I’ve put off writing many blogs over the last year for fear of sounding bitter and depressed, but a friend of mine recently reminded me that people are just as, if not more, interested in hearing about the hard times as those were you went out and crushed that shit. So, at the risk of becoming a victim of obloquy, here’s a look back over the last year, now that I’ve finally regained some love for clambering up rocks.
Disclaimer: the only crushing in this blog is (mostly) crushing defeats, and in an effort to prevent myself from digressing into emotional, cliché-laden waffle I’m gonna introduce the Whiney self-Indulgent Meaningless Prattle (WIMP) ‘swear jar’.
No doubt all my biggest fans (hi Mum) will have heard the sob story by now: man falls off rock and man is not happy. Boo hoo. Jokes aside, I’m still surprised at how dramatically a few broken bones has affected my life, both physically and, even worse, mentally – it’s been a lot more than the sum of its parts (WIMP x2). In hindsight, physically, it hasn’t been that bad at all: I was out of action for a couple months from August (other than physio), then did some swimming, started hanging off bits of wood around December, and could climb fairly normally by March/April. I’d go as far to say that, had I put my mind to it, I could be back up to form by now. As it is, though, I think I’m quite a way off in many respects.
The hardest obstacle, if you want to call it that, has been, and still is, the mental side to it all. After the initial shock, I was just happy that I would recover (WIMP), then this quite quickly morphed into apathy, regret and occasionally anger (only at myself, I hope). A visit from a friend of mine, Josh Forde, and a chat with another, Gavin Ellis, brought me mostly out of my state of self-pity.
Since then, it’s been a veritable emotional roller coaster (WIMP) as I’ve been torn between (or trying to disentangle) what I expect from myself, both reasonably and unreasonably, with what I feel like I should or want to be doing. Moreover, the constant annoyance and disappointment at myself for not meeting those expectations and for not having the same drive and ambition I had before has been somewhat, well, annoying and disappointing. The latter has been the hardest to reconcile with: progress has always been key, and not striving to progress as much as possible has always seemed alien to me. The loss of that drive led me to question both why I climb and what I like about climbing – did I just like it because I was doing well and improving? I’m ashamed to admit that the prospect of giving up seemed quite attractive at times, so I thought maybe the answer to that question was ‘yes’.
Michaela Tracy shed another light on this feeling – of course I enjoyed climbing well, just in the same way that one enjoys playing an instrument well – there’s something intrinsically satisfying about doing something well (WIMP). Sheffield’s own Fresh Prince, Will Smith, and Mina Leslie-Wujastyk reminded me that everyone has lapses in motivation at times and it’s best not to try and force it when you do, because it’ll come back gradually and eventually.
Like a disgraced soon-to-be husband skulking back after a stag due in a scene like the Hangover, some motivation returned in fits and starts. This typically initiated a week or two of renewed-psyche induced ‘training’ (read: trying a bit harder than before on the Wave/in the School, plus the occasional core session, within a ‘long-term plan’ that changed weekly), only for it to vanish, leaving me wondering why the hell I bother and whether Eye of Odin will be the hardest route I ever climb – a strangely saddening thought. In hindsight, these downs never last more than a week, are becoming fewer a further between, so it’s best just to roll with em and enjoy the ups.
What I hope was a turning point occurred when Chris Shepherd invited me on a month trip clippin’ bolts in Tarn and Ceuse with Jake ‘the face’ Oughton and Alice ‘hat stand’ Irmak-Thompson. Sketchin’ up 7c’s, eating bread and cheese, kayaking down le Tarn and getting my ass kicked (back slapped) at sting pong in the barn has never been so damned fun. Sure, there’s been a couple times when I just can’t be arsed, or when I’m dismayed by a spanking on a vert 7a, but life would be boring if it was always easy. After another few days of crushing defeats, small victories and moments where you remember that it’s not just about the climbing I might even try and get better again, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. For now, I’m just gonna enjoy being on a trip.
(Pictures to come once I have decent internet!)