"On, climb? Climb on!"

September 20

I have always loved movies about sports, my heart goes out to the underdog/s and I urge them on in their practice routines, as they drive or are driven hard, beyond the endurance of the average and then how in the end they always win while emotional music plays in the background. Even movies about dying children and women with cancer don’t make me cry but when the star basketball/hockey/football player is lifted up on the shoulders of his ecstatic teammates, my eyes tear up.

Human psychology is incredible and the lengths to which people are able to push themselves go beyond the imagination (or at least right up to the edge of imagination). The catch is, of course, you don’t really know if you’ll be able to lift that car debris off your kid until or unless the actual moment comes.

And while in theory and movies it seems like almost anyone (and maybe they can) can have the determination in a given situation, say a 100-metre race and they’re in awful shape (as in the most exercise they get is walk from their bedroom to the kitchen and the car in the garage) but if they would just put in that extra effort, just will it that extra bit, pump their arms and their legs, grit their teeth and squint harder through the sweat pouring down their face, if they could just give themselves the final push, they’d make the final 300 yards. But in practice, not everyone can. And I wonder if you can inculcate that will in yourself or if it’s just more of a you either have it or you don’t (even depending on the situation, of course).

Since I’m a proponent of free will, I’ll decide you can. Maybe you need to cultivate that passion, maybe you just really, really need to work out a bit so that you actually feel you have muscles in your body rather than dough.

Maybe if I pretend I’m in a movie? “Maybe you can go run up and down the WashU staircase and pretend you’re like Rocky Balboa!”

So, stripping the metaphorical crap away, I went in-door climbing. And although I had always felt and known that my arms (and the rest of my body too) are not exactly made for lifting heavyweight machinery, it was a whole different scenario to be surrounded by these monkey-like humans who climbed up and down the varying difficulty-level walls, well-defined arms and legs and palpable strength. I felt like I was a bag of dough. Somebody toss me in the pantry or just knead me into a useless sad face and stick me in the oven. And I think I did try as hard as I could, or at least 1/3rd of what I could, but I barely managed to climb a few feet high and then it was just like, okay, so I can keep hugging this wall and sort of hang suspended in mid-air (the rope-belay system is pretty cool though, part of my just wanted to get up really high so I could hang up there for a while and then swing for a while, and then slowly descend. Like an angel in a school play) or admit defeat.

“It’s like climbing a ladder!” says Mr Greek helpfully.

“They don’t have ladders in Pakistan!” says Mr American with the twinkly eyes and two years of climbing experience.

“This is so frikkin` hard,” I mutter.

“Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough,” says Mr American with the twinkly eyes and two years of climbing experience.

At the end of the day, the optimist that I am, I decided to take the whole experience in the best light: possible improvement.

It is refreshing, I told myself, to try something that I completely suck at. It’s been a while since I’ve learned a new skill and I think being able to climb could come in handy. If nothing else, it will be my personal inspirational sports movie that starts off with me moaning about aching muscles after that one day of pushing and pulling myself up half a fake rock face (it really does hurt! Even more the second day than the first – which I’ve been told happens to people who are really weak! Yay.). And of course, like all good movies it will end in triumph. Which I translate as being able to climb a 5.9 (or maybe even 5.10?) difficulty level wall.

Step 1: drink milk and do eight sets of the three different arm exercises Liz has taught me. I’ve already progressed from using cans of Garbanzo beans to actual 5 pound weights.

So far though, it still hurts when I push a door open or reach for something behind my back. But I’m optimistic. The next plan of action is to join the introduction to climbing course, a six-week course that’s going to cost me $110 but can you really put a price on proving yourself? Also, the next time I punch my guy friends, it will be so funny to see them cry.

(I apologize for my perpetuating gender stereotypes here. These readings on social justice and privilege are really making me think about what I think)


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