The Climb It Took to Learn to Fail...

Let me OPEN this blog with my own thoughts. Because you know, that is how I roll. This first section is my opening to Shaina's blog. I will also respond at the end and the line breaks indicate an EPIC amount of AWESOMENESS so I hope  you are ready to be BLOWN away. 

This incredibly brave young woman is my niece. I am proud beyond measure, and frankly, I have been proud of her in her entirety. The moments where she stunned us with her intellect, drive, compassion, wit, sense of humor, creativity, love, loyalty and beauty. When she was little she would come to my house and crawl right up in my lap. As a teenager I was totally stunned by her instant and unbreakable connection to me. I was blessed to be chosen as her Godmother and I have never looked back. From when she was a teen and she was working to figure out where she fit in the world. She skied, she did theater, she got AMAZING grades. The moment as a young adult she made that decision that was heartbreaking, but felt "right" to her. For occasional calls to me to anchor in and connect...For her love of tattoos, good beer and her family. For her love of running, and now, climbing.

So, I know I am more than biased, but trust me in this. Her story is so fucking real. When I went home last to spend time for the fourth of July, this new energy and beauty just came off of her in WAVES. She seemed more confident, more at ease and had a bigger smile on her face. I almost can't explain it. 

She and I began a dialogue about her new climbing journey and I was so completely taken with what she was saying, her open-mindedness and we talked WELLNESS. (shocking, I know). We discussed energy work, sound therapy, essential oils. 

Here is what is so cool. I was so INSPIRED by her. By her story, by her growth and by her big DAMN BRAVERY and willingness to be VULNERABLE to SHARE her story here. In all my life and effort to INSPIRE her and be a role model, this woman was totally TEACHING me something beautiful. 

Someday I hope to be climbing next to her after she has taught me about safety and skill, in the center of Zion National Park where she helps me show other women their "STRENGTH" (her goal as well as mine). So, I can SHARE her with the world. 

That is what her blog is. I cried in several of our conversations via text, I cried when I read her blog and I am crying right now as I write this. I love this WOMAN, I LOVE her. 

I hope her story resonates with you like it did me. And will you PLEASE give her a shout out after you read this? Remind her that she has something to share with the world. I know she knows it, but it never hurts to be reminded. 

One last note...our family has anxiety history. Like some SERIOUS anxiety history. Everything from I can't be anything less than perfect to "Please JESUS, hand me a Xanax" style debilitating (or as Shaina refers to it, drowning yourself in Ben and Jerry's ice cream). In the interest of full disclosure I want to own this as a fact for our family. MANY of us have struggled with it and still do. And as crazy-f'd up as we have all felt at times, I sure LOVE these people in all of our humanity. We're a pretty awesome crew. Case in point. Read below.

#inspirationwomenunite my sweet girl, inspiration.women.unite. You are a BADASS.

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If there’s one thing I wish I had practiced earlier in my life, it’s failing. Call me crazy. But the thing is, when you haven’t done it much, when you’ve expected nothing short of perfection from yourself, any small, or even, perceived failure can be debilitating. Like laying on the floor in a pool of tears and maybe one too many pints of Ben & Jerry’s debilitating. Or looking back on the last four years of your life with the realization that you’ve played it safe debilitating.  

Talk about a wakeup call.   

I think all of us have an innate desire to “make something” of our lives. Sure, we have a different definition of what that something is, but it’s there. Inside us. Maybe that’s part of what makes us human.  

And I think we can all agree that there’s no easy way to realize that desire. It takes time. It takes patience and persistence. And it takes, you guessed it, failing. Over and over (and over) again. So if your first reaction is to turn into a crumbly, weepy mess at the first perceived sight of failure, to turn your tail and run, how are you ever going to reach something fulfilling?  

I believe the professionals call it exposure therapy – a very nice phrase, in my opinion, for putting yourself in a situation that causes the crumbly, weepy mess with the hopes that you eventually become less crumbly and less weepy.  

Good times.  

I guess when you’ve been static in your life for so long, any option is better than no option for moving forward, despite how terrifying it sounds. For me, I can pinpoint my exposure therapy starting when I decided to assistant coach my old high school ski team. Coaching was a huge new aspect of my life that I never explored before, and it was empowering to be a resource, a mentor, a leader to others. I looked forward to each day I spent on the hill with my kids. I’m pretty sure they taught me more about myself than I taught them about skiing. It felt like my eyes had been opened on the person I could be – someone that didn’t always have to play it safe. 

Ski season is short though. And after eight intense weeks, the season was over. To be honest, the first week after the season ended, I couldn’t be happier to binge watch Netflix while lounging on my much-neglected couch. The season had been time consuming, it had been a lot of work, it had been a commitment. I deserved a respite from it.  

By week two, I missed it. 

I know I needed to find a new outlet for my energy, my want of social connection and my desire to become more “me”. The answer came from a friend, “Have you checked out Boulders climbing gym? I’ve heard it’s a really social group, great way to meet people in an active environment.” It did seem like a great option, if by great you mean completely and absolutely terrifying. Who starts up a new sport like rock-climbing at twenty-seven? Aren’t I already over the hill in climbing years? Everyone is going to look at me like I’ve lost my damn mind. 

Maybe I have. 

A million excuses flowed through my head of why I shouldn’t. I looked at their website exactly eighty-seven times, and almost registered for their Learn to Climb class fifty-two times. I counted. A million excuses can weight a lot, but it turns out one good reason can balance the scales. With an air of desperation, I finally asked myself, “What do you have to lose?” The answer was clear. 

Nothing.

And so, my exposure therapy continued, and I showed up to class that first Monday night in all of my vomit-inducing anxiety-riddled glory. To my ultimate (and delighted) surprise, there were seven other people in my class. All of us in our mid-twenties to early-thirties. All of us with absolutely no rock climbing experience. What were the odds? 

Our instructor had been climbing for over fifteen years and moved with confidence that was contagious (plus he was cute, which definitely didn’t hurt the experience). He had a matter-of-fact way of explaining and instructing. He guided through his words and actions. And most importantly, he made you feel like anything you wanted to accomplish on the wall was possible.  

How rad is that? 

And just like that, I was addicted. Addicted to the feel of sending a route. Addicted to the atmosphere at the gym. Addicted to the heart-lurching sensation of falling to the protective mats below. Not that I had much of a choice in that last one, falling was inevitable. Failing was inevitable. Giving up though? That wasn’t even an option in my mind. And slowly (very, very slowly, with some backwards motion mixed in there), failing didn’t seem like the worst outcome in the entire world.  

I’m not going to lie and say I’ve magically applied this lesson to the rest of my life. Truthfully, I’m still struggling to calm my mind and harness the focus I’ve found within the gym. And even there, it’s sporadic at best. There are days where I throw my backpack in my front seat of my car with a little too much force after a not-so-successful gym sesh wondering why the hell I’m even trying. My insecurities well up inside of me, and I wonder if I’ll ever get any better. And if I don’t, then what exactly is the point? 

If you’re looking for the answer to that last one, then I’m sorry to inform you that you’ll have to look elsewhere. I’m still searching.  

But what I do know is that climbing has reduced my anxiety level. Climbing has made me feel brave. And climbing has provided me with an outlet to become more “me”. There have been days that I’ve caught a glimpse in the mirror and seen a satisfied smile play across her lips, an extra little light shining from her eyes. I like her; she seems pretty neat to me. She seems like someone who would climb up scary walls, go on camping adventures and make an impact on the world. I’m still getting to know her. But for the first time in a long time, I think she’s put the fire in my belly. Who knows where that flame will burn? 

Who knows. 

So maybe instead of waiting for the divine answers of life to flow into you, make a choice, take a chance. It doesn’t always have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be “right”. And it doesn’t have to fit within the definition of you that other people have applied to you. Believe it or not, those people don’t always know who you are and what you are meant to be.  

To quote one of my favorite songs, The Dirt Whispered by Rise Against, “We can’t spend our lives waiting to live”. 

-Shaina

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Well, you can SEE why I love her. I can't read that section on how she learned how MAGICAL she was without crying EVERY. DAMN. TIME. But, I don't EVEN care. That fire she speaks of is in ALL of us. 

How will YOU harness YOUR fire?