Sunday, June 10, 2007


I've been feeling a little burnt out lately. I can't put my finger on exactly what is causing it. But just a general feeling of going through the motions.

Life is good, and life is short, and it seems stupid to get into these funks. But it happens. I get hit by these funks probably twice, maybe three times a year. I can tell it's coming when I start to feel weak. And not weak like getting sick. Weak minded. Unwilling to push my limits. When riding, an unwillingness to push through and finish the interval. When climbing, a rest on the clip before the crux. At work, I feel like a push-over because standing up for my opinion takes too much effort.

For all my awareness of the world around me, and my eagerness to become a better person and gain the experience and credibility to someday make the world a better place: these funks just make me feel like another fat, apathetic, whining member of Generation Y.

These things always pass, though, and without them, the good times would never be good. There are too many people in my age bracket that don't understand the need for highs and lows. The age of instant gratification has made a bored and unexcited group of young adults. Modest Mouse says it best:
As life gets longer, awful feels softer,
and it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
well I feel pretty blissfully.
And actually I think Tough Cookie quoted that recently. I really have no right to complain after everything she's faced head on (and tackled without hesitation). Anyway, enough bitching and moaning. The article below made me feel a whole lot better. Especially in the wake of a new cross in memorial for a good guy I never got a chance to know. I thought about just putting the link, but I know it's a lot of effort to click, so here it is in it's entirety. From Alpinist 20:

Occupational Therapy

I have been crushed in the last year by the deaths of two best friends. They were both doing what they loved. They both fell off cliffs. This tragic loss has made me think hard, really hard: What if doing what you love is the very thing that kills the people you love?

This has also been a time for others to reflect on my lifestyle, namely my family, my in-laws, and some lady I vaguely recognized in the grocery store, whose face resembled a ferret. My mother started quoting episodes from Accidents in North American Mountaineering. My sister basically said, "I told you so." My father-in-law demanded that his son stop this nonsense immediately. And ferret-face in the grocery store barked, "I hope this means you're going to tell your husband he can't climb anymore. He is a father, you know"--as if I hadn't just seen him wiping our son's young ass that morning.

But, in fact, they all had a point. Maybe the time had come to start telling my husband what he could and could not do; maybe I should just start puttering around the garden in my spare time. For the sake of our children. For our families. For my own fading sanity. So I did what all messed-up housewives do: I went to see a therapist.

I told her my story:+#8200;happily married. Kids. All our friends were either climbers or skiers. All we did was climb or ski. Every vacation we'd ever taken together was a climbing or skiing vacation. I had recently lost two close friends to climbing and skiing, and I was struggling.

She was very wise and immediately saw that my problem was our lifestyle. I needed new friends--nonclimbing, nonskiing friends. She recommended that I join a book club.

My new friends, the book-club wives, were very nice. They welcomed me into their group even though I was perpetually late and still in my ski clothes. To my credit, I always remembered to bring a six-pack, although I'd usually drunk half of it on the drive over. We talked about some amazing books, including every one on Oprah's list. I tried to join in the discussions, but it was difficult since I never actually read any of the books. I attempted to mask my ignorance by drinking a lot of wine, a tactic that made the meetings a lot more fun, until I started to fart and use foul language. My new friends got quite offended. I vowed to behave better the next week.

Next meeting, it was my turn to choose a book. I chose one I had read many times, the much-loved classic, Annapurna, by Maurice Herzog, an inspiring struggle of men, mountains, teamwork, hope and despair. But the ladies were stuck on the toes, or rather the snipping off of the frostbitten toes, the ultimate lack of toes. "What type of irresponsible moron would want to lose his toes just to climb a mountain?" they asked. "Yeah, what a bunch of morons," I said, chugging their wine. A couple of dirty jokes and one small booger flicked in the plant later, and I was once again getting the stink eye. Even my best behavior wasn't cutting it.

I told my therapist that the book-club thing wasn't really working out. She urged me not to give up, that making nonclimbing friends took time. What about a playgroup, she suggested, where moms and kids all get together? I agreed to try it.

The playgroups were a blast. The kids played and all of us moms talked about parenting. All the mothers agreed that it was important to give children choices. They said that they let their kids decide if they want to go to bed at 8 or 8:30, or if they want to stay inside or go outside to play. I felt relieved to know I might actually be doing something right; we also give our kids choices. When we serve them dinner each night, we tell them they can take it or they can leave it. When it is twenty below and the family is headed out skiing, we let them decide whether they want to wear two pairs of long johns or three.

The talk soon turned to vacations. The other moms had been with their husbands and kids to Cabo, Cancun, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Bit-O-Cayman. White sand beaches; warm, blue water; multiple umbrella drinks: it all sounded like great fun. I said that we went to Indian Creek, usually. But what is there to do there? they asked. Crack climbing, I said. Isn't it dangerous? they asked. I guess so. But what do the children do? Well, they play in the dirt while we climb, or, when we do a tower, we duct tape them to the steering wheel. Then I noticed that my son was peeing on the other children, and we had to leave.

My therapist looked worried as I related the events with the playgroup. In a hopeful tone, she suggested a pottery class. Meanwhile, I had come to my own conclusions.

After $1,500 worth of therapy and after rejection from everyone else, I know that I want to continue climbing and skiing as long as my bones will allow it. I have never considered myself a hard-core climber, but when faced with turning my back on the climbing life, I discovered that it had infiltrated my very being, like a tumor. I want to keep the friends I have, even if they are unemployed. I think my kids are cute when they are filthy. I don't mind eating burritos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes, I put an umbrella in my beer and do a little hula dance. I think I'd get bored if I didn't have any scabs to pick at. I love my husband's strong, rough hands. I'm glad my friends just roll down the windows and laugh when I fart.

I want to make more friends, young and old, who love all that too. I want to drink beers around the campfire, having so much fun that I don't even notice when my daughter's coat catches fire. I hope I never feel the need to tell my husband he can't climb. I want to trust in his judgment and hope for the best. I want to be the greatest parent I can, using my own seemingly unorthodox methods--and perhaps even do some good along the way.

I still cry for my two friends. I had planned on growing old with them, taking our kids into the mountains to climb and ski and laugh. They would never want me to stop. I can hear them now: "Get out there, you middle-aged sack--what are you waiting for?"

And that's just what I am going to do.

--Mrs. Betty Sender, Jackson, Wyoming


tough cookie said...

everybody's entitled to some moaning and whimpering every so often mr. thomas... glad you thought up the modest mouse in your woefully blissful moment as well.

airing out said...

Everyone feels funky sometimes.

E V E R Y O N E. Well, except for the liars.

Big stuff and little stuff can do it... try not to make it worse by feeling guilty about it. Guilt is USELESS. Feel it, learn from it and then let the funk pass so you can move on to better things.

I like the story you pasted. Thank you.

Suki said...

that whole parenting/climbing/lifestyle story...

made me think.

made me think hard.

damn you for that.