Monday, January 25, 2010

my non-resolutions

I haven't made a list of goals for the year. I actually did make one at the end of January of last year, and was quite surprised to realize I had reached many of them by the time the clock struck midnight on December 31st. Some will continue, and some may fall by the wayside. I think eventually I'll write some down for this year, but it's not a priority.

My project for 2010 is a little different. I want to focus on the following principles--one each month. For me, these have a strong religious connotation and connection, but I think that they can apply no matter your beliefs. I don't anticipate mastering any of them, but merely practicing them, thinking on them, and carrying them with me into coming years.

January: Love with sincerity.
February: Don't stand by & watch. Do something about the bad things in the world.
March: Hold “things” loosely, and cling to what is good.
April: Be selfless. Give preference to others.
May: Know where I'm at--live with zeal and passion.
June: Look for opportunities for grace--to give and receive it. Be hopeful.
July: Pray often.
August: Practice hospitality.
September: Bless those who speak ill of me.
October: Don't be afraid to be part of others' lives. Laugh and cry with them--even if it's messy.
November: Practice harmony.
December: Practice humility.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

beautiful moments

February 2008 (dance rehearsal--Day 1):

In my undergrad, and for a couple years in high school, I danced. This was one of my favorite pieces, and my first semester back after busting up my ankle (I'm the one in the ankle brace). I miss this a lot. That day, I felt like a dancer, more than most days before or since.

August 2006:
there's beauty in being
old enough to know
and young enough to forget
to get lost in those moments
where it seems morning will never come
the blind innocence of believing
that we are infinite impenetrable indefinable
we watch the sky as the music softly wanders across the night
'cause we're the stars and constellations
burning bright twinkling fading
plummeting through deep black skies
our secrets safe beneath the night
but we'll leave our footprints
and I'll draw pictures in the dirt
so when morning arrives, we'll remember
what it felt like.

The night before school started that semester, we went up into the hills to be kids and in between rounds of the Postal Service I caught myself watching the sky and feeling like it wasn't always going to be this way, and I was sad. So I wrote about it the next day.


These are from a while ago...but since I don't link back to old blogs, I thought I'd share here, with some commentary. It's nice to remember things.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

climbing and relationships

Ah, relationships. At the tail end of tonight's gym session, while we were vying for one last good pump before it was time to lock up, conversation turned to climbers and relationships. What works, what doesn't, and why the heck it works out that way.

Our scientific observations boiled down to the following:
Girl non-climber + guy climber = most successful
Girl climber + guy climber = moderately successful
Girl climber + guy non-climber = least successful

...with “successful” being operationally defined as you see fit.

Now, since these...equations, if you will, are merely tentative, as all scientific theories ought to be (if I learned nothing else in that goshdarned research methods class last semester, I learned that much), we can merely speculate as to why.

Why does being a climber take such a toll on romantic endeavors? I know relationships aren't easy, climbing or not. I'll admit that I've chosen climbing over relationships in the past when I realized things wouldn't work out. I'm slow to share that passion, because when all is said and done and the relationship is over, climbing is still there. The rocks--plastic or not--are still there. I'm happy when I'm climbing, and I'm happy when I'm with other people that love it.

Sam offered some insight tonight in saying that confidence is attractive. And, as most climbers will agree, climbing builds confidence. Be it your first day or your first lead, there's always room to grow and cultivate that confidence. Is there a threshold at which it's less intriguing and more intimidating to be a confident, climbing-obsessed individual? Do I have it all wrong? Why does it seem to work better when the guy is the climber, or at least moreso than the girl?

It's not just coincidence that I feel at home in this sport, and it's not just happenstance that I have a lot in common with other girls that do. I think there are personality traits that we share, us climbers--guys and girls. I say this very generally, but I do stand by it. I have met some of my dearest friends since becoming a climber. I've never before participated in a sport in which I experience as much of a mental challenge as a physical one, or that provides the kinesthetic processing opportunities that climbing does to me. Climbing by no means solves all my problems, but it occasionally alters how I deal with them and think about them. I've learned about myself and seen my peers do the same. It's exciting.

I don't know that I want the answers to these questions, but the discussions are certainly interesting. What are your criticisms? Theories? Experiences? Thoughts?

Friday, January 15, 2010

why I don't eat cooked carrots

Based on some recent conversations with a good friend and some past conversations with dear old Dad, as well as a story that Mom LOVES to tell, especially when I bring friends or significant others's a story from my relatively normal childhood (I swear, there will be a point to this. Don't I always make a point at the end?)

When I was about four, my family was preparing for a post-dinner shopping outing. Now, I want to assume this was Christmastime, but I'd have to check my facts with Mom to be sure, as I was only four and my memory is a little fuzzy and tainted with Mom's retellings. I was told that I had to finish my vegetables--let's go ahead and assume these were cooked carrots, which to this day I do not like--before we left.

Like the compliant daughter I was and mostly still am, I finished those veggies. The shopping trip commenced as planned, with my then two-year-old brother in tow. I'm sure they had their hands full with him and weren't paying super-close attention to me. He was, after all, a pretty headstrong and busy kid, at least from a big sister's point of view.

Fast forward about two or three hours. We're home, and Mom's suspicious. I haven't said a word since dinner, which (for those of you who know me in real life) is significantly uncharacteristic. Using her Mom-ly intuition, she realizes what has taken place. I am instructed to open my mouth, where--you guessed it--I still had the veggies. Something about the vitamins having been sucked out preceded permission to spit the contents of my mouth into the trash.

And I spit them out triumphantly. I had successfully avoided the eating of my vegetables, with all the lack of forethought a four-year-old can muster. I'm sure it must have occurred to me that spitting them out earlier or--gasp--swallowing them might have been possible alternatives, but suffice it to say my reasoning skills at age four, though clearly highly developed, were not quite what they are now.

So what's the point? My point is really that as an adult, I'm learning to like this quiet iron will of mine. It takes some practice to get it right and I've nowhere near figured it out, but the more times I see what happens when I put my mind to something, the more encouraged I am. I've held my fair share of proverbial vegetables in my mouth plenty of times when there probably was a viable alternative, and figured out a lot in the process. I don't think I learned conventional limits. No one really told me not to aim high, and the people that did...well, their loss. When I take on new projects or skills or hobbies or jobs or endeavors or a myriad of other things that I don't have extra time for, it rarely crosses my mind that I shouldn't try so hard.

May your life lessons not involve soggy, lukewarm carrots--unless that's what you like. Then good on ya, and you can have mine while you're at it!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

love, fear, & barney boots

“...that can't-eat, can't-sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, world-series kind of stuff...” -It Takes Two, 1995

I'm in love. I mean, I've known it for a while now, so it's really no surprise. It's the kind of love that invades your dreams and makes you seem like a flake when it comes to social functions. It's the kind of love that changes what you talk about and what you do, and you find yourself daydreaming about it all hours of the day. It aches, and it hurts, and it makes your tummy fluttery.

I'm in love with climbing. And lead climbing...well, that's like a really good first kiss. Fireworks, sweaty palms, shaky hands--the whole thing. At least in my experience.

My first lead climb was January 5, and in anticipation, I was quite literally in a can't-eat-can't-sleep state of being. I climbed (er, got) in bed two hours earlier than usual the night before, and slept fitfully all night, dreaming about climbing and tossing and turning until morning. Like usual, my best sleep didn't come until the last hour before my alarm went off, but at least I didn't oversleep. I had carefully chosen my attire (a worn out & hole-y but warm Smartwool and my North Face khakis, if you must know) the night before, and actually slept in my baselayer in order to emphasize the anticipation.

Despite my preparations, I was still 15 minutes late to the meetup at the climbing gym before heading up the hill, but no one seemed to mind. We made one stop just past the fog line, for gas and snacks, before pulling off the road into a familiar clearing to hike the approach. As soon as we had set down our packs and stripped our completely unnecessary down jackets and long sleeves, we organized gear and harnessed up. I was raring to go, ready to get on the wall. I had mentally prepared myself for this--my first sport lead.

I counted bolts, threw on a couple extra quickdraws--just in case--and roped up. I was confident in Ray's belay, and after checking each other, I started gingerly up the easy slab. I wasn't deliberate with my feet, and my palms were sweating like mad. First clip. Deep breath. I moved slowly up the face, self-talking my way through each hesitation. Anchor set and clipped. “Take!” yelled down. “First lead!” I said, just loudly enough so Ray could hear it. “Good job!” Mike yelled up. Ray lowered me off and pulled the rope so he could do HIS first lead. We switched spots, and I watched as he hesitated up the glassy start, slipping only twice--after he had clipped, thank goodness.

Jenny and Ryan both did the route, and then I reviewed with Mike how to set the rappel to clean it. I ended up toproping since I had already led, and upon reaching the anchor, mentally reviewed the procedure for the rappel. Setting a rappel holds the same allure for me as packing my parachute--it's methodical and measured--and once I understood it, I was confident in doing it.

We set another climb, leaving the draws set, and I insisted on going last so I could set the rappel. This time, I was a little more confident on lead. However, upon lowering myself to the ledge from which we were belaying, I was distinctly aware that I was near a personal threshold. The complete process of leading, cleaning, and rapping had taken a lot of nerves for a person who in all actuality is kind of a scaredy cat.

Now, no one really believes me when I say that, because the girl who climbs rocks and skydives can't possibly be scared. In truth, she is. She chooses to do those things anyways, though, because being scared and doing it anyway tends to have better results than being scared and standing still. It's a lot like that first kiss...

Anyways, back to the climbing. By this time, it was about lunchtime and absolutely gorgeous weather. We had been watching the fog roll in and out of the valley below us all morning, enjoying tank top weather from our vantage point. You can't ASK for better climbing weather. Sunny and warm--but not hot--and green, instead of the dead brown of midsummer here. After the second lead, I was a little fried. I hesitated to do more, instead belaying over and over, taking photos of the scenery, and generally trying to look a lot less scared than I felt. Our belay ledge suddenly didn't seem so spacious, and I got shaky just thinking about more climbing. Mike gently talked me into one last pitch, but without making me feel like I had to do it. Softening his sometimes-gruff manner, he confessed that he had felt the same things he was seeing on my face when he had started climbing. I trusted that, and I trusted him, so I took the lead.

This one took a lot of self-talk and deep breaths, but the higher I got, the better I felt. I felt confident enough at that point to clip in to the anchor, traverse to a rogue quickdraw, and traverse back before lowering. At that point, Ryan and I decided to hike up the approach while the other three climbed out, as the walk off was a little more than either of us wanted to do at that point. Ryan is pretty freaked out by heights, and I was happy enough to have a buddy for the scramble out. The two of us ended up waiting a while at the top, talking about his time in the Navy, art, climbing, and life in general.

At some point, we had decided to go see Avatar upon arriving back in town, so as soon as we were in range we looked up movie times and agreed on a 7 o'clock show. That left us a couple of hours to spare, which we filled with burritos and a trip to Target for footie pajamas. The Target detour proved only moderately successful, and I became the new owner of a pair of glow-in-the-dark pajamas, covered in skulls, which I proudly wore to the movie theater along with my down jacket and bright purple Uggs.

Looking our climbing best, we commandeered the end of a row so as not to disturb the other patrons with our aroma, and settled in for what would be my second viewing of the movie. I think I will not want to see it again in the theater--though it's a beautiful movie, it's bordering on a little too much for my over-sensory, can't-sit-still self to see it more than once or twice. That, and you can't help but leave the theater a little wrought after seeing it.

Just short of three hours later, we shivered out to the cars, where we were stopped by a man collecting money for his ministry. Now, I'm really not all that keen on being approached in a parking lot EVER, but felt a little more comfortable with the guys there with us, and this fellow turned out to be pretty good-natured. He even commented on my “Barney shoes”. I didn't get strange vibes from him...the five of us laughed and chatted for a few minutes and then headed for our respective vehicles. I think the boys gave him a couple dollars.

I drove home without the radio, reveling in the good energy of a great day. The next day I was a little out of sorts, as I always am after an amazing trip or triumph. It just makes it a little hard to type when my fingers get all twitchy and achy thinking about climbing...

Monday, January 4, 2010

when yarn isn't just yarn

There is some comfort found in extrapolating the significance of the mundane. I don't know what it is about me that makes me feel like I have to assign meaning to everything. Dates, numbers, events, moments...I can recall being in elementary school, looking out the window at my Dad & brother playing in the yard and thinking, “this is a moment I would like to remember”. There was nothing special about that particular afternoon, either. Fortunately, this quirk of sorts has lent itself to the realization of good moments lately--almost like I take mental snapshots. Riding bikes in the afternoon, on the last day of summer before school started last August...camping in Joshua Tree, squished up next to Nina and Rick by the campfire...last month, out by the new science building on campus, caught up in the overwhelming beauty of an autumn afternoon...driving down the road to the grocery store and being so tickled by life that I couldn't help but laugh out loud. These recent moments I hold dear.

Whatever it is that constructs all this significance in my wrought little mind was hard at work tonight, immensely satisfied in analyzing how detangling a colossal tangle in my knitting yarn might represent something bigger. For the better part of nearly three hours, I calmly picked through yards and yards of the green fiber, all the while (and with initial encouragement from Louise and Tali) considering the greater implications of such a task. This tactile therapy of sorts couldn't have come at a better time.

Somehow, I had managed to work the string into a massive tangle. Instead of preemptively organizing the thread, I had let it become a confusing mess. Eventually, I had to use my camp knife (it was handier than my scissors!) to make a single cut, and still spent a good hour after that working that knot out. Now, without drawing too many stilted connections, I think I've let parts of my life look like that green disaster of yarn these last few months. I hope for the best and assume things will work themselves out and before I know it I've got a gigantic tangle and I keep pulling hoping I won't get to the point where it's stuck and won't pull anymore. And then I get frustrated! How did I let things get so messy? What is this pile in my hands that I can't use for anything constructive?

As I sprawled across my bedroom floor pulling loop after loop, working deeper and deeper, I found some peace. There were moments of frustration and of impatience, sure, but the resolution was worth it. The process of untangling helped to sort out more than just the yarn. There was some balance achieved in the middle of all of that. That ridiculous pile of threads didn't solve all my problems by any means, but it helped to remind me that some of these things take time. Pulling at one loop may disturb another, and may get me closer to resolution or I may be forced to backtrack and try something else. I was almost sad to finish working the knot as it meant I was no longer in the process of resolution. Upon detangling it, I didn't have a project, a measure of progress anymore.

To someone else, these connections may be silly or disinteresting, but to me, they're significant. I prefer it that way. And while I don't necessarily look forward to the next time I have to spend hours removing a knot from my knitting yarn, I'm now infused with just a little more confidence to tackle that task...and maybe a few others in the meantime.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I'm 23.

At 23, I realize I have a fair number of friends and acquaintances who are married or almost married. They have jobs and houses and really cute cats. And for a split second each time I'm reminded, I fight the feeling of being horribly unsettled. I'm a single girl with a really only a bedroom to call my own for now and a lot of socks that don't match.

Three of my closest friends are are scattered across the Western states, each of them with a grown-up job and an apartment and a couple of them with serious boyfriends. They have car payments and salaries and can eat cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner without someone so much as batting an eyelash. Sometimes, I envy that security, that freedom and that perceived independence.

And then I remember that I'm really exactly where I'm supposed to be. Because those freedoms come with a price I don't yet have to pay, literally and figuratively. Because I essentially work for my room and board, I can work short hours at my three OTHER jobs and not have to worry about making rent. My scrappy little Honda is paid for. My debt is minimal at best, and I can go on weekend climbing trips as often as my schedule and pocketbook will allow (which still isn't as often as I'd like). I make just enough to support the odd weekend at the dropzone, pay for most of my food so I don't eat my amazing “family” out of house and home, and get the few bills and expenses I do have out of the way.

At 23, sometimes I have the desire to be a little more settled (don't tell my mom or I'd totally ruin my free-spirit reputation that drives her crazy), to have a reason to browse used furniture for pieces to turn into projects or to experience the odd satisfaction in choosing matching barstools or curtains. I'm pretty normal--I sometimes want those things. But MORE than that, right now I love that I don't feel like I have to be anyone in particular just yet. I don't have to confront the reality that I might NOT be a expedition leader in the Himalayas or live as a writer in a studio apartment in the heart of New York City--two dreams that have occupied my focus for more than their fair share these last several years. I can enjoy being mismatched, and not just with regards to my socks.

On the best days, I feel like I could be anyone I'd like to be. On the not-so-good days, I consider that in all reality I may spend some time in a job I don't love but take because it's the best offer I've got. On most days, however, I remember that I'm an innately happy individual with a knack for being pretty content most anywhere. I try to keep this in mind especially on the days when I'm feeling pressure to decide who it is I want to be, or that I feel like I'm not meeting expectations, set either by me or someone else.

Of course, this all sounds very good on paper, er, on the screen, especially to an impulsive idealist like myself. And even though I eschew resolutions for the new year, I decided upon waking up today that I was going to make a few changes to the way I look at things. I've been so anxiety-ridden the last few months that I didn't realize what a toll it was taking on me. I feel badly for the folks who've been gracious enough to stand by on my angsty days and share each meltdown-du-jour. On my exceptionallly beautiful drive into town this morning, I couldn't help but smile, and about halfway there I found the words I was looking for.

I'd like to choose peace. To practice it, to seek it, to listen for it, and to encourage it. In myself, and in others. I've already got the enthusiasm thing down pretty solidly, so I think I'd be well served to learn to temper that just a little with some well-executed peace. By no means do I contend that I will tone down my energy, just learn to use it as constructively (emotionally, mentally, physically) as I can.

For my part, day one went pretty well, save for the fact that it's gulp, almost 3 a.m. er, pretty late. Ah well, tomorrow's Saturday. Plenty of time for catnaps.

Goodnight, dear friends! May your 2010 be full of blessings and hugs.