I’m in at the climbing gym, up on a route I’ve failed before.
And I’m about to fail again.
My forearms are already pumped, my legs are weak, and my mind is scattered. Plastic holds are slippery, and the climb feels awkward.
It requires good balance and footwork—the skills I am yet to develop.
I fall and swing away from the wall. Getting back on the wall is quite entertaining. I start swinging back and forth, trying to grab one of the hand holds every time I approach the wall. I look like an obsessed squirrel that is desperately trying to reach a precious nut. After some humiliation I’m climbing again.
At this point my legs start shaking (climbers jokingly call this “Elvis legs”). This part of the route is the hardest one, and in order to get through I need to balance on one foot and push into it at the same time. Needless to say, my confidence crumbles, and I wave to my belayer in a defeated gesture to lower me down to the ground.
By all means, I blow it. I look up at the wall and wonder why it gives me so much trouble. It seems easy from the ground, but feels so awkward when I’m up there. Disappointed, I untie the knots on my harness.
Being scared, bothered and alienated are the kind of feelings we choose to avoid. Our entire lives are built with comfort in mind. We have elevators to avoid the racing heartbeat and fatigue of going up the stairs. We created hundreds of gadgets that save us from many discomforts of life. We settled into a comfortable routine because the thought of discomfort makes us sick.
And then you have “crazy people” who hike lengthy and dangerous trails, base jump off the cliffs, mountain bike for miles.
Curiously enough, when asked why they do it, many of the extreme athletes can’t come up with an answer. In the society where pain is dutifully dulled by various pills saying that you like something that may injure or kill you is very much like admitting you’re a masochist.
Every once in a while one of my friends wonder why I choose to get up at 5.30 a.m. in the morning for my yoga practice, withstand bloody flappers from climbing and tolerate occasional disturbances of trying to make both of these activities meet in the havoc of my life. It all seems too painful and uncomfortable for the onlookers.
But there is something that can’t be seen from the side. There are moments of quiet joy and bliss that can’t fit into one conversation. There are glimpses of lightness and spaciousness that aren’t seen within a picture frame.
I choose these things because they teach me who I am. The way I stop before moving my hand from one hold to another. The way my fingers won’t leave their comfortable position on a jug-like hold. The way I pause and think before moving forward. Think so long that my forearms get tired of holding my body weight and I fall down before I even try to shift my position.
Climbing, yoga and other “uncomfortable” activities offer me multiple tools to spot my patterns and then break them. They put me face-to-face with my inability to take action and teach me to go through with things even if there is no certainty in a positive outcome.
I choose the sometimes awkward and painful routine of ashtanga yoga because it teaches me to accept the way things are. No matter how crippled you feel in any given posture you always have a choice: to breathe through it or get lost in a self-deprecating mind talk.
I choose the dangerous sport of climbing because it shows me that nothing is certain. Even the most solid-looking piece of granite will peel off and fall down when you put your weight on it. But the fact that something crumpled down this time doesn’t mean I should stop trying all together.
Our lives are not one-dimensional. Joys are layered with pains and losses. Comfort is frequently disturbed by shaky states of uncertainty. Taking either one out of the equation will distort your view. Focus on joys only, and you will soon spiral into a fluffy suffocating plush of denial. Obsess over difficulties, and it will slowly lead you into some form of depression.
I choose to live an “uncomfortable” life because it gives me more than any kind of comfort ever could.
Author: Liza Kautaniuk
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Donnie Nunley/Flickr