Letting go of fear and embracing the now

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Feature Image: Josh Lyon

Rachel Maia lead climbing

We give up the things we love for many reasons. It’s not always a conscious choice. Maybe at times, a slow unnoticed apathy creeps in, until one day we wake up and realise we don’t even know how to get back to the things we love.  

I didn’t tie into a rope for an outdoor climb in 20 years. Short years it seemed, running into each other…until before I knew it, two decades had passed without feeling rock beneath my hands, shredding skin.

Short years, but long, long days full of chronic pain and fatigue from an injury that over time became a permanent disability.  I found myself in a dark reality that didn’t always include kindness or supportive people around me, and against that back drop I felt like I was drowning in the beautiful craziness that is motherhood.

For years, I lived and breathed a reality of washing nappies, hip spika casts, hospitals, holding my daughter as she fell asleep for multiple surgeries, speech therapists, occupational therapists, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, neurodevelopmental therapists, ophthalmologists, geneticists, nutritionists and paediatricians.

My second child was born and air ambulances became a new experience that I hadn’t expected, and wondering if I get to keep my child or say goodbye.  By the time my third child was born it felt like full on survival mode. Things that once made me me, like climbing, were long forgotten.

I gave up on climbing like many women for normal kinds of reasons. I had kids. I was broke. I sold my rope to pay for the doctor. I couldn’t make climbing fit into my reality of raising a super powered daughter and my two active boys. And yes, my increasing disability.

I feel very uncomfortable with the word ‘Inspiration’ because I don’t want to be seen as an inspiration for finding my way back.  I want to be seen as relatable because I struggled like many to do so.

I’m a normal kind of girl with normal kind of stuff and things in my life.  And normal fears. I have spent a lifetime feeling fear on the daily. Fear of heights, fear of public speaking. Funny I know, given I have made a life for myself out of both. The fear of the unknown, of new, of different.  And a fear I think many relate to, the fear of not belonging. Of not finding my people. Of not finding my place. 

I have spent a lifetime trying to crack the code on how to conquer it once and for all.

Somewhere along the way through all the crazy and beautiful and the struggle and loss, I started to believe I lived in a reality where the outdoor world could not fit in to my world. And because I believed it, it did not. 

20 years later and one leg down, I began to challenge my outlook on what was possible.

I began to challenge the apathy of spending too much time sitting in comfortable places, I began to challenge the idea that the fear of the unknown was reason not to try.  

We all come to climbing for different reasons. I came back to it because I needed the people. The belonging. The challenge. A place to push at my limits and explore my potential.  

Tying in for the first time again I felt the most overwhelming sense of gratitude for the people, and the belonging that we all yearn for. Sure, I also felt familiar fears but over those 20 years of struggle I had stopped my search for a way to ‘conquer’ fear and found a way to embrace it. 

Photo Credit: Nick Allen

I now allow myself to get comfortable in it, to be present in it, to feel it ALL.  I’ve learned to react to fear as if it were excitement!  The physical aspects are the same! Just think of a moment when you’ve been so pumped and excited and barely able to wait! Your heart’s racing, chest gets tight, your breathing is faster, your palms are sweaty.

For me, when I recognise all those emotions and physical aspects of fear as excitement instead, and program my reaction to be “Let’s goooooo!!” rather than “I caaaan’t!!!” I find myself able to be in that moment fully. To soak it all in. To come out of it ready for pushing to the next goal. Not unafraid. But living it all anyway. 

Just ONE weekend climbing outdoors and my mindset shifted from “I will only ever top rope’ to “I need to buy quickdraws!’  On my next trip I was pooping my pants leading what was probably a mere 14. Did the grade matter? No. Did it matter I was terrified? No. Did I come off it and instantly set a new goal?  Yes! And somewhere along the way, from the first tie in to new goals, the belief that I couldn’t make the outdoor world fit into my reality, that there wasn’t a space for it, that I don’t belong because I’m a beginner… was replaced with the firm belief that no matter what stage we’re at, the outdoors is for everyone! We can all belong there.

Photo credit: Break the Resistance

Put the right people in your life, and the right attitude, and the adventure will begin wherever you are. We simply need to get to a place where we will no longer let the fear of everything that could happen mean that nothing happens at all.