I’m not exactly what you’d call athletic.
Accident prone is a better term for the way my body works.
There was the time I got a concussion. The time I ran into an electrical box. The time I fell into a lake while trying to get out of a kayak. Oh, and the time when I broke my leg at the bouldering gym.
Let’s just say I have a nice, thick medical file.
One week ago, I started bouldering again. Every time I chalk up my hands, I have to talk myself out of walking out the door. Every time I start climbing, my mind goes to the minefield of the mind knows as The Land of What-If.
When I have to pull myself up on the wall, I’m afraid that I’ll rip out my fingernails.
When I have to leg up over the wall, I’m afraid I’ll take a misstep and tumble.
When I have to…well, you get the idea.
My climbing buddy is fearless. What takes me minutes to scale takes her seconds. She’ll weave her way up the wall, making it up like Spiderman. When someone compliments her on her skill, she just shrugs.
“It’s not that hard.”
But it is.
But every time I go to the bouldering gym, I learn something new.
I learn that I can set physical goals. I’ve always been able to set external goals as my old/boring/30 list will attest to. When it comes to physical goals, I’ve always shied away or walked out because if I couldn’t compete well, I didn’t want to compete at all. What I’ve learned is that it takes time.
I learn that accidents happen. Just because something bad happens once doesn’t mean that it is bound to happen again. History and the future meet at the present but they don’t have to be intermingled in a continuous loop. Isn’t that what it means to live and learn?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is to strive for progress, not perfection.
Grace is for the weak. And I’m weak.
I used to think that handing out grace was like handing out alms, something you did just because you knew it was the right thing to do. But grace without love is patronization of the most condescending kind.
Now I think that grace is allowing room for mistakes. Not because you are better than the other person but because you’ve been there and no what it’s like. Every time my heart beats, I’m growing weaker in strength and stronger in my need for grace.
The truth is that progress takes time.
When I go to the bouldering gym, I often head straight to the kiddies course. I’m scared and I want to practice my grips in a place that I know is safe. My leg is still regaining muscle and there are some things that I simply cannot do.
But guess what? I’m already doing far better than I was last week.
I’m still on the beginner’s courses. I consider it a good day if I can hit all the B’s and most of the 0′s on the difficulty scale. If I do a 1 or a above, I’m singing the hallelujah chorus right along with the angels.
It doesn’t bother me that I can’t always make it to the top. Instead, I’m counting how much more I can do now than I could do a week ago.
I’m giving myself the grace to learn. To progress.
I look like an idiot.
And my legs are starting to get bruised as my hands start to grow callouses.
There are times when I just sit on the mats, chatting it up with the other climbers, while I watch someone (usually a bearded man who looks like he’s come straight from lumberjacking…what can I say, it’s Portland!), twist and contort, muscling their way up to the top of a difficult course.
Sometimes they fall.
Sometimes they look stupid.
And sometimes they sheepishly grin, do a few pushups, and get back on the wall once they’ve psyched themselves up again.
I haven’t seen any of them walk away yelling, cursing, or crying.
Instead, I see them give themselves the grace to progress. It’s a beautiful thing.
What are you giving yourself the grace to progress in?