I went climbing today. I wasn't sure if I would have a good time, be too scared, feel like it was more trouble than it is worth. Time is of the essence in a life where productivity happens only during naptime; when tending to someone else's needs is constant. The first twenty minutes lying in bed in the morning is often spent plotting out how I will accomplish all that needs to be done in the coming day. I am a list maker - always have been. But this goes beyond planning, this is more like routefinding. So that she won't hear me and wake up any earlier than need be, I will leave the bedroom via the side door into the kitchen to start some tea. I will sort laundry now and vacuum later, again as not to be too loud. My trip to drop off clothes at the Goodwill will happen just before nap since I can stay near the car as she gets drowsy and, oh, the drive-through window of the bank will fit nicely into that point of the day as well.
Worth is an important term as well given that rock climbing as a mother of a one and half year old is a huge time commitment, and honestly, a self-serving activity. Will the time away from 'getting things done' be worth it? Will the money spent on babysitting be worth it? Will my body feel that I have served it well enough?
A mom-friend and I were talking about schedules the other day and a statement flew out of my mouth before I even had time to think about it. I essentially said, 'it is much easier to do all the things that we must as a mother, or should as a homemaker, and to not bother with the activities that feed us as women'. In other words, to arrange babysitters, to fit into the husband's time at home, and to worry about whether or not the activity yielded a worthy amount of enjoyment, is sometimes just not worth it. At least when achieving the basic mothering and the homemaking, we are guaranteed a feeling of accomplishment. What if I carve out an afternoon to do something for myself, procure and pay a babysitter, and then don't really have fun? What a waste.
Anyway, Kathy, one of my favorite climbing buddies, wanted to go climbing and I found a couple of young climbers who wanted to join us and who would play with baby Violet while I was off the ground. I had no excuses - climbing we would go. Nevertheless, I would be taking risks on many levels. Of course there is the whole 'climbing being an inherently dangerous sport' risk. Today that one would be the least of my worries. Then there is the risk to my self-esteem as I find out whether or not my post-birth body can "hang" with the pulling, stretching and balancing of climbing. Then there is the risk of the day not being worth my precious time. This last risk scares me the most.
When Kathy took her time leading the moderate dihedral that we had both ascended many times, I was relieved. No speed records will need to be set to preserve my pride. She is a bit out of practice due to her recent international travel. Though I am grateful and happy to have her as our "rope gun", I am somewhat thankful that she is moving gingerly. A bit of my anxiety is alleviated.
Finally it was my turn to tie in. 'Okay, I remember the knot - that's good'. I breezed through the initial fourth class ledges to reach the beautiful finger crack above. Now the truth would be told. 'Could these fingers get me up the steep section?' It is common for me to give myself a hard time even when in decent shape. My last two years have been spent pregnant, changing diapers, cleaning the house during construction projects, sitting at the park with other moms, and watching past seasons of the Lost TV show in any sleeping-baby time. Clearly I was not in good climbing shape. Sure, I had lost the baby weight, but where were my arm muscles? And why does the rock hurt the skin on my fingertips so much?
This route is no mystery to me. I have climbed it many times. Today, however, the mystery lies in me rather than in the vertical granite above. Okay, now the steep stuff. 'What, I made the first move?' 'Another?' A lie-back here, a toe jamb there. It's all working! What is wrong with this picture? I used to be a climber, but now I am a mother. 'Can mothers climb?' Suddenly I was at the top of the climb wondering whose body I had hijacked to get here. Was it possible that my body and mind were still capable of climbing rock? In a year and a half, this was only my second time climbing - and I still had it. Weird. My body feels great. I didn't wear out any muscles to exhaustion. Everyone below was nearly as impressed as I was.
So, lets talk about time again. I spend 20 minutes planning my day. I need an hour in the evening to wind down with reruns of a TV show. Endless hours are spent watching and relishing in Violet. Sure those experiences help me in my day to day existence but, in one pitch of one climb on one sunny day, I just redefined my self. I went climbing today. Today my body showed me that it is internally and eternally strong. That I have stored, for the long haul, many intricate maneuvers that move me vertically with or without fresh muscles. There is an activity that can move to the background all the monotonous tasks of caretaking a baby and remind me that I am also a woman, a climber, and not JUST a mother.
Looking down from the top of the climb, I see Violet below. She has draped herself in nylon runners and wears carabiners as bracelets. She is at home in the out-of-doors and comfortable with the uneven terrain and the bugs. I see her body developing lean and strong and her tendencies are to be active and physical. The challenge now is to help her discover a pastime that will feed her as a female and help to define herself in unique and wonderful ways. I went climbing today and I loved it.
Professor Lotz, M.A. Faculty, Undergraduate Adventure Education Program Coordinator at Prescott College, climber, and mother.