"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center."(Kurt Vonnegut)
There is anxious edgy, and there is gritty edgy; same word, two oppositional meanings. Some of us are challenged to turn the former into the latter. It's not like a switch that can be flipped; it takes time, a great deal of courage, and miles and miles of experience.
Our last Sunday in Zion I want to ride the 29'er up Flying Monkey—get him off my back, so to speak. It's a punishing ten percent grade best suited for Imbecilic Jocks with a death wish, and, for reasons most wouldn't understand, it pushes a few buttons I need pushed in order to clear my head.
It's early—still cold and breezy—and I'm about to re-wage a losing war with last years much regretted "End of the Season...50% Off Sale "No Returns!" purchase of super-spandexed "hip hugger" winter cycling pants. You will recall that they turned out to be "Women's" pants, and that the waistband hit me just about mid pubic zone. Having no perky ass to hold them in place like the fem fatals they were designed for, I ride the thin line between indecent exposure and lewd and lascivious butt-crack in public.
My computer bongs. It's an email from Suzanne. Turns out she's got a "monkey" to get off her back, too, and she's made a decision to pull the trigger on a long-put-off assault on Angels Landing. It's the final day of the Thanksgiving weekend... she's understandably anxious about attempting this airy precipice climb with a massive audience—the imagined "chicken-out," followed by a pitiful scenario of a grown woman, hyperventilating, arms locked in a death grip around the exposed root of a cedar tree—a wide eyed look of sheer panic—and mumbling, "Sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."
Fear is a funny thing...not ha ha funny, but peculiar funny. How is it that the most reasoned and rational species on the planet ends up plagued with the most unreasonable and irrational fears? There is an edge to the darkness that separates reality from nightmare, and every single time one crosses over that threshold, a mind-body response in the form of sweaty palms, shaky knees, pounding heart ensues.
If one never ventured out, never climbed a ladder—let alone a mountain—never got in a car or took public transportation, never went out after dark, never risked a negative outcome, chances are they would live a longer life. But there is an inverse qualitative tradeoff for quantity—if you don't believe me, go ask anyone in a nursing home. Thus, we must eventually come to grips with personal fears in order to live a fuller, "no limits" life. This doesn't mean we have to climb Everest, just do from time to time those things that make us uncomfortable, whether it be standing up in front of an audience or on a precipitous ledge.
It was both interesting and gratifying to observe her battle of mind over matter… the gradual metamorphosis from, "I can't," to "I'll try," to "I did," from "Grasshopper" to "Rockhopper." And to hear her say that this victory is something she will never ever forget? Well, fuck you, Monkey!