This weekend I spent my time away from the office driving miles simply to find new climbing gyms. Industrial parks, nestled totally out of the way, full of brightly coloured boulders on various slanted walls, tunnels and overhangs. Climbing shoes and chalk in bag, hair matted from two nights of camping in the forest and the reminder of last night’s beers around the pool table adding a slightly sluggish quality to the Autumn air.
Nine months after falling superbly from my first indoor climb and it’s safe to say I’m hooked. Harnesses and belay devices hang from my wardrobe. Daily travel daydreams burst with plans of scaling the rocks of Norway, Thailand and New Zealand. My YouTube homepage is full of videos on how to “perfect the ultimate climb”.
And as someone who can’t help but question her motivations and drivers on pretty much everything she does (yes, it does get exhausting), I’ve thought a lot about what it is about climbing that has hooked me in the way it has.
Of course, anyone who climbs will know that there’s no feeling quite like reaching that last hold, the one you’ve been grappling with for weeks, or hitting the top of the rock that towered above you in that intimidating way they do. You’ll know that the climbing community is one of the most welcoming there is. That feeling your body reach new heights is an adrenaline hit like no other. That the fall is almost as fun as the flight.
But, I suppose, it was my own personal reasons I was interested in. The deeper ones that ran a bit further beneath the surface.
I realised that since climbing (alongside my yoga practice) my anxiety had been the most controlled it had ever been. It had been manageable and, for a huge part, virtually at bay. I’d been more aware of its triggers, more able to look after them, after myself.
Why? I suppose I can only speculate. Can only wonder. Piece it together.
What I think, what I believe, is that this has been the year I’ve found my own joy. It’s been a gradual process – so gradual perhaps I’ve not even noticed it until now – but an important one nonetheless.
And it’s not to say I haven’t felt happiness before that. I’ve felt dizzying joy, so intense in my months travelling I feared I’d never feel happiness like it again. Memories that will forever transport me. Will forever comfort me.
But this joy? It’s different. It’s a softer joy. A joy in being sure of my choices. An ability to live more in the moment. Be proud of what I can achieve… what I am achieving.
Because the way I spend my time right now? I know I’m doing it entirely for myself. I know I would rather take a weekend in the forest with my hiking boots and a picnic than out on the town with heels and shots. That spending money on new climbing equipment feels so much more acceptable than a new item for my closet. That waking up 30 minutes early to roll out my yoga mat makes my day entirely lighter than mindless scrolling through social media in bed.
When you’re doing these things? Well, these things are all you can think about. Monkey brain doesn’t have a chance to sneak in when you’re pushing your body and mind to keep hold of that awkward pinch grip on the wall. Meditation is a natural state when you reach that deep level of yoga.
And most of all? You’re not thinking about what your body looks like when you’re holding on with all your might. That roll doesn’t matter when you’re reaping the benefits of swan pose or buzzing for life when you abseil down the rocks.
What you are thinking about is how incredible you – every single part of you – is when you’re achieving these incredible goals. How strong you are. How powerful.
You find a love for yourself. A love for everything you are capable of.
And what could be better than that?