Failure. It’s something we all worry about on some level over something in our lives. For some of us, it’s our entire lives that we worry about failing at or feel we have already failed at, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I had a coaching moment with my doctor over the phone last evening. My doctor’s advice? “Just don’t worry.” How do I not worry? “Just do things because you enjoy them. Climb because you like climbing. Write because you like it and you’re good at it.” So it’s okay to just do things because you like doing them? “Yeah! Of course! And I think that’s actually the best way to go about doing things. Just do them because you like doing them.” I want to do something worthwhile with my life, though. “You already have.” What, by breathing? “It’s an assumption.” What do you mean, an assumption? “It’s an assumption. It’s like a postulate. You are. That’s…you know… It’s just a basic assumption. You are. Somehow, the universe or God contrived to create you, or the randomness of the universe created each and every one of us. That’s…that’s pretty amazing. You are worthwhile. Just be.” I’ll work on it. “Yeah. Just be. Do things because you enjoy them. Climb because you like climbing. Write because you’re good at it and you seem to like doing it – you wrote that tome. Don’t worry about the Pulitzer. Make your own personal best. Just…be. Good luck!”
As background, I’ll let you in on my more major failings that have, unfortunately, been internalized to the point that they are somewhat a part of my identity. It’s a long, hard road to believe in yourself or strive for the things you want (if you dare set your sights on anything) when this is the case. I grew up in a small, rural town in Montana. I went into the military at barely 19 years of age thinking that I would make a career out of it and retire with my 20 years of military service. Three years, six months, and six days later, I was honorably discharged for PTSD from my service as a machine gunner in the Middle East. I was unable to perform my duties, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. I spent the next 16 years getting an education and heavy therapy to include many medications, having to drop and repeat semesters of classes due to hospitalizations for PTSD while attempting to get my VA benefits straightened out, which was quite the fight. I applied for medical school seven years in a row because I desperately wanted to become a psychiatrist and work for the VA so that I could do something for Veterans like myself. I finally was convinced by my intense struggles and the guidance of several professional people that I deeply respect that it wasn’t going to work out with my limitations – mainly the PTSD. I had tried long and hard to get into medical school and work different jobs and everything else after the military, but my mental disorders and the trauma from my military service had scarred me too deeply. So I had spent 16 years getting an education that I very much enjoyed and fought hard for (not to mention paying a lot of money for), just to see it go up in flames as far as having a career in medicine went. After getting rejected twice in the same year by the same medical school, I quit applying. That same year, my psychiatrist of over 11 years retired. Most fortunately, my current doctor had been there for me during the times that my main doctor was gone during those 11 years and he took me on as his patient. It was a rough transition due to the circumstances, but I’m still so very thankful that I at least had a doctor that I trust to see me through that. Then my doctor recommended climbing… What a spectacular new world! Route setting came along, which I was introduced to by one of my best climbing buddies, who was also the head route setter at the old climbing gym. I fell in love with it and was intrigued by it. Route setting took creativity to a whole new level, and I was learning to do it with my friend’s help. It was so much fun!!! I could take something creative from my mind, put it on the climbing walls of the gym, and share it with others through climbing!!! With the opening of the new gym, though, more priority was given to efficiency, and I had to set route setting aside due to my inefficiency. Another failure. Something I wanted badly, but couldn’t ultimately have…
I’m right back where I started – afraid to want anything for fear that I might believe in myself and seek out a worthwhile goal. That’s why I needed the coaching moment last night. I needed it because yesterday, being Monday, was route setting day at the climbing gym and I wasn’t part of it. I needed that coaching moment because I love climbing so much and I want to be a great climber. I can’t help it – I really do!!! I have to lose a lot of weight before that’s going to happen, but I believe (dangerous concept) I can do it with the help of my friends and the discipline that my doctor knows I have. I had climbed the day before yesterday, on Sunday, and I love it so!!! Even in my weak, ill state, I was so happy while I was climbing!!! My fear is that I would lose that somehow or not reach a goal of some sort that might come about. Thus, the coaching moment. My doctor is also helping me take the next step with my blog and structure some series-type projects for it. “I’m going to get a little more hard-nosed about this blog thing. You might be able to make something out of it, or you might not, but it’s clear that you enjoy it. You work at it. You have a lot of discipline. You’re not afraid of hard work. I mean, you wrote a book for heaven’s sake!” he said of my last year’s blog in print, which is a solid 438-page, 8.5″x11″ hardcover. The prospect of doing some projects with my blog is exciting, but also carries with it the risk of failure.
I have to learn to live again, to not fear believing in myself or my abilities just because I’ve had such major failures in the past. Climbing and blogging offer that hope to me – the hope that I might somehow manage my PTSD in a way that allows me to make something of my life, even if it’s just for me and the few people who get to know me. I don’t want to lose these. If I don’t climb and blog for fear of losing them, though, I’ve already lost them. What a catch-22!!! That coaching moment last night reminded me that I do these things because I like doing them, and that it’s okay to do things just for that reason. I love climbing and I love blogging about climbing and related things! I can’t lose them out of fear!!! I refuse to let fear or anything (or anybody) else take these few things that I love from me!!! Sink or swim, I will climb and I will blog!!!