I feel like I am going through some of the biggest transitions in my life and am still sorting it all out.
The major transition is from my 'no responsibility' and 'seat of my pants' young adult life where I used to have all the time in the world to do any and all of my own selfish wants and desires. Usually, that meant climbing, climbing and more climbing. I would climb, explore for new routes and develop new routes like I was made for it and nothing else. Sure, I had relationships but they all fizzled out. My first love was climbing and the exploration for undeveloped rock. Everything else came second. Even my family paid the price for my rock climbing passion. Trips to see family were few and far between as a young adult.
Don't get me wrong. I was climbing that much for a reason. It truly defined me and I loved it. It was how I expressed myself and I have always expressed myself with passion and vigor. I don't like to half ass things. It's all or nothing. It's just that with all those amazing experiences and explorations it came at a cost to other parts of my life. Nothing comes without a cost and with the way I threw myself at climbing the family and relationship side of my life paid dearly.
In the last seven years, since my 30th birthday, I have noticed a big, obvious transition happening. It has occurred slowly at first and then more rapidly in the last couple years but the transition is, in deed, happening.
When I turned 30, a girlfriend relationship for much of my adult life ended and climbing wasn't quite 'doing it' for me like it had in the past. It didn't take long for me to transition to figuring out what the heck I was doing with my life and what it was all about. I hadn't thought much about this concept up to that point as rock climbing consumed all my thoughts. But, when I opened the door to this process, I hit it hard and went right for the deep end. I was determined to comb my mind for where I wanted to go in my life, what was important and how I wanted to feel. I was ready to walk through the door to the next phase of life, where ever that took me.
Growing up in a Christian household, I wasn't interested in exploring that avenue for spiritual and mental fulfillment. Instead, I dove into the studies and practices of Zen and read up on Zen and Buddhism. I immediately found a deep connection with Zen and other eastern philosophies. I meditated, learned and practiced Tai Chi, fasted a couple times and completely changed my eating habits to healthier ones.
I never stopped climbing, it was still a huge part of my life. I felt the need to redefine how it fit in my life, what motivated me to do it and how I was going to live the rest of my life if I didn't always have climbing as my central focus as I got older. Climbing just didn't seem sustainable at the level I was making it in my life. It just didn't seem healthy anymore. There had to be more out there besides just climbing.
As I dove deeper and deeper into meditation and Tai Chi, continued eating better and contemplating my life, I found Susan.
From the moment we started hanging out I knew I wanted to be with her. She was amazing, beautiful, and kind. Her compassion for those around her, love for family and passion for what she does blew me away. I had never been with anyone like that. All my past girlfriends were still searching for their passions in life and 'immature' (just like I was). No surprise, as I generally dated women that 'fit nicely' into my lifestyle. I didn't want any girl I dated to compromise my ability to climb and explore when and where I wanted. Not cool, obviously, but it was what it was. Susan, was different, I actually wanted to sacrifice for her.
As much as I had good intentions, I didn't do a very good job early in our relationship...
Even though I thought I was getting my sh*t together; becoming more connected with my inner thoughts and feelings, becoming more interested in my family and starting to define a new self, she tested me at a graduate level when I was grossly under prepared and still operating at a freshman level. I was not prepared for such a strong woman. Our relationship started out amazing but then we hit some major walls when I just couldn't figure out how to let go of my wanting to control the relationship and do what I wanted and treat her the way I wanted.
I was really surprised and embarrassed with how I acted because I knew from my recent years of self exploration that I wanted a strong person to share my life that would inspire me and challenge me and I thought I was ready for that. I guess that I still had some learning to do to actually achieve that reality.
Luckily, Susan fought with and for me and a couple years after we started dating we tied the knot. Without her seeing in me that I could change and be more selfless in a relationship, our relationship would have had a similar fate as all my past relationships. I am a lucky person to have found someone so passionate, loving and supportive as Susan.
Since our wedding day I still feel like I haven't graduated...I'm not even close. But, I like to think that I am maybe in the range of late Sophomore. Much better than a freshman.
Although I tend to still eat better than in my youth, I don't sit down and take the time to meditate anymore and Tai Chi has faded in my memory. I have taken the lessons learned from those practices to my heart and they have been replaced with the new practices of trail and ultra running and being a better husband and family member. I even still get to slip in a little climbing and route development to round it all out.
These new 'practices' and the balance of them all with my continued love of climbing and routes development is the central part of my current transition and sorting it all out...
With this new life that is so different than my twenties, I still have moments of conflict in my mind. I try to hold on to a past life and it's way of 'fancy free' living and exploration while developing a new more complex and enriching life. I know in my mind that if I live my 'old way' that I will not be able to sustain and move forward in a life, devoting enough time to my love and experiences with Susan and the rest of my family. But, for some reason I still struggle with trying to hold onto these 'old ways'.
Not to say that I can't and haven't been able to marriage the two parts of my life. I have to a certain extent. Susan is very supportive of me taking time to look for new routes and ultra run, both of which take a fair bit of time to do and are often separate from her and my other responsibilities.
It's just that I am starting to ponder more and more the importance of how often I want to do these activities and where they fit it. I feel that I have balanced my life much better now but I feel that as life gets faster and faster and busier and busier that I need to get better and better at getting the most for my time with these things and not all of it is sustainable.
As we talk about having kids in the coming years it gets even harder and harder to find the line of sustainability with climbing and running and how they balance with the other important parts of life in Susan and family.
My goal in writing this all down is to reflect on how I got here and see if I can use that to help mold how I go forward. I know that exploring the natural world by working hard physically (for the moment it is climbing and running...) is always going to be a part of my life. It is who I am no matter what I would try to do to change it. I have to recognize that. I guess that my goal moving forward is to continue to try to be smart in my decisions in how I fit it into the rest of my life so that it is a productive part instead of a destructive part.
Climbing rocks and running through desert canyons are fun and rewarding and all, and a part of who I am, but I don't want to be limited by that. Letting it cloud my vision of what's really important. I want to love my wife and family and have a deep connection with them. Climbing and running will need to fit into that and be sustainable. What an exciting and interesting transition to work through...now I think I'll go for a run!