12 in 12: Anger Management

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My last few days of training have been—to put it delicately—ugly. Another bout of sickness (this time a stomach-virus thing that kept me from eating for three days and sucked the life out of my already weakened body), plus work functions on the weekend, made for some hellacious plastic pulling. My body is wrecked, my mood is foul, but my will is strong.

Being hotheaded in climbing gets you absolutely nowhere. It’s not a sport where people like Zinedine Zidane would excel. Maybe it’s because there are no people to get mad at and head-butt, like refs and umps and opposing players, just cold, heartless, and—key word here—bone-crushing rock. Look at our long-term top players (the Sharmas, Hills, and Nicoles of the world): They’re possibly the chillest and most composed people you’ll meet—on and off the sharp end. I’m sure they have some sort of inner turmoil; they just don’t spew it on the world via intolerable wobblers.

For the last few years, my bad climbing days have induced apocalyptic exclamations of “I hate climbing!” and “Why do I do this?” I would fall deeply and irrevocably into the inky abyss that is my bad mood state. I’m a total bitch to those closest to me. I’ve chucked my fair share of chalk bags and kicked a few water bottles. (I’m working on it!) But where did that get me? Certainly not to the top of any friend’s party invite list—or to the top of my project. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So, in my infinite wisdom (aka one of my “wake the hell up, ya dummy” moments), I’ve tried to be more “mature” about my climbing. Instead of throwing a tantrum and getting all pissy that I’m not sending, I just take a deep breath and realize that I’m going to suck at climbing on some days. Maybe it will get better within that same session. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it will be better tomorrow. Maybe it won’t. The point is to keep going.

That’s what I did yesterday. Kept going. It didn’t get better. Not by a long shot. I flailed and punted off easy problems that on other days would have just been warm-ups for the send train. I didn’t scream, cry, or even get upset. (I’m looking at you, Ondra, with your gut-wrenching, ear-piercing banshee wails when you fall off your projects. See Bad Day of Adam Ondra at http://www.adamondrafilm.com/en/videos)

Sit down, take a deep breath. Turn my mind off. Stare blankly for a few minutes. Chalk up and try again. And here I am, friendships and body parts still intact. Maybe I’m even a little bit stronger. Who knows? The point is to accept those bad days as a part of life and a part of climbing. You don’t have to take some grandiose life lesson from them, just accept the fact that they exist and will continue to happen as long as you climb. Because the sooner you do that, the sooner you can move on.

What’s your goal for 2012? Drop me a line at jellison@climbing.com.

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