I took my husband ice-climbing for his birthday.

And it was difficult. 

Sure, it was fun. It was intimidating, until I realized how securely we were roped in and how well we were guided. The worst I could do would be to slice myself on an ice ax or crampon, or run my knees into the ice. (Which I did, numerous times, with resulting bruises for over a week…did you know that ice is hard? Take it from me — it is.)

Hanging from those ice axes – trusting the weight of your body to the perilous tip of a sharp object embedded in fragile ice, dangling in space while you (often futilely, in my case) try to kick tiny toe points into a hard, smooth, wall – it will make you realize the limits of your strength, your precision, your trust in your gear and yourself. But it will also bring you to that hard edge of existence, the immediate immersion in the moment. No distraction here; just pure focus on one hand, one foot ahead of the other. 

By the time I made it to the top of the 30 foot pitch, my right hand was shaking harder than I’d ever experienced. My left hand, numb and remote, weakly gripped the ax as I tried 3, 4, 5 times to make good contact and sink into the ice. The ax skittered off the surface, failing to find purchase more often than not.

But it was also exhilarating. To try something new – something hard; to feel the very real limitations of your body when you often consider yourself fit & strong; to immerse yourself in the elements of a winter activity, the wind, cold, and forbidding splintering of ice, casting small bits and chunks into face, helmet, body at every step. It’s a siren song to my mind, my body, my spirit, this act of launching myself into the experience and drinking deeply of the moment.  I find it in running, in yoga, in diving, in pouring myself into the world around me and soaking up its energy.

One of my favorite writers and thinkers, Nicole Antoinette, often reminds me that We Can Do Hard Things. Putting myself often in this place of unfamiliar challenge is one of the most constant aims of my (admittedly privileged, generally trouble-free) life.

How do you seek out the difficult, the unknown, and the revitalizing in your own life?

 

The Ice Wall
Seeking Purchase
Resting On Belay