Friday, October 30, 2009
Take my advice: If anyone ever offers you a shoulder and declares, "Hit me!" - don't.
A very tiny bone in my wrist, like the one pictured above, is causing me some difficulty more than a year after its initial injury. I'd love to blame old age on what is, essentially, my own stupidity. On most days, I don't mind the ache. It's cool to have a reminder of old friends and boisterous evenings rambling through downtown bars. But lately, as I entered the every-other-day climbing schedule, my wrist has been a pain in my ass.
It seems I didn't wear the cast or the brace long enough way back when, so my doc tells me this thing is gonna cause me "trouble from time to time." That time came yesterday when my wrist decided, halfway through a 5.6 ascent I've done many times before, that it just didn't feel like doing anything anymore. Better still, I had been so focused on managing the ache I forgot about the condition of the flesh covering bone. After I'd been lowered and had taken my place on the bench, I looked down and noticed two rather deep blisters.
Apparently, my enthusiasm for P'UP is a bit beyond my physical reality. Don't get me wrong: This too is part of learning to climb. Though many weekend athletes my age would just don a brace and keep going in denial of both age and wear, I'm more of a realist. I believe my body is a great communicator. It tells me, through cravings, when I need to eat more vegetables and proteins. It also lets me know when I'm tired (first sign: Intermittent babbling and really old jokes). So this ache in my wrist, I think, is my body's way of letting me know it's okay to take a few days off.
Walking from the health center to a local pub to meet friends, I thought about hands and the stories they can tell. I've always been intrigued by hands, focused on them when meeting new people, to see how they're shaped, how they gesture (or don't), and the ways people adorn their hands with jewelry. My favorites have always told stories of the work they do, or gesture wildly and with enthusiasm. But I've also watched the deliberate, still hands of quiet, thinking men as they've reached for a pint or a pen and found them captivating.
I remember every hand that ever hurt me. I remember every hand that ever held my own. I was thinking about this as I stepped onto a sidewalk wet with fall rain and shining with the night. Neon signs reflected the path I walked. Looking down and thinking about my own hands and their stories of writer, painter, mother, cook, and poet I noticed a small, dull triangle floating on a puddle. Stooping to pick it up, I noticed a hint of metallic gold at its center.
In the middle of blue and black marbled plastic were the imprinted words, "Fender Thin." Someone had dropped this guitar pick, and I pondered those hands I had never met. I stashed the pick in my pocket and plodded on, head full of words, perhaps the beginning of a poem, musing night and its wanderers.
Half a block later, I noticed a shiny silver trinket on the sidewalk outside the Rococo Theatre. It was a charm bracelet, the sort of silver Celtic symbol sensitive indie types wear - I've seen them around the wrists of lanky young men with horn-rimmed glasses at the Coffee House - you know, the kind of guys who get tattoos in Sanskrit to prove they're deep thinkers. I looked up and down the street to see if the owner could be nearby. There was no one but me walking about in the rain, so I pocketed the bracelet and let it click and tick in my pocket with that Fender pick.
At the pub, I sat down with friends. When my pint arrived, I held it just to let the chill sink into my flesh. Looking at my right hand, its blisters, and focusing on my wrist, I decided I liked the story my hands were telling. Six weeks ago, I didn't think I'd be sitting around with hands, raw from climbing. I didn't think I'd manage a full ascent before December, let alone "red point." And though I miss, on occasion, my once-delicate, manicured fingers, I doubt I'll ever go back to the file and paint, the feminine ritual of glossing my fingertips.
(Photo: Pre-P'UP hands)
Okay, so for now they're pansy hands, just learning to handle the wear-and-tear of a dream. But someday, my hands are going to tell an epic tale of ascension and discovery. They will testify to the power of rock and will. In the meantime, they'll heal. Tomorrow, I'm baking my contribution to a Halloween celebration. It's the first costume party I've been to in at least ten years. I spent two weeks putting my costume together, and I'm ready to step on out and have a good time. I don't think I would have dared to disco in costume before P'UP, but something I can't quite name is changing inside me.
I can't decide if it's self-confidence or a truce. I can't call it peace of mind, even as it comforts, because it sets my mind aflame with implications and consequences. I've spent a lifetime "stalling for sometime," holding myself back, thwarting my own potential in my personal life. In my working life, I've done quite the opposite but even success can be a hiding place. Maybe I'm just bursting forth from my own long winter. Maybe my soul cried out into the Karmic universe and heard nothing but the silent truth that it was time.
I don't really know. But sitting here, looking at a bracelet and a pick now on my desk, thinking about hands, I've decided I can hold my own. Over the next few days, as my body recovers, I'll think about that 5.7 route. Even as I gyrate to bad '90s pop and suck down "Spooky Punch" at a party, I'll be thinking about Sunday's climbing hope. And really, looking down at my typing hands now, maybe that's what P'UP is all about: hope, the sort of thing born from a challenge that has become far more personal than I ever thought it would.