Scared. Fucking. Shitless.
No, it’s more than that . . . this is straight-up terror.
Here I am, hanging off the side of a mountain – an epic mountain. When I need to be in control more than ever, I’ve instead lost all sense of brain/body connection.
Wow, blood can actually run cold . . .
I’m hundreds of metres from the ground and there’s nothing but cliff-face above me for at least another 100m.
I literally have no choice here but to keep going up. Keep trying to focus, keep bringing myself back to the rock in front of me; back to the next move that’ll inch me a little higher.
My hands, which are sweaty as hell and slipping off the tiny bit of rock I’m supposed to support myself with, just won’t do what my brain is telling them.
I know you’re probably thinking ‘um, yeah this is happening you moron – you’re on the side of a goddamn mountain!’
But here’s the rub: climbing isn’t new to me. I’ve done this before on routes much more challenging than this one. Besides, there are three of us and we’re tied into the mountain, making us safe.
So, technically, I know exactly what to do here. But for some reason, in this moment, I’m having absolutely none of it . . . and I don’t know why.
What I do know is that my leg is starting to shake and if I don’t calm down I’ll fall right off the side and have start this whole section again.
But I’ve reached the point where I’m so worked up that no matter how much deep breathing, no matter how much of my “calm-as-balls” yogi attitude I try to channel, nothing works.
I have two choices:
- Pull it together and trust that I can get myself up this mountain;
- Shit the bed, get choppered out and end up on the six o’clock news
Now this, this is vulnerability. It’s something I’ve been working on, on a personal level, for a while. But having it manifest this way is a new one.
Nice timing, universe.
One thing I sometimes tell myself when dealing with vulnerability and uncertainty in my life is, ‘just leap and the net will appear, Cass’.
Not. Bloody. Likely. Today.
So here I am: scared, vulnerable, unsure of my next move or how it’ll work out for me.
Now, ain’t this a convenient metaphor for certain times in our life?
But y’know what I do in those times?
I back myself and trust that I can do what needs to be done.
And that’s exactly what I need to do right now. So I admit to my climbing partners, who are used to my gung-ho, ‘get shit done’ attitude, that I’m scared. Really, really scared. And I need a bit of help.
That admission in itself is hard enough . . . why are my issues with vulnerability being tested right now!?
But of course, when you’re surrounded by people who have your back, they rise up and support you when you’re unsure of your footing.
My climbing buddies start guiding me through my next move: hand to the left, pivot on my right foot, dig my toe into that groove . . .
This frees up enough brain space for me to re-focus and pull myself over this mental hurdle.
And slowly, delicately, I’m getting my head back in the game. A few minutes later, I regather my mojo and conquer that epic, goddamn mountain.
When I reached the top, I’m telling you, I’ve never felt more elated and proud of myself in my life.
Because I didn’t let that fear win.
Yep, this is a really extreme example and I was climbing an actual mountain.
But when you’re in uncharted territory, like at the beginning of any new and challenging endeavour, you’re standing at the bottom of a proverbial one. Looking up and feeling utterly overwhelmed by how far you have to go.
Everything that lies ahead just seems so monumental.
This is something I come across a lot in the gym. And it was a reminder for me of how people feel when they take up exercise for the first time, or commit to a huge fat-loss goal.
They’re scared: scared of failing, of being judged, of being rubbish. They’re vulnerable and unsure. Those feelings often paralyse people before they even get the chance to discover that they won’t shit the bed and end up on the six o’clock news.
They don’t get to realise that if they just back themselves and allow themselves to feel supported by friends, a trainer, a training buddy, family, they’ll scale the goddamn mountain and feel like a fucking gangster for doing it.
We can’t control what scares us or when fear will take us over. But we can control our reaction. We can surround ourselves with people who’ll have our backs and guide us through those vulnerable and uncertain times. We can ask for help.
But at some point you just have to back yourself. Then commit to the move . . . and conquer your fear.
I’ll buy you a beer at the top.
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