Letting Go With Both Hands

by , under Newest thoughts

A lot has happened in the 5 months since I wrote “To Let Go” — a post in which I used my experience at a Trump rally to explain my feelings about leaving graduate school. 

Here’s a quick recap of some notable events in my life since then:

  • Trump became the president
  • I moved out of my apartment
  • I completed the requirements for my Master’s Degree

I’ll be focused on the last two bullet points in this post, since I have my doubts about how long bullet point #1 will be applicable… 

Over the last few months I have started to do a nearly unhealthy amount of rock climbing. There are so many aspects of the sport that lend themselves as perfect metaphors for the progress and and obstacles which we face everyday. In other words, the Ups and Downs of life.

As the title suggests, this post is about letting go —
a very important part of life and rock climbing. 

But let’s take a step back first.

Journeys often begin with motivation:
why are you moving? what feeling is driving you?
Journeys can also start with fulfillment:
where are you going? what goal do you want to achieve?

There are many obstacles that may stand in the way, even if you can answer all of these questions. I see this in rock climbing quite clearly. For some, fear prevents them from even starting the climb.

But more often than not, the start of a journey is fun! Moving in a new way is exhilarating. Moving at all feels inherently good. When you start to climb you necessarily feel elevated.

This natural desire to ascend leads to a very particular problem, which is the focus of this post. I’ve seen it happen many times now: a new climber will scamper up a wall, totally enthralled by their ability to bootstrap  themselves off the ground. But when they reach the top they look down and realize, “oh sh*t, how do I get down now…?” This can lead to some unfortunate frustration, as it’s quite common to see someone on the ground yelling up to their partner “JUST LET GO!”

As if it were so simple…

Some people who face this problem make a leap of faith and end up safely on the ground. Others replace their grip on the wall by grabbing onto the rope which is keeping them safely suspended.

There is one response to the “oh sh*t” ‘fear-of-falling’ moment that I find absolutely fascinating.
When faced with the choice of holding on and staying on the wall or letting go and falling, a surprising number of people let go, but only with one hand. For example, they’ll let go with their right hand and as soon as they let go with their left hand the right grabs hold of the wall again! It shouldn’t be as surprising as it is, because that’s exactly how they got to the top: one hand holds while the other lets go, then you do that until there’s no more wall to climb. While this technique is effective at propelling yourself upwards, it totally prevents you from floating safely to the ground. Even more than that, it can really hurt to support all of your weight on the grip of just one hand.

Now, before I get totally lost in my rock climbing world, it’s important to bring this back to life.

As I said at the beginning of this post, it’s been about 5 months since a chain of dominoes in my life toppled and jolted me loose from my spiral  to set me on the eightstep path of infinity. Since then I have been hard at work; focused on my thoughts, feelings, and behavior in order to ‘find my self.’ 

A huge area of resistance for me has been finalizing my ‘dropping out’ of a PhD program, which required me to give a seminar summing up all my work to this point. Logically, this shouldn’t have been a problem for me, since I am quite confident in my speaking skills and very knowledgeable about my work. I had known since the beginning of this website that I needed to learn how to let go, but, thanks to rock climbing, I recently realized that letting go of my PhD program was my logic talking — in other words, taking my right hand off the wall. In order to get safely back onto the ground I needed to let go emotionally — taking my left hand off the wall. 

And this realization absolutely worked! I scheduled my talk to occur at the same time as I was moving out of the apartment that I had shared with my ex-girlfriend. My talk went well (I let go with my right hand) and shortly thereafter, I turned in the keys to our apartment (I let go with my left hand). Now, I’m safely on the ground and I feel exhilarated, free, and exhausted.

I made myself a new person and now I have a brand new life.

Now I just need to remember to rest  before I climb another wall…

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