One of the ways I deal with stress and frustration is to immerse myself in some physical activity that will help to take my mind off whatever is driving me insane. Two summers ago this activity was bouldering.
I was fortunate to work at a State Park that was full of Pikes Peak granite boulders who at some point in geologic time had rolled down from the nearby Puma Hills and planted themselves outside of what would be my home for five months. The rock was solid but rough with crystals that tore at my fingers as I worked my way up and around each boulder. I quickly learned which ones I could climb on days when my body and mind were tired, and which to climb when I had the negative energy of stress, anger and frustration to work out or a rush of positive energy to be released.
I remember well a day I was in a terrible mood. The world just plain made me mad because something wasn’t going my way. A long overdue end to a relationship had finally come and like any rejected girl, I got angry. Angry at him and angry at myself . Angry at the world. At work that day I paced around the office, vigorously hiked 3 miles, and vented my frustrations to my co-worker. None of this helped. All day my eyes kept drifting toward the rocks in the distance. I ached to ditch my responsibilities, grab my gear and climb the day away.
Six o’clock came and I was free. I literally ran to the house, changed into climbing shorts and tank top, and grabbed my helmet and shoes. I sprinted to the massive boulders strewn across the field. I started with the easy ones but was quickly frustrated by their inability to satisfy me. I swore out loud at them, telling them they were not good enough. I moved on to the hardest boulders, ones I had been getting nowhere on for many days. Again, I stood there swearing at the rocks while bluebirds stared at me from their perches in nearby aspen stands. Fuming because none of them were doing what I needed, I left my usual spot and ventured out further to an area I had been avoiding.
It is there that I discovered my own personal climbing wall. It was perfect! Unlike the other boulders, this one extended about 30 feet wide and was not rounded on the climbing side. The natural holds were thin but stable, the face flat with small cracks and tiny ledges scattered throughout, a sudden curve inward, and then a curve back out. It was about 10 feet high so I felt okay climbing it alone; a fall would probably not hurt me all that badly. I could not believe my good luck!
As I surveyed the wall, calculated routes (called problems in bouldering), and tried them out, my mind was not only freed from the anger but also freed from everything else in the world. My energy shifted to accomplishing 2 goals: 1. Make it to the top of the rock and 2. Make it from the north side to the south side, without falling off. Neither happened that day, but finding a new opportunity outside of my usual path that presented new challenges helped me to let go of the old stuff hanging around inside my head and in the physical space surrounding me.
I spent 2 months working on and getting to know that wall. It gave me the change I needed at the time – new goals to work on and a connection to something solid that is always going to be there for me.