I Can’t

I can’t.

Yes, you can.

This was the exchange that went back and forth between my belayer and me.

And that often goes on in my head.

Most of the time, I feel fearless. I’m not scared of heights, spiders, clowns or any of the subjects of the most common phobias.

Sometimes, I even think I’m confident. I travel alone. I go to events alone. I eat dinner alone. I try new things on a whim. I meet new people and turn them into friends.

But recently I’ve started to realize how much I hold myself back.

When I’m climbing, I usually start out a route or a problem strong – thinking, “I can totally do this!”

Then I find myself making the moves…until I get to the last one. That’s when the little voice in my head says ” I can’t.” And that’s when I fall off the wall.

Yet, I still would think I’m trying my hardest. Justifying it by believing I just don’t know how to make the move. I’m not good enough. Or strong enough.

Then my climbing friends started pointing out why I was falling. And it wasn’t because I’m not good enough or strong enough.

“I can’t!”

I yelled for the third or fourth, or fifth time, as I found myself dangling from a rope just a few feet off the ground on the overhung start of a fun route at Rumney.

“You can,” replied my patient belay partner, for the third, fourth, or fifth time (probably at least 10th or 12th time, if we’re being honest).

Finally, I went for it and actually tried the move.

“Well, you just went for a hold about a foot above the one you need,” said my belayer. “So you can definitely do this. And maybe if you had actually tried it before, you wouldn’t have wasted your time and energy.”

That stuck with me as I tried again, made the move, and finished the route.

A few days later, I found myself in the bouldering cave at Brooklyn Boulders working on a problem. I figured out the start that had been giving me trouble, got a little caught up in the middle, but soon made all the moves, then fell right before the last hold.

My friend who was watching said, ” You fell because you thought you couldn’t do it. Nothing forced you off, you just let go.”

Whoa. The full body realization that he is right – and I do this all the time – hits hard.

So I try again, get to the last move, and go for it, yet I don’t expect to actually make it. And I don’t.

But I run over to my friend and say, “I tried this time!”

He responds, ” Did you really try or did you do it half-heartedly?”

I hang my head because I know it was indeed half-hearted.

I jump back on the wall and make it up to the last move. This time I decide it is possible, and I go for it.

And I stick it, easily. Because the only thing stopping me was me.

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