Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Friday, August 25, 2017

How to Climb Anything

Mile Marker 5373:

I stand on the floor, fingers curled around the start holds.  Carabiners locked.  Leg locked.  

"Climbing!" I call.

And whoever's belaying me -- Sarah, or Sara, or Marian, or Jacki, or Peet, or Julia, or Carly, or Alyson, or Jake  -- calls back.

"Climb on!"

Those two small words launch me up the rock wall.

My goal this summer had nothing to do with climbing -- and everything to do with writing.  I had planned to write a new blog post each week, submit a few articles, keep up with social media, schedule some presentations, and hey, remember that BOOK??

So how did I get from here...

...to here?

In case you missed it on Facebook, I did my first EVER climbing competition in June at USA Adaptive Climbing Nationals, where (spoiler alert!) I placed 2nd in my category, surprising everyone -- most of all, me!

But the biggest prize, by far, was making friends with so many amazing athletes.  On paper, they all have "disabilities" -- amputations, visual impairments, neurological or orthopedic challenges -- yet they're the most able-bodied group I've ever met!

They're UNSTOPPABLE-- on and off the rock wall!

If I wasn't addicted before, I am now.  Climbing is a concrete and all-consuming challenge.  When I'm on the wall, there's no space to think about anything else.  The only way to go is up.

It's not like sitting down to write -- where instead of a route to follow, I'm faced with a blank page and no clue where to go.  How do authors ever finish anything?  How do they even start?

At Mile 5,373, I hit a wall.  Not the climbing kind.  The blank page kind.

The more I climb, the better I climb.  But how can I channel that momentum toward other goals -- like writing my first blog post in two months?

Come on.  We all have walls to climb.  Maybe my struggle can give you a boost too.

Call it self-help.
Call it a pep-talk.
Call it notes from a novice climber.

Here's what I'm calling it...

How to Climb Anything (even a blank page)

1.  Get the start.  The start of a climbing route is the first move on the wall.  I grapple with starts a lot, especially if they require a tricky left foot.  I stall.  I hesitate.  I overthink.  (Prosthetist Tim calls it "analysis paralysis," and it extends to my writing too.)  Yet here's the thing:  getting the start can be a real confidence booster.   It works for any goal.  There's always a first step.  And once we take it, we're on our way.  Kinda like writing this blog post...

2.  Ask for beta.   Hang out in a rock gym, and you're likely to hear, "Can I get some beta on that one?"  For climbers, beta means information.  It's how we share suggestions and strategies with each other.  How we problem-solve on the wall.  And beta's good for any goal, even writing.  (Think blog comments -- hint, hint!)   If we ask the right people, beta can help us reach new heights!

Sharing bionic beta with a bi-ped :)

3.  Cheat past it.  When I get stuck on a climb, I CHEAT.  Yep.  I grab hold of a neighboring route and "cheat past" the problem area.  Why?  It lets me see what's next.  With any goal there's bound to be stumbling blocks (or writer's block!), but those barriers don't have to stop us.  It gets me thinking:  if a story is too hard to start, could I jump right into the middle?  I guess it's better than standing still!

Of course, you can't cheat in competition!
(Although for this move, I wished I could!) 

4.  See the finish.  No matter how high the rock wall, I know there's a finish hold waiting at the top.   (Maybe that's why I favor climbing over writing!)   Far away goals are tough to reach.  I get it.  I should visualize a complete book, cover to cover.  300 pages?  I can work with that.  Break it down.  Endpoints and endorphins -- they're not that far apart!

And finally... my favorite.

5.  Climb on.  The magic words of rock climbing.  Climb on means you're safely tied in, you're on belay, and you can start your journey.

Climb on
is a launch pad.
A kick in the pants.
Permission (and pressure) to GO FOR IT.

Gotta admit, it's a pretty good send-off.

I am not an expert climber.  My foot slips easily.  My reach lacks distance.  And my leg comes loose without warning.  I've got a lot to work on.

But when I hear the words climb on, I'm ready to face it all.

Yes, even that blank page.

A shout-out to this fabulous group, who gives me a "leg up" and keeps me climbing on!