I’ve never been much of a reader. I’m not sure if it’s because my entire family consists of bookworms and it was my way of rebelling. Or if it’s because I am too antsy to sit still for any measurable amount of time. For whatever reason, I’m just not that into it. I can usually make it through a medium length magazine article, as long as it has enough pictures to take up the majority of each page, but give me a book and it’s just a lost cause. I’ve finished a total of three books since high school. Yes, three. Unless there was a consequence for not reading a book, clearly I have a very low capacity to actually see it through. Most of my friends have tried over the years to reason with me: maybe it’s the type of book you are reading, maybe it’s the length, maybe you haven’t tried hard enough, and so on. But, the three books I’ve read are all over the map. The first one, Arctic Homestead, was given to me by a publisher after the whole Kyrgyzstan debacle in hopes of getting the book deal for the story. I’m pretty sure we went with another publisher, but the book is fantastic. Lance Armstrong’s first book It’s Not About the Bike, came a few years later. I mean, who can put that book down? I thought it was fabulous, especially for professional athletes. And the last one came while I was stuck on a cruise boat in the middle of the Caribbean for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. Even a non book person is forced to read on those ships. After running around the boat at least one hundred times to keep my sanity, the only thing that could last me from lunch until dinner was The Christmas Train. It’s a cheesy fiction book, but entertaining none the least. So, as you all can see, there’s no real pattern.
Now this is not to say that I haven’t tried to read over the years. I wouldn’t give myself the title of ‘valiant effort’ but I have definitely tried. I’ve started countless books, and made it at least half the way through of a dozen or so. Unfortunately given the choice between finishing a book and cooking, baking, running, hiking, climbing, seeing friends, working on my house, walking my dog, writing, etc, reading always comes in a distant second. And so I have a bookshelf of ‘some day’ books.
For Christmas this year I actually asked for a book. I know, shocking, but it was recommended to me by a friend as a good, inspirational story, so I threw it on there. It didn’t come from my immediate family, they have all but given up hope after twenty five years of trying. My friend, a book person, might learn in a few more years, but for now, I’m a help-able cause.
The couple of weeks following the holidays were stressful to say the least. I had yet another slip up with my shoulder. One so bad I’ve considered going in for my fourth MRI. Embarrassingly, one of the reasons I have not gone in the noise filled tube again is that I don’t want to see the look on the technician’s face when he sees my face again, let alone listens to my new story. It involves a dog, again, but luckily this time, it did not involve falling down the stairs on his drool. Instead, it was the innocent act of him wanting to chase another dog. Unfortunately for me, I happen to be attached to the 105 tonka truck of a dog by a leash held by my right arm.
It’s been about three weeks and I can sleep through the night again, but it’s still pretty sore. I was absolutely crushed the first ten days. Luckily for the local vegan ice cream place, whenever I am depressed I drown my sorrows in their delectable sugary concoctions. After countless pints, I started to wonder if this past year and a half has just been a lesson. I try and learn from most things in life, but how am I supposed to learn from walking a friend’s dog? Or walking down stairs? I started to wonder if this has all just been a lesson in learning to climb with pain. In the past, I’ve always completely rested injuries until I could climb pain free. I’ve been too worried about jeopardizing my career or climbing ability to have pain when I do it; let alone it not being necessarily fun. But after a while how much can I rest? And if I hurt myself doing everyday things, then how am I possibly supposed to start climbing again? So, about a week ago I decided to suck it up and just climb to the point of bearable pain. I don’t think I’m capable of climbing through excruciating pain unless I absolutely have to, so I thought ‘bearable’ would be a good starting point. After the first few pitches I had a smile on my face and a spring in my step. You would think that after countless re-starts over the past few years I would learn how much pure joy climbing brings to my life, but it was like starting anew; and it felt great.
After a few days of climbing in the valley I finally felt like a version of my happy old self. I’ve never been this out of shape in the sixteen years I’ve called myself a climber. I fall on stuff that I should be able to climb in my approach shoes, but none the less I can’t help myself but throw myself at climbs over and over again, it just feels right.
The other day after my first day bouldering in who knows how long, I took a much needed rest day. I went for a hike up to a sunny spot in Yosemite. It’s been disturbingly warm in the valley, but it’s hard not to enjoy it. I packed my thermos of tea, a turkey sandwich, my downie – because you never know if you might get benighted – and a book. Shocking, but my Christmas present found it’s way into my bag. It’s not that I thought, “Beth, you need to start reading.” I think it was more a feeling of contentment. I’ve had a pretty rough couple of years and for some reason a nice quiet walk and time to read in the place I love so much sounding soothing for the soul.