Pull-ups

You can spend years thinking certain things aren’t for you. You know yourself, and it’s just not you, to do this, to try that.

And it’s good, in a sense, to know who you are, to know your limits.

But, limits.

I’ve spent 30 years fearing heights. Avoiding them, dreading them. I once cried standing two meters above the floor. I only realised I hadn’t really left the ground when I looked at the photo.

But recently, I found myself in a harness, on a rope, going up. I didn’t lose it – I thought I would. 20 meters above the floor, I looked down and beamed.

That moment in time. 20 meters above the floor, alive, sane, with my skull intact.

I thought I’d die on that wall, and I didn’t. I thought I was done partying, and I’m not; done running, and I’m not. I thought I’d always be clumsy, worried, weary, and a crap cook. And I’m not – or, not as much.

I thought I knew exactly who I was. And I did; I do. But you can notice your first wrinkles, sign a mortgage, enjoy staying in on Friday night and still reinvent yourself.

I guess I needed to find who I was before I could redefine it. A girl who, slowly, awkwardly, keeps pulling herself up a little higher.

Pull-ups

Families

Once or twice a year, we gather. We cook, take walks, open bottles, play games. We celebrate. We grief, sometimes. We argue, often. We catch up, check on each other, hug tightly, and leave again.

It’s exhausting, to be together like that. It’s warming, it’s wonderful – but it’s exhausting, because we constantly try to erase a distance. And bittersweet, because we need that distance to flourish.

How can you love people so much, how can be so much like them, share the same hair, the same heart, yet feel so free from them?

How can you actually be the same flesh, yet all be your own person, your own entity?

There are so many resemblances in a family, in my family, yet so many differences. It strikes me every time. Being together opens a Pandora box, brings up familiar songs, flavours, emotions.

I relish in it every time, until reality hits. Like an arrow through a cotton sheet, it reminds me of a world that’s mine. Of another family, the one I’ve met, the one I’ve made.

Families

The climb

Last week, we went climbing. We packed the cars, drove across Europe, and hung our hammocks in a forest full of rocks.

We ate a lot of croissants, drunk a lot of wine. We tried to climb. And failed, repeatedly.

Turns out it’s really hard to climb outside. Razor-thin hard, arms-and-legs-shaking hard. Afraid-of-falling-and-crushing-my-skull hard.

There was a lot of fear in the air for me, last week. Turns out I’m deeply afraid of standing a meter above the floor.

But maybe because this fear was so unfamiliar, was physical instead of intellectual, it was strangely refreshing to feel. I didn’t feel pressure, I didn’t fear failure the way I do in my daily life. I feared a life-threatening fall, knowing full well it wasn’t reasonable to think that – I stayed too close to the ground for that. But I was afraid of it nonetheless.

And I dealt with it, sort of. I stared at it, saw right through it, and tried climbing a little higher. And with every step I took, every move I made, I learned a little more about myself.

The climb

In between

Transitions don’t get a lot of love from us. Moments going from one place to another, blurred days spent looking for a home, a job, a goal.

Transitions don’t make for great stories, we think; they’re too grey, too uncertain. We prefer completion, victories, conclusions. Looking back at what was done, and what is now secured.

But a lot of life happens in between. In between places, in between phases. A lot of life is spent working towards, planning for, looking forward.

I’ve spent a lot of time in between lately. Between two homes – slowly moving from one life to another. And I’ve hated the transition. Complained profusely, cried frequently. Exhausted myself in trains, in cars, on bikes, running from one place to another, my bag always ready, my mind never at peace.

And yet. That transition saw me grow like never before. I’ve learned – and learned to like it. With every transition comes an infinite range of possibilities, of discoveries, of new beginnings. And how often can you say that of your daily life? How often is the world truly your oyster?

So I’ve learned to like the blurred lines. I’ve learned to read them, cross them and move forward.

In between

La vie #2

“J’espère que la vie est belle pour toi.”

I hope life is beautiful for you.

It’s that note from an old friend, dropped at the end of an email, that got me thinking. The kindness of these words, and the hope they contain. Coming from someone who’s lived more, who’s been through more, to wish me a life that is “beautiful” – not just safe, comfortable or satisfying, is meaningful.

I read it and paused – is life beautiful for me? Is life more than an addition of moments, some great, some less so? Because it feels like that at times. Times where the daily grind takes over.

Still, there is beauty within days like these. The mountain lighting up at dawn. The sound of bike tires against the crispy, frozen path. The laughter, the stories, the excitation of a work day. The walks along the canal, hanging onto your arm. The long stares out of the train’s window. The stories told, cuddled on the sofa while the dog watches us.

Small moments like these, when you blink and take the time to notice. Life is beautiful.

And greater moments, too. Or rather – a greater everything. A sense of progression, of growth, of becoming. A sense that life, despite its difficulties, is going in a good direction.

I wonder, of course, if that’s true. There are many things in my daily routine that are unappealing. Meetings, emails, emails, emails; a car, a mortgage, and no book written yet. Not every day passes in a delightful bliss. I don’t live in a van, I don’t grow my own food. I have a schedule, I have an office and I look at my phone.

Within that frame though, within these rules, life is beautiful. Maybe because I am at peace with it, because it’s been my choice, to some extent. Maybe because I have my own ways of bending the rules, of owning the system. Or because I’ve started to accept the reality of my human condition, our condition, our limits – and our undefined, infinite potential.

La vie #2