Suspended between level earth and sky, supported by finger and toe holds, I was stuck. I was unable to move up, down or sideways.
It might as well have been Yosemite’s 2,900 foot nose of El Capitan. But it was not. It was the rock climbing mecca of the midwest, Devil’s Lake in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and I was on the bunny slope. I was on my first ascent, and closer to 50 feet than 3,000. It was nearly vertical, and I was about half way up. It felt closer to death than anything I had experienced to that point.
As I clung there, limbs quivering from fatigue and fear, I felt paralyzed. Friends and mentors called encouragement to me, but I couldn’t process their words. I tried to get as close to the rock as I could…where instinctively I believed there was safety. Instead, my feet lost their grip on the rock and I started to fall.
I had a safety line that was attached to a solid anchor (in this case it was a tree). On the other end of the line was a trusted friend who was “on belay” who took up the slack in the rope. His job was to coach me, having climbed the route himself. He was also there to lock down the rope to arrest my fall if needed.
I remembered from my training that I was supposed to yell “Falling!”, so I did . I was completely unable to control what happened next. I had no choice but to trust completely in my friend, the equipment, and our mutual anchor. While it was terrifying for a moment, it was soon replaced by relief. And I was able begin my ascent again.
I was reminded of my short career as a rock climber this week as I watched a documentary on the evolution of the sport titled “Valley Uprising” . I remembered for the first time in years the fear of falling, of failing, and depending on someone else to catch me.
Until a few years ago, I tried to create a life of safety and security; financially, relationally, physically. And it worked. For a while.
Then suddenly I was clinging to a wall in life. Unable to move. Scared to death to relinquish control, and to trust. Moving closer to the things that I thought would bring security only caused me to slip. The only solution was to let go: to fall, and depend on another to catch me. To begin anew.
Once again, I found that my restart required a trusted friend and an anchor. Once again the anchor was a tree – but this tree was on a hill called Golgatha.
And I began again.