Gripped. Terrified. Panicked.
These are the words I could use to describe the time a small rock slide started while we were in a chute on Mt. Sneffels, or the time I got lost at a resort and ended up on a black run instead of a blue, or the time my dog had an allergic reaction while we were backpacking, but this time it was much more simple. I was on the second to last hold on V2 that I had just been crushing during a bouldering league practice. Frozen, and running out of strength fast, I could have gotten myself out of this situation by grabbing the finish hold and climbing back down the rungs to the ground. Unfortunately, my brain could not process that plan as I hung, knees balled up toward my chest, feet having long since slipped from their respective holds. I became hyper aware of everyone in the bouldering area of the gym looking at me, as the blood started pounding in my ears blocking out everyone who I assume was saying “you’re fine”, “what’s wrong”, and “just let go”. Eventually, I managed to peel one finger at a time off of the hold I was grabbing for just long enough to grasp a down-climbing rung, and swing down hand over hand flailing my legs until I slipped off. Flat on the mat with tears on my face and my breath coming painfully fast, I could feel hands touching my shoulders and I slowly inched backward from the wall to get out of the way.
“You could have just jumped, you would have been fine.” Their words echoed what the logical part of my brain already knew, but couldn’t get through the sheet of panic. It echoes again and again after every job I’m too afraid to go for and every coffee date I don’t set up with a new acquaintance or old friend, every time I chicken out I hear it and I hate myself….
“You could have jumped, you would have been fine”
“You could have jumped”
“You. Could. Have. JUMPED.”
We might not all show it in panic attacks, but there is something in all of us that tries to keep us from jumping. Fear. Anxiety. Insecurity. I could get the thesaurus out, but you all know these feelings and no matter how hard it was, we have all mastered them! And yet, they still plague us. It can pop up on a boulder problem when one second before we were feeling super solid, or on that kick turn that feels too exposed when you were just crushing the skin up, or just before that presentation at work when you were just feeling so confident… the floor falls out from under us. Hopefully, not because there’s an avalanche, but the emotional storm can crush and suffocate us nonetheless. And yet, we stand back up.
We get back on the mountain.
And we jump.
The truth is, I came back to the next league practice to be super frustrated that the problem I panicked on had been reset and didn’t exist anymore; inducing feelings of so much relief that I didn’t have to go back up there, and then guilt for feeling so relieved. However, I did finish three other V2s that day…..and down-climbed most of the way down before jumping.
You don’t have to jump from the top to make a jump. Just jump.