“You told me to go back to the beginning, so I have. This is where I am this is where I will stay. I will no be moved.” -Innigo Montoya, Princess Bride
As you move through the timeline of your life I like to say that there are rocks that serve as markers that you put down in specific places. It can be a song, a smell, or an activity that reminds you of a specific moment in time. There are good rocks and there are bad rocks, but it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do when that specific rock gets picked up you are instantly transported back to that moment in time.
Recently, I stumbled upon one of those rocks. It was a rock that I didn’t even realize was there. Many moons ago, I was married to a man named Paul. We didn’t work out for a variety of reasons and after our divorce he passed away. History aside, before we got married we climbed together. Almost every weekend we would drive up to Columbia (to the only climbing gym in the area at the time), climb for a couple of hours, go grab lunch at the only decent Mexican restaurant in the area (this was almost 2 decades ago), and then head back to the gym to climb some more. Some where along the way we stopped climbing.
After my first Spartan race I realized that I needed to get tied in again. First and foremost, for grip strength to help me with all of the pulling obstacles. Second, to get accustomed to heights again to help me with the rope climb and several of the other obstacles that require me to be off the ground. The last time I went up the rope at CrossFit my whole body started shaking from being up that high. That’s not cool. I’d rather conquer my fear than do burpees.
One weekend a couple of months ago I went digging in my shed for my climbing harness and shoes. I don’t know why I had held onto them, but I did. I pulled down the plastic crate which had been moved from coast to coast twice. Peaking out from under 15 years worth of dust and grime was a piece of yellow tape wrapped around one of the loops of the harness. Since Paul and I had had identical harnesses the tape was used to distinguish mine from his. I brought the harness and the shoes in the house, washed them both down, and tossed them in the closet. Winter cross training, I thought.
After months of procrastination I signed up for the basic skills class; after all it had been nearly 15 years. I walked into the gym and instantly I was transported back to 1999 with the flood of memories that came back to me. It was the first time in years that I had tapped into those particular memories. I slipped into my harness snugged it up as tight as I could and realized that it was still too big. I smiled.
The instructor started going through basics and everything came back to me. How to tie the knots. How to belay. Everything. I guess going back to the beginning was a good thing. After class we were allowed to use the wall. As I tied in and put my hands on the the first two holds there was this wave of thoughts that came over me. Thoughts of climbing with Paul, climbing with my Dad and brothers, but more importantly how I felt when I conquered one particular route that had kicked my ass for months. The further up the wall I went the more my soul smiled. I remember this feeling. The feeling of stretching, moving, bending, pulling, pushing, but most importantly conquering. It’s like vertical chess and I love it.
When I went into work on Monday and was talking about how much fun I had a couple of the girls immediately said, “I want to go!” We set up a date for that Friday night. Since neither of them had their belay card yet we went bouldering instead of climbing. Now, bouldering is completely different. It requires way more arms than legs and, well, you aren’t roped in. We plotted, we climbed, we fell, we swore, but most importantly, we conquered.
I’m glad that I made the decision to start climbing again. It is good to go back to the beginning. To start over this time with a fresh perspective, a new body, and memories of all of the lessons I have learned along the way. That being said, as I left the gym on both occasions to head to my car I had a sudden craving for a steak quesadilla. Apparently memories have cravings.