For Better or For Worse

Climbing is what I do.  It is a big part of who I am.  It is a one word descriptor of me that I sometimes use: “I am a climber.”  It doesn’t solely define me, but it has helped define my relationships, my lifestyle, my job, my friends, and many other aspects of my life.

Out there on lead everything disappears.   There is no agonizing over small details: he said/she saids, what’s for dinner or does she think I am cute.  Out there on the sharp end, life is simple.  The complexities melt away.  My zone of focus narrows to my immediate surroundings.  Temperature, texture, breathing, moving, remaining gear, remaining distance, these are the things that are important.

Climbing is, without a doubt, an escape for me.  It takes away the hurt, the agony, the pain, the indecision.  It also takes away the joy, the happiness, the love, the elation.  The sharp end is an indiscriminate ally.  It is always there to remove whatever I am feeling.  It strips me of feeling love as equally as feeling hurt.  Sad as it is, some of my best times have been out there, focused, dialed, and in tune with my body, blinded to everything else.  I turn to it still, over and over again, even though it pushes out the good stuff.  It pushes out feeling love, it pushes out feeling joy, it pushes out feeling success. It pushes out what I like to feel.  I am an addict.

Looking back now, I see that when I was climbing, camping, road tripping, unhindered by a roof over my head, other folks or other things, that life was good.  It was when I was happiest.  It was when we were happiest.  It was just climbing.  No confusion, no complexities.  “Where do you want to climb tomorrow?” was the nagging concern.  Wake up, lazy around, get out of the tent, boil some water, pack some lunch, go climbing, come back, cook some dinner and pass out in the tent, content to do it all again tomorrow. Even that lifestyle helps things disappear.

Getting out there, far above my last piece, looking at a horrific whipper, ledge fall potential, I curse my passion.  Sometimes I back off.  I know the consequences of a fall.  Sometimes I go for it;  I know the rewards of success.   Being scared stupid, knees quaking, trying to downclimb, whimpering for my mother, promising to some God somewhere that I will never do this again or trying to wake myself from a bad dream, those moments and memories still haven’t made me quit.  Those memories make success all the sweeter next time, make me push myself harder, climb smarter and climb more.

In climbing the outcome is not preordained.  But I do know that I will get lost in the function and forget all else.  For better or for worse.

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A bit of a nomad, Jared likes to refer to himself in the third person.

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