Climbing lessons

I stumbled across this video today from a recent TED conference.  It’s a talk given by Matthew Childs, an avid rock climber, guide, and marketing professional.  He lays out nine life lessons he learned from rock climbing.  As a climber myself I first watched the video to see what climbing taught him about climbing.  Then I watched it again; this time watching to see what climbing taught him about life. It’s nothing brilliant or new; it’s actually quite simple, but it really does say a lot about climbing and about life in general.


My climbing career has gone through high’s (ranking first in the U.S. and Canada for my age group; even if it was only for one week) and low’s (two separate occasions of injuring opposite ankles to the point the Dr.’s have recommended, “Next time, break it. It’ll heal faster.”), but through it all the sport has taught me a lot about myself, life situations, and relationships. 


Climbing, to me, is about solving problems.  In fact, that’s what we call bouldering routes; problems.  Everything you need to solve the problem is right in front of you, but it doesn’t mean that you are ready to solve it.  Along with the tools that the climb provides, there are certain aspects of yourself that need to be ready in order to utilize the tools effectively.


As a newlywed, I have a whole new set of problems in front of me; to keep on with the climbing analogy.  Watching Matthew’s presentation, it reminded me just how fitting the methods I use to get better at climbing are also applicable to how I get better at my marriage.  Here is how I look at Matt's nine lessons in the way they apply to me:


Lesson # 1 – Don’t let go

Childs says, “You think about giving up way before your body does.” When Gigi and I were dating there were plenty of times it would have been easier to “let go” of the relationship rather than endure through whatever problem was.  I have learned from climbing that the exhilaration of solving a problem I thought was bigger than I was is always much better than saying I tried, but just had to let it go. 


Lesson # 2 – Hesitation is bad

I might re-phrase this to what he says later in the point, “…momentum is good.”  In relationships, just like in climbing, momentum is good.  Keep striving to do things that push the relationship forward.  Get passionate about showing the other person how much you love them and push yourself to constantly get better at it.


Lesson # 3 – Have a plan

Before I actually attempt to solve a climbing problem, I always step back and look at the whole problem first.  I look at what kind of holds are there, where my feet need to be, what parts may give me more trouble than others, and where I may land if I fall.  I try to bring this aspect into my marriage as well.  Whether it is a problem that Gigi and I have together, or individually, I try to take a step back and look at the problem itself; what caused it, what is the best way to deal with it now, and what do I/we need to change to prevent it from happening again.


Lesson # 4 – The move is the end

When I have taught people how to climb, I notice that everyone wants to solve the whole problem.  Of course the do, that’s the idea!  The problem is that when you are first starting out, it is more important to learn how to use the tools than it is to solve the problem.  Once you have a firm grasp of each of the tools, the solution to the problem becomes a lot easier.  Don’t get caught up in solving the problem the first time.  Look at each step toward solving the problem as a smaller problem solved on the way to solving the larger problem.


Lesson # 5 – Know how to rest

A couple of years back one of my standard gym workouts included a 200 foot long traverse. There were some parts of the traverse that were a lot tougher than others, and I would need a rest to keep on going.  I would find a small corner to lean into or a huge hold to pause on to give my hands and feet a small rest, to allow myself to keep going.  With my relationship with Gigi, I have found that rest to be important as well.  There have been times when everything going on in our lives has been overwhelming or stressful.  In those times, we have found that a weekend or a couple of evenings of “our time” helps us rest, regroup, and allows us to keep going.


Lesson # 6 – Fear sucks

I remember the problem vividly.  The Elevator Shaft is a problem in Bishop, CA I attempted three years ago.  About 20 feet high, long dynamic moves, and a large boulder directly underneath where I would fall.  I tried that problem about 10-15 times, but the fear of falling on that boulder, well, sucked. I didn’t end up solving it that day.  A year later I went back, pushed through that fear and solved the problem.  In my previous attempts, I was too scared of falling I didn’t realize how big my next hold was.  I didn’t have much to worry about.  That happens a lot in relationships.  Don’t let fear stop you from making the next move.


Lesson #7 – Opposites are good

Climbing, and bouldering especially, uses a lot of opposing forces to maintain balance.  Different opinions, interests, habits, aren’t always a bad thing.  Gigi and I certainly have our differences, but we are learning how to use those differences to become better at solving problems that arise.  We are using each others strengths to stay balanced in our relationship.


Lesson # 8 – Strength does not equal success

When I was learning about climbing I thought “the stronger you are, the better you are at climbing.”  What I failed to realize is that strength is only part of what makes you a good climber.  Just being strong does not mean you will get to the top.  There are many aspects to climbing, as there are in relationships, in addition to strength that need to be constantly worked on before success can be had.   Getting to the top based on strength alone, is not going to prepare you for reaching the top of the next problem that comes your way. 


Lesson # 9 – Know when to let go

About 3 years ago I was working on a problem in the gym.  The problem was harder than I normally climb, but I was doing really well on it.  I was about three moves from finishing it when I heard something in my right ring finger go “SNAP!”  I can actually remember seeing my finger bend just a little bit farther than I had seen it go before. It didn’t really hurt so I thought I might just ignore it and finish.  Then I decided that “SNAP!” isn’t usually a good sound so I should get down and check it out.  Ended up I partially tore a tendon in my finger.  Had I decided to push through it, it was likely I would have torn the tendon completely and needed surgery.  I have learned that there are times in a relationship when you need to let go also.  Compromise is tough, but it’s better than surgery. 


So in a very large analogical nutshell, climbing is a lot like relationships.  I am positive that I have volumes more to learn about relationships and climbing, but I also know that I have someone climbing with me who is just as willing to learn how to get to the top as I am.  Together we will make each other stronger, use our strengths to our advantage, help the other get over fears, maintain motivation, figure out the best plan forward, get through each step of the way, and learn how to let go of things that may create bigger problems.


Okay, this post REALLY makes me want to get outside and go climbing soon.  Who’s with me?!


TOP TEN things i l.o.v.e. about being married to josh johnson

#10) he 100% supports my yogurtland trips. -- i was truly concerned i'd "lose" this luxury once married. honestly, $3.50 a few (3-4) times a week, spent on frozen milk and crushed candy bars, intended only to satisfy female cravings, on nights i'm already complaining that it's cold outside... and he is TOTALLY cool with it. i didn't expect that one bit! and he doesn't even care for any of the goodness himself, he just watches & lets me indulge :-)
#9) he loves quicken. -- josh thinks tracking finances is the coolest thing since sega genesis. this leaves me with much more free time than i've ever had before. he "suggested over and over" that we switch to online automatic bill pay...brilliant! i just get emails now that say my bills are being paid. i love efficiency!
#8) Two words: Netflix & LOST -- two wonderful new worlds i've been pulled into! netflix used to take the fun out of going to get a movie from blockbuster, but now it's found itself as one of my favorite things to receive in the mail! and LOST...amazing show! i am enthralled by the characters and the unknown. who'd've-thunk i'd ever like a sci-fi show??? i'm tellin ya, marriage is an EYE OPENER!
#7) june. -- oh my june bug! josh did an amazing job at raising june. she is SO SWEET and SUCH A GOOD DOG! and... josh let her enjoy her chewing years in his home with his stuff. so, fast forward 2 puppy years later, and i really got lucky! she is playful and fun, gentle and loving, and is past her chewing stage! in all seriousness--this dog has our hearts and i love loving her WITH josh. its a true treat.
#6) we hold hands. -- i worried that the dating feeling would quickly go away after we got married. i once told josh, "babe, when we get married, are you gonna stop holding my hand?" he said, "never". and i believe him.
#5) he's a human heater. -- for some reason, my body has decided to stop making it's own heat as of 5 years ago. i truly attribute it to traumatizing experience of living in spain during the winter in college, where i was cold and shivering for 60 days straight. anyway, josh is ALWAYS about 15 degrees hotter than i am. cuddling with my husband is right up there on my list of "ways to stay warm in this cold cold world", next to my 82 degree "auto" setting in my car, and my "high" setting on the heating blanket.
#4) "and this is my wife, Angelica..." -- LOVE THAT! we've only gotten a few pieces of mail sent to Mr. & Mrs. Johnson, but i'm really enjoying it...
#3) can you say "slumber party"!?!?!?! -- sleepovers with my best friend seven nights a week? who can complain!? no, really, WHO?! and although josh isn't the most lively in the mornings, he always wakes up with a big fat smile!
#2) he makes me communicate better. -- josh and his oh-so-charming literal analyses of my speech really cause me to think twice about what i'm trying to say. it's annoying at first, no doubt, (especially when i'm frustrated and trying to explain something and when he questions my mixture and abbreviations of words or makes me take the long-cut when i desperately want to take the short-cut to get to my point), but i really do love that he cares enough about what i'm saying to really try to understand me, even if it means taking me SO EXTREMELY literally that i have to really be careful how and what i'm saying. he makes me a better communicator with him and with other people i come across.
#1) he tries hard everyday. -- i KNOW what you're thinking--"you guys have only been married for two months...every day is only 60 days..." BUT if you know Josh Johnson like i know Josh Johnson, you'll know that one of his BEST qualities (which also happens to be my favorite) is his hardworking and loyal efforts put forth in EVERYTHING he does. lucky for me, i'm one of those things... (hey, now...........dirty folks...)


"sleepwalk with me" mike birbiglia

our buddy, angelo, is celebrating his 26th birthday this weekend, and we thought we'd treat him to a night in LA with comedian, mike birbiglia (www.birbigs.com). as it turned out, it was a real treat to ALL OF US! his skit, "sleepwalk with me", had us all riled up--i haven't laughed that hard in a long time! and to top it off, the guys were stoked about the chance run-in they had with another favorite comedian of theirs, eddie izzard. they were words away from inviting the guy to join us at chipotle, but thought they'd leave the man with his privacy...

josh, angelo, and jim
these three were cracking up at each other's jokes the whole night... i'm not sure they needed mike birbiglia to make them laugh, but he sure was funny!

glad i got to join the boys last night. we had such a blast!

after coming home late from LA, we woke up this morning to find our puppy sleeping on her bed like a princess, pillow and all! this dog has SO MUCH PERSONALITY.


the latest discovery...

i've NEVER IN MY LIFE purchased real flowers "just because". that is, until this past weekend..."just because" i'm feeling AWKWARDLY domestic lately.

i have always been a fan of ikea's fake flowers, but on saturday josh and i walked in to a trader joe's to grab some pre-made dishes (again, not typically the domestic type) and i thought to myself, "wow, wouldn't some fresh cut tulips be cute in the house?" OH MY GOSH. WHAT?! WHO AM I!? THIS IS DISGUSTING and REALLY STRANGE!! turns out my lack of an appreciation for flowers did a 180 after researching flowers for my own wedding, and later selecting a ReAlLy RaD centerpiece with orchids and succulents... (see what i mean!? this is nuts!!!) so, as i find myself "running a home" (haha, like running a business, but not), i find thoughts floating around my head about what neat kitchen gadgets i could purchase next, what the best vaccuum on the market is right now, where i can find the best deals on chicken, and what color flowers would just "pop" against the green and brown walls! oh, dear...

this little guy...FAKE. up for replacement soon--he sits awkwardly in the corner...

this trusty fella is fresh from ikea, 2 years ago...

THE "NEW GIGI'S" FLOWERS - A REAL LIFEFORM (drinking water, needing sun and care) IN A VASE!
one of the many BEAUTIFUL centerpieces from my wedding. this sucker is twice as big as it was on the wedding day! can you believe it hasn't died on me?! my pride and joy! (visit www.thevinesleaf.com to see Aly Loge's shop and amazing floral design!)

this weekend's impromptu purchase...

sitting in a glass vase i "just had sitting around". haha, blowin my own mind.

if you know anything about me, you'll know i'm undergoing some SERIOUS changes when this sort of thing happens. stick with me to see what's next!! this could be FUN!