Jonathan Livingston Seagull was one of those hippie dippy books that helped define the early 70’s. A story about a seagull who wanted to be more than just a seagull, who wanted to learn everything about flying that he possibly could, who transcended seagulldom to come back and try to teach other seagulls about seagulling… well. It has a handful of problems, sure.
But it’s engaging and it’s short. Like, don’t read it on the toilet or you’ll finish it 40 minutes later and you’ll stand up and your butt will have fallen asleep and you’ll find yourself transported away from being a seagull back into being a person with an asleep butt trying to pull up your britches.
The main thing that the book has going for it isn’t part of the spirituality portion of the book, though. It’s part of the discussion of flight (well, one of the middle discussions of flight because there are a ton of flight discussions in there). This particular discussion covers the whole concept of “the breakthrough”.
Like you’re up against something and you hit a wall and you just can’t get past it. You go at it this way and that way and you’re just stuck. Then something happens, something clicks, and you *GET IT* and, whammo, you’re past the wall doing things that you couldn’t have imagined doing the week before because you had a breakthrough.
And, seriously, that book handles the concept of the breakthrough in an amazing way that sticks with me to this day, despite having read the book back in the late 80’s (on the toilet, butt fell asleep, etc).
Which brings me back to City Rock. City Rock has a red V0 bouldering route right there at the front of the gym. The basic concept they want to teach is the whole “walking sideways” thing (I kinda talked about this specific route here, all the way back in January). Well, it took me three weeks but I finally figured out the secret to this particular V0.
The first part was simple. Don’t take on the wall straight on. Let your feet pivot and WHAM hit the wall with your hip and now you can just walk backwards. Move one foot. Move one hand. Move the other foot. Move the other hand. Repeat a couple of times. There. You’re 75% of the way to the end.
The next 15% was tricky. I’ve got my hands on the second last and the third last handhold and my feet on the last two footholds… but I want both feet on the last foothold and the way the hands are set up make that tough. The secret? Go into a squat. Do that and your center of balance is low enough that you can easily shift your weight and move your feet around at will. Now both your feet are on the last foothold and you can move your right hand to the penultimate handhold and move your left hand to the goal. Now you’re 90% there.
But to “beat” the route, you have to have both of your hands on the goal. Not just one. And you can’t put both hands on it without swinging your feet off of the last foothold and then you’re just dangling there, holding onto the goal and the only place to go from there is down.
Well, that was my wall.
My boss came climbing with us, hadn’t been climbing for a while, and I pointed him at the wall that had, so far, defeated me and said “that’s a V0… suitable for warming up. Here, let me show you the first 90%.” and I did the first 90% (and he communicated surprise at how much better I was doing at the wall than six months ago when I pivoted my feet and swung my hip into the wall and showed him that I was comfy and could have hung there in that position all day) and then got to the end and chickened out again.
So he got on the wall and powered through it and got to the end and just reached and he committed to that last hold and swung there like he was on monkeybars for a second then dropped to the ground.
My climbing buddy’s wife, this week, was climbing with us for the first time (not climbing for the first time, but climbing *WITH US* for the first time) and I pointed to my nemesis: the red V0. And she powered through it, got to the last hold and committed and swung there like she was on monkeybars for a second and then dropped to the ground.
“Holy cow. You have to commit.”
And then I defeated the V0.
Just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull talked about.
And because it was the first day of the diet, I ran out of gas shortly thereafter. But I beat the V0.
Anyway, this weekend is lucky enough to be a 4-day for me. I put in an extra six hours last week and an extra couple of hours this week and my boss told me that overtime was not authorized and so I’m just spending tomorrow in pajama pants unless I gain enough gumption to go out and hit Costco, PetSmart, and the usual suspects. But I might also just spend the day in pajama pants… because my back and arms and shoulders and hands are all telling me that they are cranky about what happened with the V0. And the rest of the weekend will be spent doing the food prep of the groceries in question and otherwise recuperating from the breakthrough.
So… what’s on your docket?
(Image is “Play” by Clare Briggs. Used with permission of the Briggs estate.)