Our song came on in the middle of the work day.
My eyes filled with tears before I even knew what I was listening to.
Our song came on in the middle of the work day.
My eyes filled with tears before I even knew what I was listening to.
“How is Cape Town treating you?”
This has been the most frequently asked question in the last week. Having been here nearly 2 months it has been enough time to send out the tendrils of roots, get my bearings and have the atmosphere of the Cape through my lungs and streaming through my veins.
My life in the cape is best described through pictures.
Many of my mornings start with a run through Newlands Forest. A magical place to run, this large area keeps me engaged as I explore a new trail every time I go. It leads to Kirstenbosch gardens on the one side, Rhodes Memorial on the other side and has a variety of contour paths up the mountain inbetween. This morning I found another new treasure – a place to have a cheeky little swim post-run. What a gem!
If I don’t have a long day at work to follow then the options are many.
Scamper up Table Mountain with Douw and co. and improve my rather limited trad experience?
Go foraging in the sea with Charlie for delectable goodies?
Explore new markets and bars with Brigitte?
Go paddling or find any other excuse to be in the water?
Find a nice spot for sundowners?
[EDIT: trying to complete this post on my phone is a lesson in frustration …..post to be continued once I find a computer to do so on]
People often go about their lives in a frenzy of problem solving. They move from one fire to another, putting it out to their satisfaction before racing off to the next one. But to what end? Why solve the individual issues when the real factor is the over-riding attitude towards the situation. Let me give an example.
Say there is a couple. They are having problem after problem. One (or maybe even both) of them is working very hard to solve each problem or maybe they are just stacking up the problems as evidence to how badly their partner is treating them. When the real problem is their attitude towards each other. When last did they wake up and think “I want to make my partner’s life better today. I want to treat them with kindness and see them smile. I want to work as a team.”
And this applies to any interaction. I don’t think of myself as a mean or selfish person but ever since I started my day giving a few minutes to think how I can improve someone else’s life or about what attitude I want to tackle the day with, it has made an enormous difference to my relationships, my interactions with random people and in the end, to my overall well-being.
Often it feels as if we are just scurrying around trying to grab whatever instantaneous joy we can for ourselves. Whether it’s in the ADD way we check our social media and mail to see who superficially loves us enough to “like” us or in the next drink/chocolate/random thrill. If we stepped back and thought more about our over-riding attitude, we would need these quick fixes less, the insanity and noise would die down and we would find some peace.
It’s the difference between controlling your temper so that you don’t snap at someone and changing your view of the world so that you don’t even feel like snapping at them. You just want to know how to help them.
The past 3 months have been crazy and at times tough. Yesterday morning was one of those “perhaps everything happens for a reason” moments. By being forced out of my comfort zone I have been put in situations I could not have imagined. My life has been turned upside down, I have been enriched by my experiences and my heart has grown.
In a way, I feel like I am paying penance for a somewhat selfish life. Use me, use my strength and my willingness to help. If my simple struggles have lead me out here on this morning, then so be it. On this day I learnt that what I considered pain and struggle was laughable. My eyes were opened and I was humbled.
Yesterday morning I sat quietly crying in freshly dug up dirt, listening to a refugee of the recent xenophobic attacks tell his story and the story of the 138 people he now shared a camp with. We were out in a massive soon-to-be garden that had been dug up over the past 4 days, cleared of all the bush and trees and levelled in the hopes that they could grow vegetables there. They had been there for 2 months after fleeing for their lives and being separated from their children. Here were intelligent, kind people with big hearts and honest souls who were being treated like criminals for no reason greater than being from a different country. Here were small children taking me by the hand with all the love and trust in the world, seeking support as we walked down the sandy slopes. Here was an old lady, sharp of mind and strong of body, negotiating in any way she could to bring a better life to this community. A community that was built by the common need to survive. She looked at me through the cataracts in her eyes and all I could offer was a hug.
I cried at the unbalance of the world. I cried in shame that people from my country had treated them like this.
And so we dug, and we planted and we explained. We hoped that our simple herb garden would add some quality to their meals and to the life they were forging on with here.
“What do you mean you’re not a climber?” Over the last 3 months my life had seen a major overhaul. With one of my worst fears coming true I was questioning everything and readjusting to this new world. To the extent where even climbing, my anchor and my identity for a decade, had gotten chucked out the window. It had been more than a little surreal to wake up and not want to go climbing.
Me, the girl who could not stand to miss a single day of climbing, who was frothing at the mouth so badly for any time on rock that she would even go belay herself on New Year’s day while everyone else was quietly nursing hangovers. Yep, I’d had it bad from the get go. For 10 solid years I had barely thought of anything else, cursing any friends’ events or family functions that might get in the way.
There is nothing wrong about being passionate about something, but clearly my passion was unbalanced. And so, with this wake-up call I was seeking a new equilibrium. And for a few months I tried cycling, running, squash, paddling, SUP, spending way more time with friends and family, painting, crocheting, volunteer work, anything different, anything new. And while I have found new kinds of fulfilment and am grateful for every moment I have spent reconnecting with the people I care about, today I woke up and wanted to be a climber again.
There were times over the last few months when I wished that I wanted to be a climber. It had enormously simplified my life. It had given me joy, fitness, fulfilment, friendships, determination, goals and an endless stream of good times all in a neat little package. It had been my therapy and my stress relief. I had climbed happy or sad, through new relationships and break ups, through major moves and funerals, rain or shine, a dislocated shoulder, torn tendons, sprained ankles, strained muscles and head wounds. There was no reason I didn’t want to be out there. But suddenly, with my recent loss, it had lost meaning. Gone were the days where I knew what I wanted to do. Suddenly I would get to a weekend and have to make complicated plans to fill my days. Yes, there were days I would go climbing but I was no longer a climber. The thirst wasn’t there. I was merely someone who was climbing. In my world those two people were chasms apart.
One day I was hanging out at the place I did my SUP lesson. The people there were keen to get me hooked. They spoke passionately about their sport with a light that stirred the longing. But I couldn’t understand what drove them. How could a repetitive motion compare to the mental and physical intricacy of climbing? And from that moment the hunger started to renew. I wanted to conquer the rock, I wanted to feel strong and in control again. I wanted to feel driven to achieve. I wanted to clip those chains.
So I joined Roger at Umgeni and that first thrill of touching rock was every bit as intoxicating as it had been before. Thankfully I wasn’t so out of shape that I couldn’t aim for a bit of a challenge. So on to Thunderstrike I went. I had to fight the pump and nearly came off making a long reach for a crimp but the lead outs didn’t bother me and my focus was crisp. In my sabbatical I had learned to experience every moment more fully, to live the present to it’s fullest. I was soaking up this experience in a whole new light. My body remembered how to move, my brain remembered how to stay focused, my emotions remembered how to stay calm. I loved the unity of body and mind, both strong and honed, feeling like they could take on the world. Bring the Thunder! I clipped the chains of my first hardish route in months and I felt like me again.
The hard won lessons from the last few months won’t be forgotten. The new equilibrium will stay. The joy of sharing in people’s lives and being a better friend/sister/aunt/daughter/person is too important. But I’ve learnt that climbing will always be part of my life. It is reminiscent of the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I knew my treasure was at my feet all along but I also knew I had to go on the journey to find it.
Over the last few weeks I have been having a deep. contemplative look at my life. I have been reassessing everything. Surprisingly, it didn’t take me too long to arrive at most of the conclusions. Perhaps because the lessons had already been planted there. It just needed a shock to the system to force them to be implemented. Sadly, I might have lost something incredible in the process, but I will live the rest of my life making it worthwhile.
And so far it has been amazing. I always thought that climbing had taught me how to live in the now. It had, in small part. It taught me to focus on what I was doing, it brought me so much happiness. But something just wasn’t translating to the rest of my life. Those moments in the Now were fleeting and only when I needed them the most, through the crux. For the rest of my life I was never really present. I was restless. I was always living for the next thing, even when I was doing things I really wanted to be doing. This has robbed me of experiencing my life. I was living the “when this happens then I will be happy” equation.
Happiness is fleeting. And we keep moving the goal posts. So we never arrive, we never attain that happiness. True joy is living this moment right now, no matter what is happening in it. I am finally experiencing my life. What have I been doing all these years up to now? I have been living my life as if I was watching it as a movie, detached and uninvolved. Everything was one big distraction from everything else. I wouldn’t invest in anything or anyone who wasn’t connected to my future. But now, there is so much joy, so much value in investing in every moment with every person I meet, it doesn’t matter if I never see them again. I find myself thrilled to add to someone’s day in any way I can, instead of feeling like it is too much energy somehow. It probably sounds like I was cold and uncaring before. I don’t believe I was, but I was certainly limited. I had a happy life before but there was unfulfilment and restlessness. Now there is joy, now there is direction. Now my eyes are wide open.
I could rant about this till the cows come home, And maybe I am slow on the uptake and so many of you have known this concept all along. I understood it as one would understand a maths formula, But only now is it internalised. Perhaps most of you were lucky to be taught this from a young age. It has been a long and twisted path for me, But at least I have arrived. At least I can live the rest of my life.
It’s been an unusual week. Often in times of adversity we discover the raw beauty around us. This week, when I thought I would be in the deepest agony, I have found more moments of joy than I have seen for a long time. Perhaps it is because the moments were pure, they were now. They were not clouded by the past or my desires for a future that may never be. They were not cloaked in impatience or confusion or needing to be shared. They were simple and true and loving. I have been astounded by the hearts of my friends, by the simple joys of children, by the fun, unscripted moments with passing strangers.
There is much joy in my life. And it only needs me to live them.
When I first met him he told me that for 2 years he had run through his pain.
Today I finally understood the value of that sentence.
The problem is, once you start running you don’t want to stop. You want to break free of the hounds at your heels, the ones that tear a hole through the pit of your stomach every morning when you wake up and he’s not there. You think that if you just push hard enough you can scream away from the questions. The ones that chase each other around your head at all hours of the morning and which will never find answers.
And you know that when you stop running you’ll have to face reality again.
So I guess I’ll just keep running.
“Are you relieved?” everyone kept asking me after the prize giving. At the time it felt like someone asking if your wedding or big birthday celebration was over. Sure, it’s a lot of hard work, but it is for something you want to happen, something that has your heart in it. So it’s not relief you feel when it is over. But now, a day later, after tying up most of the admin and getting the positive feedback and reminsicing over the cool photos everyone is posting, yes, I feel relieved to have nothing urgent to do today. I feel relieved to not smell like dust and not be exhausted. I feel relieved that the constant dread that I might forget something massive is over.
I also already miss the anticipation of my vision for the festival coming to life. But in a way I don’t. I was amazed that all the criteria I wanted the festival to fulfill, it did. How often in life do things work out that well? One of the crystal clear moments in my mind was when I was watching Brian onsight Hyperdiamond, and all around me a crowd gathered to watch the spectacle. Yes, this is what I wanted. Old and new climbers, coming together to celebrate the sport we love so much, sharing in our collective knowledge, skill and passion. Bringing friends together from around the country to enjoy the superb climbing we are blessed with in KZN.
Earlier that day there had been a few other “tick the box” moments. When I had walked into the crag I found the Learn to Sport climb workshop in full swing. Exhilarated new climbers were getting their first taste of rock while experienced climbers stood right next to them, a look of extreme focus dominating their expression while they suited up for the Difficulty comp.
Later on I found a breathless climber stunned by his first taste of trad climbing thanks to the Learn to Trad workshop. As the festival wore on there were many more wow moments as the contestants for the Difficulty Comp ticked off progressively more impressive sends and the general buzz at the crag was one of energy and psyche. One of the real winning moments was when I saw an old friend. The sight of him literally stopped me in my tracks. He had stopped climbing a few years ago due to a combination of factors, not least of which was “lack of psyche” to use his words. He assured me that all he needed to get outdoors again was something like this. And it occured to me, not for the first time that you must “build it and they will come”. People are keen. They thirst for events like this. They want an excuse to get together and have a great time. All it takes is something to bring them all together.
So thank you everyone. To all the sponsors who backed the event and not only made it possible but were keen to see it work. To each and every one of you who told me you had a fantastic time or who were simply beaming with joy. To all the helping hands who jumped in without hesitation. To all the people who traveled far to be here and to those who already booked for next year. Thank you all for being part of this success.
It was one of those sends, the ones where it feels like a number of elements in your life come together and are expressed in those moments.
The whole week I had been sure I would get the send. It is the first time that hasn’t freaked me out, that the excitement of it hasn’t made the moment too big for me. I’m past that now.
I had been frustratingly sick the two weeks prior. It had slowed progress. But perhaps that was a good thing. Perhaps it created the perfect timing for the perfect send. In those two weeks time had been marching on, closer to the Festival.
The Festival was starting to keep me awake. Out of excitement and nerves. It was an event I was organising, one that I had wanted to create for the last few years. One day, I had decided the time was right and cheekily started to tell people it was going to happen. In the back of my mind there was a little timid voice screaming “what are you doing? Do you know what you are taking on?” But before I knew it, the festival had taken on a life of it’s own. Magazines and online media were contacting me, hungry for details of this great festival. And soon I knew I would have to put my money where my mouth was. And why not? Without having discussed it with my boss or business partners, I had drawn my company into this merry whirlwind and they had to follow my lead.
And in that process I had learned to believe my own hype. As I had experienced so often in climbing, if you wanted something to happen badly enough then your want overcame any fear or doubts. And in this space it had drawn out the utter belief and support of my partner and my boss. It’s hard to doubt yourself in the face of that kind of belief.
And so that is how I found myself striding up to the Tower of Power with unshakeable belief. I was finally healthy enough to power through that crux. I knew I had the strength, the core and the ability. Nothing was going to stop me, not even the dyno*.
And even though it felt like a bit of an anti-climax gettinng to the chains because I knew so deeply that I was going to get it, it will go down as one of my more memorable sends. I have rarely been so focused, so calm and so confident on a route that is near my upper grade. There has always been that tiny voice of doubt. But she seems to have moved on now, or rather fallen behind.