So I’ve really been preoccupied lately and have not neglected writing, but have been consciously choosing to spend my time doing other things in order to maintain my sanity. As I’ve noted in prior posts, I could have never estimated the psychological effects that my injuries would have, nor did I expect them to be this long lasting. The shift from one lifestyle to another has just gone to show me just how much time I really do spend climbing, training, going on trips, and balancing. Without that constant stimulation, even though I’m staying just as busy, is maddening to me. It’s pretty remarkable how much I invest into climbing when I’m healthy enough to do so.
Life seems to be nothing more than a masterful balancing act, and there is nothing wrong with that, but the more we lose control of that balance the easier it becomes to forget and disregard how puny our expectations really are. Furthermore, I find in my own experience, it’s easy to lose sight of how significant others experience is to them–just as significant as mine is to me. That’s where my mind has been wandering lately, especially as I grasp to exert my anxious energy without climbing.
The majority of the past eight years has been a struggle to identify who I am, and to accept a belief system that is my truth, but that does not mean that my struggle is the only struggle, that my belief system is right, or wrong, and that any of my concerns are more important than anyone else’s. At the end of the day we are all working on constructing meaning from life that is valuable to us, that gives us purpose to wake up everyday and strive, that puts a smile on our faces, and gives us the strength to endure the mundane aspects of daily living.
What I find as a key underlying factor in all of this mind play is my attachment and attempt to control everything. My construct became so important to me, that without all the pieces in that construct my life began to feel inadequate. At the end of the day though, as much as I love climbing and as much joy it brings to my life, it does not define me. I think this idea has been further complimented recently from all of the media surrounding recent climbing accidents. It’s just got me thinking a lot about the correlation between climbing and addiction, especially because I’m an expert at addiction–I was addicted to drugs and alcohol for ten years. And when I say addicted, what I really mean is I was a slave to drugs and had no control or clue how to break that destructive and demoralizing cycle.
With the recent deaths and horrific injuries being publicized in the media recently I’ve really just started to realize how similar climbing culture and drug addiction are. Drug addicts use drugs so much, that they often give up shelter to pursue it because the pursuit is unsustainable, looking to the streets so that they can continue using. Climbers often give up shelter so that they can hit the road living in cars, surviving off jars of peanut butter and out of caves in Yosemite so that they can spend that much more time climbing. But that has no real correlation with where I’m going with this, it just felt like a preface to something bigger: one of the defining characteristics of addiction is the unwillingness to quit despite adverse consequences. Another keystone of addiction is the progression of tolerance.
I am not giving up climbing, but I can tell you that some of the symptoms I’m dealing with psychologically remind me a lot of drug withdrawal, minus the shitting blood, vomiting, stomach cramps, and desperately seeking a fix. However, I should reconsider the latter, because my finger is still broken. You know why? Because I continued to climb on it like a jackass, showing a complete unwillingness to quit despite adverse consequences.
Famous climber Ammon McNeely, known as The Pirate, just had his leg amputated after a BASE jumping accident. Base jumping is a form of skydiving without the plane. I think the symptom of progressive tolerance is really easy to notice in that sport, because in order to push the limit of BASE you start to push the limit of proximity, whether that be the distance from your launch point to the ground, or your falling trajectory and an obstruction, like jumping off a cliff through an arch and still being able to pull a chute in time to slow for landing. In McNeely’s case, he hit the wall and plummeted into a talus field sustaining life threatening injuries. The only reason he is alive is because of the efforts and first responder skills of the people he was jumping with.
Hayden Kenny and his girlfriend Inge Perkins both just passed away after an avalanche. Inge was killed in the avalance, and Hayden committed suicide shortly after–leaving a detailed note with coordinates of where her body was likely to be. These were not unskilled people out in the mountains. These were world class climbers, skiers, and alpinists.
I understand that freak accidents happen, but do they? My accident was a freak accident, but was it? Was it really that I was just pushing the margin of error closer and closer until finally disaster struck?
Whatever the case, nothing is that serious. Rock climbing is not very fun when you’re dead. Drugs are not very fun when you’re dead. BASE is not very fun when you’re dead. Slacklife is not very fun when you’re dead. Love is not very fun when you’re dead…
On the contrary, life is not very fun when you don’t have an authentic and profound pursuit, a passionate drive that you know is crucial to your being, but it does not need to be an endeavor to end your being.
There is a lot of life to spend achieving dreams, and there are a lot of dreams awaiting your discovery, but they are never so serious that we need to expedite our mortality. Meaning is not inherent, it’s created. I choose to invest my heart and soul into these things, and there is nothing wrong with that, but that does not justify marching blindly to my death for those things. It’s not that serious.
Anyways, that’s where my mind has been. I’m learning that I do have a place, and I am still significant, even when I’m not out there climbing everyday. Even when I’m not out there in Joshua Tree this weekend with my friends crushing and enjoying desert solitude, or out there milking the last little bit of alpine rock before the snows arrive.
Instead I’m on the home front, and I’m running into my old water mates, and they are more psyched than ever to see me back in the pumping swells which are currently encroaching from all directions and bombarding the west coast with amazing surf. Instead, I’m working full time, because my life really was starting to make its way into a state of disrepair.
And you know what? That’s all okay with me, because I’m learning that none of this is really all that serious.
I’m grateful for the struggle, and as up and down as the past two months have been for me, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier to wake up alive.