Thursday, May 3, 2012

Screen Shot Anxiety on the Wall

It goes without saying that I feel that I have been re-born. My energy feels lighter and my meditation feels more natural. My connections with others are stronger.

But my growth is not done.

I had an out of body experience last week, and hesitated to write about it in fear that I wouldn't be able to accurately explain the feeling, only to realize that that was the essence of writing, is it not?

Even though it is spring here in Oregon, the surrounding rock climbing areas remain wet and there aren't any closer than an hours driving distance. So when you have that post work itch to climb you suck it up, grab a buddy and head to the rock gym.

I hit the gym with my buddy Karen and as I slid my harness on, I felt "off". My harness, which acts as a constant aid of comfort, now felt foreign and wrong. In hopes to buy some time to shake this alarming feeling off, I sent Karen on her way up first. New to the sport she carefully placed her hands and feet on the appropriate holds, working her way up to the top with determination. I enjoy watching her work through the mental game of climbing. I watched below as she gauged the reach above and questioned if that dime sized nub could in fact balance her weight. It's one of the most fun parts about teaching someone how to climb in my opinion. When someone is on the wall it is as if you can be in their mind with them.

That particular day I choose to warm up on a basic 5.9+, a laughable grade to any experienced climber, but I was looking to get into the groove for the evening of climbing ahead and have a little fun. I've warmed up on this route for about a month now. Moulin Rouge. Outlined appropriately by red colored tape, leaving you bending and twisting, stretching and shifting similarly to the women on that enticing stage in Paris. I feel confident on that easy run, almost dare I say, sexy?

Still unable to shake this feeling of unease, I immediately clung to this red dance of a route seeking its comfort and rhythmic flow. I couldn't find it. So instead I manned my way up the climb lacking passion or fun. This is supposed to be a physical warm up as well as a mental warm up, and instead I faced the realization that this was going to be a long night of climbing ahead.

Next I desperately threw myself onto a 5.10 in hopes to wake myself up and as I worked my way up the wall my body went onto autopilot, taking over the climb, working itself to the top meanwhile my mind quickly separated itself entirely from the climb and the experience.

Being a visual person is an incredible gift. I pride myself on my ability to visualize; whether it be photographic memory of a shopping list, or meeting minutes, or the ability to hear a song and place myself back into the mental scene where the song was first introduced to me. With that said, I've also learned that that being a visual person with anxiety, has the ability that allows your mind to remove itself from the situation at hand, pan out, and visually map out your anxiety. A stronger trip than any drug has ever given me. Unforgiving and manic, yet refreshing and concrete.

About 20 feet off the wall that day I suddenly found myself mapping my anxiety; the catalyst was when I caught myself thinking "I miss Jared." Frankly I am surprised I didn't fall off the wall right then and there. I remember specifically thinking "Woah Carlin, lock it up." and from there my mind took off, all the while my body worked its way up the wall naturally, apparently without thought. I was able to mentally visualize what I can only explain as screen shots of events and pictures of my thoughts and "placed" them into the form of a linear map.  I felt removed from my body and it's actions and drifted as my mind took over, allowing me to both visualize and place the chaos.

Somewhere around 40' I had finished strategically placing and arranging  those "screen shots" and had completed the linear train of thought which illustrated why I felt so much anxiety about climbing that day.

Here's what I learned: I missed the coaching of Jared. I find this slightly humorous because I taught him to climb too, though he quickly caught up to my level where we then assisted in coaching each other, helping the other one grow into the sport. I don't miss Jared as a partner, but I realized that I do miss him as a climbing partner. I have become the coach of climbing this past year (odd because I am a relatively novice climber myself), but when I slipped on my harness that day, I needed to be coached, not coach someone else. I realized that I have been giving all the pep talks, but that anxious day in particular, I needed a pep talk to help get me ready and excited (even it if was just a dumb gym climb) and when I felt myself struggle on a familiar route, I panicked. It is a scary thing when you go to do something you love and it no longer feels comforting. Just as easily as I could organize my "screen shot" thoughts I was able to flip that same map into a check off list and talk myself down, eventually getting my mind back into its respective state of sanity.

Moving forward with the climb. Moving along in peace.

My post playlist:
Crazy Eyes-Old Crow Medicine Show
Gunfight In Durango- Chatham County Line
Classy Girls-The Lumineers
Big Sciota- Old Crow Medicine Show
You're the One I Want-  Chris and Thomas
Harrisburg- Josh Ritter

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