer my own limitations.

I did it. I’ve done it so many times. But I have to admit, I crave the comfort of the familiar.

Except.

I surprised myself by wanting to try. Truth be told, I went to share the time with my son and be in the space of his enthusiasm. I went in believing you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and very much inhabiting the space of the old dog.

I left more confident, and surprised by the desire to try. I wanted to scale the fear, climb over it to a height I’ve never reached.

Over the years, I have been amazed by how many things have come and gone. How friends gave way to new friends, clients faded away as new ones appeared. Clinging to anything for too long is unhealthy. It’s not where we are meant to be. We are meant to evolve.

Over the past month, I’ve realized that nothing much matters except for the few people who form the center of my life. There is work, yes, and art. There is passion and pursuit and purpose. There are so many ways to contribute while we walk the earth.

The climb has built into it the belief that you can reach the top and if you reach up for the next hold, you will grab it, you will lift yourself up, you will make it.

Last night, a pair of girls were belaying along a difficult climb and the girl at the top lost her hold. She fell, pulling up the girl at the bottom in a surprise lurch. They shrieked, then laughed. Even the fall was fun.

My son climbing at camp this summer
My son climbing at camp this summer

Last night, there was nowhere else to be except with my son at his favorite place, listening to the lilt of his voice as he sweetly instructed me on how to climb. A man in his 20s passed by and commented, “He’s a really good teacher,” looking serious.

Yes. My son has surpassed me and is now teaching me how to step into the darkness and find the light.

It’s what we want to happen. But now that I’m here, I’m wondering how I got here. And also how I could possibly cling to the darkness any longer than absolutely necessary.

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