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Pulling the Rip Cord

October 20, 2021

I recently just finished watching the second season of Ted Lasso.  It’s a great show and I highly recommend it.  Especially if you are like me and find yourself watching a lot of dark shows, it is an uplifting comedy and a nice change of pace from lots of other shows out there.  The second season deals with mental health issues.  I hate disclaimers, but I am going to give one here.  I don’t think my blog here can come close to trying to capture what the show was doing or the current post pandemic needs of everyone for mental health.  The show just made me think, so here are the results of my thinking. 

Sometimes as the stress and anxiety grow, it seems like it would be nice to be able to hit the eject button and bail out.  Pull the rip cord and stop the fall.  Or be like Crocodile Dundee and go on a walkabout in the Australian Outback.  Be Dick Proenneke and go live in a cabin in the Wilderness of Alaska. Granted those options come with their own stress and problems, but of a different nature. I will be honest I do sometimes think what life would be like, if I just headed out into the woods, change the stress of life from due dates, relationships, people, to just basic survival. I do realize that is more like running away from issues than anything else, but I tend to think that everyone at times has had that thought before. How can I remove myself from the weight of the world.

Clouds rolling in and making navigation difficult. Taken on Mt. Cashmere, WA. The route is there, just hard to see. Life can be like that sometimes, where the worries, fear and stress of the world, slow down our travel.

I will be completely honest, as I have always strived to do when I write, I am still struggling a little bit, post accident. I feel as if I have lost a little bit of swagger of confidence. My fitness level has dropped, still probably pretty good to most, but prior to falling, I was starting to have ambitious thoughts of jumping into another ultra marathon. A little bit ago, I did go out rock climbing with Colby. It was time for both of us to get back out there. We went to Exit 38 and a wall called “Sun Vista Slabs”. It is a bunch of easy low 5th class slab climbs. My first lead I was super timid, always wanting to have a bomber hand hold the entire time. I was fidgety and nervous. “Dad you’re climbing super timid” “I know – I am totally freaked out!” I was constantly searching for the super bomber hand hold. The problem with that approach is that in climbing, much like life, you don’t often get that bomber hand hold to support yourself. Climbing is all about trusting your feet and looking for those hidden slopers, side pulls, and crimper holds. It’s not always obvious. Once I was back down from lead number 1 post fall, Colby gave me a bit of a pep talk. He reminded me that we are on a slab route, meaning there are not many bomber holds, I need to look for good feet, side pulls, and all of the other stuff that is there. I jumped back on the same route, thinking about what he said. The second time, I felt like the rock wall came alive as I was looking for the holds that the climb did offer up. It was like I was looking at the rock in a totally different lens. I was much more comfortable for sure the second time up. I added another lead, before it was time to go. It was a great first step, but leading some 5.4-5.5 routes does not remove all of my nervousness and hesitation. But this is going to be a process.

By nature, I am a grinder, so when things get hard, I just keep on pushing, pressing, moving forward.  I think that is partially why I enjoy mountaineering and adventure racing so much, it’s the grind of Type 2 fun.  (Type 2 fun is the kind of fun that is miserable while it is happening, but when you look back, you think, Wow that was awesome! – fun in retrospect.)  Typically I like to finish what I start, so usually as great as it sounds to pull the rip cord, I don’t often do that. 

This thinking took me back to my freshman year of high school.  It was wrestling season.  I have blogged about wrestling quite a bit in my past posts and its impact on me.  It was my favorite sport, really because it transformed me.  However grades 8-10th I really struggled.  A sane person would have quit the sport.  First off it is super hard, the workouts are intense and if you are not very good, you basically just get physically abused throughout an entire practice.  I spent my freshman year getting beat up each and every practice, not just by the workout, but also my teammates.  I think I won like 1 JV match that entire year, my Sophomore year I did not win a varsity match. I was 0-16 to start my varsity wrestling career. I did finish my high school career, which is pretty impressive after such a horrible start.  Anyhow back to my Freshman year, I was having a bad day and just could not deal with getting my butt kicked at wrestling practice, so I just skipped practice and took the bus home. 

Not long after I got home, my Dad came home, he had a shorter than normal day, so he was home earlier than usual. I really was not expecting anyone to be home, so I was a little bit surprised and really just wanted to be left alone. Anyhow he asked why I was at home. I said that I wasn’t feeling very good.  Honestly I was a little panicked as I was not expecting him to be home and I didn’t want to tell him the truth of why I was home.  I always had this incredible fear about letting him down somehow, this carried over into college, when I was dreading calling him to let him know that I was done playing baseball.  In my mind I was ready for the perseverance talk, the you gotta give 110% talk, that push through talk, whatever you want to call it – the you just need to push through, grind on.  Don’t quit, keep going. The talk that pretty much defines who I am.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a natural grinder and maybe that is a direct result of having this complete fear of letting my Dad down.  When I “retired” from baseball, it was easy to talk to the coach.  “Hate to see you go, but we did bring in a really good freshman catcher.  The Pitching coach really liked working with you because you listened and worked your ass off.” Basically telling me, you are not really that naturally gifted, but you work really hard.  For some reason I was nervous to call my Dad.  When I did, he was totally cool with it.  “Is this the best decision for you?”  “Yes” “Then great, that is what you need to do.”  No big deal. Honestly, I really think the one thing that I could have done to let him down, was to want to take over his business. Not that there was anything wrong with his career, I worked with him the summer after my Freshman year and he was adamant that he did not want me to follow in his footsteps – he wanted me to do something else. He job was not only physically demanding, but also required him to be exposed to toxins, from dust to the stain, and the finishing varnish, it was all pretty toxic stuff.

Back to me as a freshman in High School, waiting for the talk, I did not want nor needed to hear.  “ I am sorry to hear that. What can I do to help?  Do you need anything?”  That was not at all what I expected to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. 

I didn’t quit wrestling after that, I took my day off, rested, mentally regrouped, and then went back at it the next day and really never looked back.  The story goes that eventually I got pretty good at it, not like best ever, but I won lots of matches my Junior and Senior years.  Did my Dad know that is what I needed to hear at that point in time?  Looking back, when you are a teenager, you don’t think your parents are that “in tune” to things, however looking back now, I think they actually were more aware of tings then I thought they were back then. 

After writing that, I am probably a clueless parent of my kids. But that is not really the point of this…

Thinking through all of this, I am a little bit horrified of myself and how many times, someone might have come to me with a problem or issue and instead of saying.  “How can I help, what can I do for you.”  I just gave a lecture on pushing through and grinding it out.  “Hey get tough and work through this.”  However that is totally ignoring and not acknowledging the personal heartache and struggle.  Meaning it actually can make things worse as you are totally ignoring the angst of the entire issue. 

“Just grind through” is not the answer that I need when I am going through a rough patch, as that is typically what I do. Sometimes what we need is just for someone to acknowledge our struggle and ask what they can do to help. Empathy. Easy to say, hard to act on. I am 100% guilty of not offering it when it as been needed for others. I can only hope that I have not completely scarred my kids with talks of “bucking up”, “pushing through”, “working harder”, etc. and etc. It’s that old-school mentality. But that is just it, it’s old.

The next time we find ourselves in a similar situation, let’s offer empathy and ask, what can I do? How can I help?” vs. “You just need to work harder”



3 Comments leave one →
  1. Glenn Thistlethwaite permalink
    October 20, 2021 8:57 am

    David, I always have liked your blogs because of the personal ways you relate to them. I agree with your conclusion, and by the way, we love Ted Lasso. He helped everyone, including himself to be better people, well except for Nate. Best, Glenn

    Sent from Glenn’s iPad Mini


  2. S.S. permalink
    October 20, 2021 4:33 pm

    Thanks David for another post that speaks even to grandmas. 🙂 I am in awe over how God uses your life in your blog to speak to others that are going through many of the same things.God Bless.

  3. Andrew Martin permalink
    November 5, 2021 1:59 am

    Another encouraging an thoughtful post… Dave, you continue to spew pearls of wisdom. I’m so happy that I’m a part of your life. Forever grateful.

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