I went rock climbing with a friend the other night. At the end of the evening, he asked me if I had one more climb left in me, and I chose one that was a little bit harder than what I had been doing that night. I got about two-thirds of the way up and then got stuck. I could see the next hand hold that I needed to get to, but it was two or three tantalizing feet above me. I needed to put my weight back into my feet and stand up where I was on the wall, but the trouble was, the foot holds weren’t giving me much help either. They seemed too small for me to stand up on them and reach for that next hand hold. My friend tried to coach me through it from the ground. “Just stand up on your feet,” he said. Well, easy for him to say. He was already standing on two solid feet. I tried to stand up, and failed. Thank goodness for belaying ropes.
As I was hanging there suspended, feeling like I was on the giant swings at the carnival, he tried to show me how to position my right foot on that darned foot hold. “If you do this, then you can shift your weight and grab that one.” I found my holds again, and went for it, using his advice.
No dice. Commence giant swinging in midair again.
I wasn’t ready to give up, so I tried again. Found those teeny holds for my feet and had the right foot positioned just right. I didn’t feel like my feet were secure enough to stand up, so I paused for a moment, trying to figure out what to do next. From below, my friend shouted up, “Stand up! Trust your feet.” Ha. Like that would work.
Except, a moment later, I gave it a try. I gingerly stood up on those holds, trusted that my feet would do what they were supposed to, and by golly, I was up. I quickly reached for that hand hold to secure myself, and moved on. Within a minute, I was at the top of the wall. It was the best moment of the night.
Transition to a different arena of my life: my recent foray into learning the guitar. I’ll never be a virtuoso, but I’m improving in bits and spurts. Recently, I decided to learn one of my favorite songs. After playing it a few times, I decided to try to memorize the chorus. Now, I need to put this in context before going any farther. I have a pretty good memory for facts and details but when it comes to choreography or music, my brain is mush. I’ll be counting out the steps the entire time that I’m dancing, and I can’t remember a musical sequence to save my life. But I think there is power in internalizing something, such as poetry or music. It connects you more deeply with the emotion, the sentiment, and the purpose of the piece, and it becomes a part of you.
For these reasons and more, I’ve been working on memorizing that chorus. At this point, it’s not 100% down, but I usually get most of it right (and sometimes all of it!). What I’ve realized now that I’ve spent some time with this is that the more I actually think about each chord now, the more my head gets in the way. More often than not, my fingers know where to move on the fretboard. When I start to think, “And after the A minor, it’s a….E minor?” is when my fingers get tangled up in each other. When I play this song, it’s a matter of letting them do their piece without interfering. In essence, I need to trust my fingers.
Life often parallels both my climbing and guitar experiences. More often than not, we know what we need to do. Our feet, our fingers, and our hearts know the best course of action, and our brains sometimes only serve to slow us down in this pursuit. The harder piece, then, is to let our intuition lead us, rather than our heads. It’s not a path that can be followed without fail in every situation in life. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, I think we know exactly when we need to think through something – and when we just need to let go and follow what we know to be true.