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Musings of brain fog

Towards Grace

As my father has said many times, “Good thing we didn't call you Grace.” As well as never knowing quite what to do with my lanky body I have also found it hard to find grace in other ways. “Grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I have never been too good at the first part. I have spent most of my life learning to be strong and tough, which as it turns out can both be a strength and a weakness. This has carried over into my climbing. My determination to never complain, be the most enthusiastic, be cheerful at 2 am, remain level-headed no matter what the situation, prove to myself and the male-dominated climbing community that I was good enough, and make people want to climb with me. It seems to have worked – I am seldom without a climbing partner! This level of determination and energy has gone into everything I do, from my school work to my relationships. To always be in control. To always be self-reliant. A couple of years back I hurt my back climbing and could barely walk. One day I was in an op-shop in Wanaka and sat down on a couch while a friend was shopping. When I tried to stand up I was in such pain that I was unable to rise. An older gentleman saw me and helped me up, calling me “Flower”. I was mortified – I was a tough and independent woman, not a delicate flower! Later when I had recovered from the injury somewhat but was still unable to climb or carry a pack I walked up onto Fox Glacier with some friends who were going ice climbing. I felt highly embarrassed that I was not carrying a pack or climbing. I was desperately hoping to not be spotted by any climbers! I did not want to be seen as the 'useless' girl who made her boyfriend carry her stuff. Over the past year, I have been suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and have been struggling to care for myself on a day-to-day basis let alone climb. A month or so ago I was having a sifting (relaxing) weekend in Arthur's Pass with a friend. I decided I was up to a short walk and we chose to go to Punchbowl Falls. After multiple breaks, I got to the top of the first small set of stairs and knew that was as far as I would make it. My friend offered to piggy-back me the rest of the way and I enthusiastically agreed. I did not even think about what other people would think if they saw us. I just enjoyed the ride. It appears that Grace may be slowly sneaking up on me.

I am not a climber

I am not a climber, though I really, really enjoy climbing. I am not an ecologist though I study ecology. Being sick for the past year and thus being unable to climb, and now unable to study, has highlighted this important distinction for me. I have found these limited definitions of myself to be quite damaging and constricting. It has led me to feel inadequate and a lesser person for being unable to fulfill the criteria to realize these identities. I have spent many months just waiting to get well so that I can go back to my old way of life instead of enjoying the present moment. I read recently in an old Climber magazine an article by a woman who had injured herself climbing and seriously struggled with being incapable of climbing to the point of depression. I have similarly seen myself and others become lost when unable to fit into a specific identity. Parents feel lost when their children leave home, and retired people become depressed after quitting their jobs. I have friends who have told me they would rather die than no longer be able to climb. It scares me. What am I? I am a living being composed of millions of other beings, histories, and happenings that took a whole universe, 14+ billion years of history, to come out just the way I am. Isn't that enough? I think so. Of course, I miss climbing. And I very much hope to climb again! I have routes planned for when I get well. But I also know I am able and will continue to be able to live a happy, fulfilled, and meaningful life even if for some reason I never climb again. So, what are you?