while i laid awake, i tried to picture how i would react to someone literally placing me – without ropes – several hundred feet up a sheer granite wall, my hands gripping a crack and small outcropping, my feet perched on a slight deviation in the granite face. it made my hands sweat and my heart race thinking about how paralyzed by fear i would be, unable to move either hand or foot. THIS is out of my comfort zone. far out. and i couldn’t get the image out of my mind.
the wind was gusting about 35mph and there were tiny snow squalls on the way to madison. we were on our way to a movie theatre for a national geographic release of the movie FREE SOLO, the documentary capturing alex honnold’s successful free solo scaling of el capitan in yosemite. free solo. without benefit of any ropes or safety gear. just his hands, his feet, climbing chalk, and memorization, no – absolute physical retention – of the precise moves he would make on the way up this 3000′ beautiful monster.
alex doesn’t talk about his fear much. he, instead, speaks of enlarging his comfort zone, little by little. his somewhat unemotional approach to this challenge is daunting. one of his support team said words to the effect that alex had this challenge: like an olympic athlete he needed to win the gold. no ifs, ands or buts. it was the gold or he would fall to his death. who does that?!! the black and white of that makes my breathing pause. but alex pressed on. clearly his comfort zone is huge, that bubble around him. at least when it comes to mountains.
i know, as fascinated as i am with mountains and climbing stories of all sorts, that this is not something i could or would do. my mountains are different than that and my comfort zone bubble has more to do with my artistry, music, writing. not necessarily less scary, but certainly less physically demanding and clearly, without a doubt, less treacherous. but we are not limited to one mountain at a time.
each of us has this bubble and i picture pushing on the walls of the chrysalis, little by little conquering the fear of the outside – whatever the challenge or challenges – making our way, without ropes or safety equipment, into the next step of our lives. we try to “dream big.” we “go after it.” we “just do it.” but in reality, with no protective membrane around us, we first have to gear up, face fear vs comfort, garner courage and climb. yes. we free solo every day.