Monday, May 08, 2006

Leggo my EGO

Well, I had one hell of a great weekend, and I thought, you know, this being my space to write things and all, I would share it with all of you.

Since Carly was having her bachelorette party (and I know better than to stick around for that estrofest) I decided I would spend the weekend in the cities. I made the drive Friday night, only to find the guy I was going to stay with was out. Luckily, I was set to meet two friends from highschool as well, and one of them had just finished taking her daughter to an art show in the neighborhood. We hung out, and waited for Chad (the aforementioned friend) to show. We ended up going to her sister's (the other friend from highschool-to confuse you more) and talking until about two am. We then set plans for a noon rendezvous at the Mall of America.

Chad and I arrived at the MOA at noon, like men would when given a date and time to be somewhere. We called the girls, and they were going to run a bit late. So we asked ourselves, "where should we waste some time whilst we wait for the girls to ready themselves?" The answer, of course, was Hooters. I guess I just have a thing for chicken wings.

Three pitchers and almost as many hours later, and the girls finally call us. They have arrived. We go to settle the bill, only to have Tara, our waitress, leave me her number. Now, I am a flirty guy, but I was not being flirty with her. I was just chatting. Chad, on the other hand, was flirting. We both thought she was flirting back because it is her job: I mean, she IS a hooter waitress. But no, it turns out she was flirting with me. I gave Chad the number. Hopefully, he can use it.

So, we meet the girls, and they want to shop. If you are surprised at that, go kill yourself. Of course they wanted to shop. They are 20 something girls. We were game for that, or anything, as we had our fill of beer, and our mood was, conservatively, jovial. We did not know we were in for 7 hours of shopping, but thus is the danger inherent in agreeing to shop.

While Chad was busy occupying sister number one, I got some time with sister number two, who was a very close friend in highschool (we also dated on and off for some time) She is now in a very crappy relationship. He is abusive. Beyond that, though, he is also obsessive, controlling, and jealous. I observed this behavior first hand. But she is a sweet girl, and they have been together a long time, and have a kid, so she feels like she owes him something, and she can change him. Both of which are untrue. Which I told her, in my way, over and over. While I was thus disposed: advising her and whatnot, an older black lady was listening in. AS she was ready to leave, she looked my friend in the eye and said "mm hmm child, you need to listen to him, he's giving you good advice." Which, of course, was true, but only in so much as I was telling her what she already knew, but couldn;t make herself admit, and what any friend would tell her. But it is nice to get the Old-black-woman-seal-of-approval. I think I might have even gotten through to my friend, too.

The next day we decided to go climbing. Again, a time was set (7am) to meet the girls, Again, we were there at that time. The girls would show up something like 7 hours late, but no worries. If you didn't know by now they were going to be late, you need to go back and reread the above. WE certainly expected it, and it gave us time to go set up some climbs.

At Taylor's falls, where we would be climbing, we met a great deal of very special people. The first two were were learning to lead climb--or more appropriately one was teaching the other--and they were in great spirits. The belayer offered us use of his set, and we did the same. It was just the two pairs of us down there, and we got to work setting up. We went to the top, and I got to teach Chad some basic climbing technique: setting a top rope protection, using passive protection and natural protection, balancing load; you know, fun stuff. Chad, of course, loves this sort of thing, and was a great student.

By the time we got back down to the bottom (climbs at TF are set from the top) there was a crowd. It seems a martial arts school had taken a day together to climb, and the old man who was setting as we were was setting for about 20-30 people. Usually, I should point out, large groups of climbers tend to ruin the time for every other climber: they hog routes, they are loud, they litter, and they try to control the space. This group had kids, as well, which only adds to the problems. I have to admit I was prejudiced right away. I am happy to admit, however, that this group proved all of the above absolutely wrong. They were very nice, offered us use of ALL there sets, and kept the kids under control. I noticed, though, they had no gear for the kids. When I asked, they confirmed, and luck was with us. I bought gear for my nephew, and I offered it for their use. That broke the ice, and we spent the rest of the day as a big climbing family. I got to know a small group (6 of them) very well. They were from Moorhead, and they were the ones with the kids. The kids were all eight year olds, and girls. Despite that, or because of it, they were amazing. Well mannered, thoughtful, and genuinely happy to be there. Since I had experience teaching kids to climb, I sort of took the three of them, Nina, Harley, and Haley, under my wing, and helped them through their first climbing. The parents, of course, were appreciative, both at my ability, and my willingness to help out. It let them climb, and let them be comfortable having their kids climb.

And I have to tell you, it brought me back. There is NOTHING better than watching a child overcome something, and fear of heights is on the short list for most children. Being allowed to be a part of that is amazing. i would not have cared if I had not been thanked for doing it, it is reward enough. But these kids had manners, and all of them personally thank me for EACH climb. And with each climb, they grew more confident, and proficient, and the love, the bug, for climbing got to them.

it is just as well it did, because this was a day, and an environment, that is rare in today's climbing scene. The group around us so quickly bonded that when new people arrived, everyone introduced each other like old friends, or family at a reunion. Newcomers were shocked to learn we had only spent hours together, but were quickly shown how, and why, and gathered into the fold. We had climbers as young as eight, and as old as sixty-three. We talked about climbing at first; where we had been, what we could and could not do, gear...but soon we were talking about life, death, community, child raising...and sharing everything. Food, ideas, and truly, love, flowed freely. It sounds like a great deal of mush, and it is, but it is also true. This is what climbing was once, and what it still should be. In the middle of all of us testing ourselves, pushing limits, and enjoying some of the best scenery and nature Minnesota and Wisconsin have to offer, we were expanding our circle of friendship, dropping philosophy and joke in the same sentence, and learning new people.

When it was time to go I was actually a bit sad. Days like this are not often, and should be cherished. One of the parents, though, gave me a great compliment. "Do you do this for a living" she asked I did "It shows. You really have a passion for helping people, and an ease with children." My heart would have burst there, but she did not stop. She asked if I could do this again for her kids and more. Of course I would.

And again, when we were telling the rest of the group goodbye, I was complimented on my compassion, and the ease with which I took to my task. These people, more my age, also wanted to climb with us again. They took my number down, and one of them entered it in his phone simple "JoshuaClimber". I was so touched I was speechless (if you can imagine)

And on the way out, a chorus of eight year old girls said, "Thank you Joshua, Thank you Chad." and giggled.

I spent the rest of the evening on cloud nine. I woke up this morning more rejuvenate (mentally) than I have been in five years. And in my face, and eyes, a smile all day. So much so, that it spilled over to Carly, and we spent her day off cuddling, and making love. I don't feel like I have the words to describe this feeling, except to say that days like this make the rest of the days worth troubling through.

And, just a few hours ago, the mood continued. My bosses came to visit the worksite, to plant new flowers and prepare the yard for summer. We talked about this, and the direction my life is taking. Laurie suggested I coach, and I said I would love to, except I would have to teach, "No," she said "I can see you coaching as an assistant in the NBA." Wow, the hits keep on coming! Laurie is, perhaps, the most knowledgeable NBA fan I have ever met, a season ticket holder to the WNBA, and a harsh critic. For her to say that was, though not on par with yesterday, one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me concerning my ability.

If this is the way things are going to go for me, I know a few things to be true:
1) I can raise children, and they can be girls. I don't have to be scared of that.
2) I can stay in Bemidji, or anywhere, and be happy.
3) I am finally close to being who I want to be.
4) People are starting to like me for me, not for who I thought I had to be.
5) Life is good.

Chad is going to be a great climber. I don't think he reads this, so I feel I can brag about him a bit. He easily climbed a 5.7 today, first try. To compare, the rating goes from 5.1 (easiest) to 5.15 (so hard only one man has climbed it). 5.7 is about the threshold of difficulty for someone who does not take climbing seriously: your average weekend warrior recreational types. Usually, this takes them a bit of work. He flashed it, no problem. He also spent a good part of the day belaying children, and really embraced the family side of climbing, instead of just the sport aspect.
Everyone I introduced myself to at the rocks called me "Joshua" I do not know if it was because I was in a leadership role, or because they were all from a martial arts school, and were taught respect, but to a man, woman, or child, they all properly used my name. You see, I ALWAYS introduce myself as Joshua. And it is almost always shortened to Josh, right away. I let it slide, but it gets to me. If I wanted to be called Josh by strangers, I would introduced myself as such. Friends and family can call me what they will, but people I just meet should respect what I call myself. They did, and it was noticeable.
Carly is better than most peoples' mates. I have known this for some time, and I am truly blessed to be with her, but this weekend was another good example. One of the two girls I was going to visit was an ex. A lot of people would be upset with that, or jealous, or anything in between. Her boyfriend sure was all those things, and spent the weekend making that obvious to her. Carly, on the other hand, said "that's cool." And, "I trust you." when I asked her why it was so cool. It is, and she should, and it is nice that's the way it works.
I am going to be a good daddy. My friends daughter is very shy, and fairly fussy, but she warmed up to me in half a day. Her sister's child was more outgoing, but we were fast friends by days end. The three girls at the rock were instant chums with me. And through all that, I taught something to each of them. I might just be able to raise a girl, after all.

Well, my ego is properly stroked for the year. Thanks for putting up with my gloating. Feel free to comment now on it.

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