Thursday, September 18, 2014

Day 7: Farewell Gijon, Hello Madrid

Left Gijon today. The shuttle to Oviedo was shared with many other countries’ climbing teams and it made me feel a little strange. I think these kinds of competitions will be things I dabble in; I am never going to get paid to do this stuff, nor promote myself in a way to get funding to spend 35+ hrs/week training, like some paraclimbers.

We arrived in Madrid and went straight to our hotel, which is an 8 minute walk to the Museo del Prado. Doing something completely different reminds me that there is much more to me and my interests than climbing. I finally got to see Goya’s Black Paintings and El Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, which pleased me greatly. The Museo del Prado’s collection of Spanish and Flemish art is outstanding. I didn’t have any expectations, really, but the density and curation of artwork surprised me. Unfortunately, no photography was permitted.

We ended up enjoying a cool Madrid evening with the setting sun over tapas in Plaza Santa Ana.

I could not sleep, due to various physical pains, but also because I was still processing this whole experience. I feel like I had let the pressures of (self) competition interfere with what climbing at this competition should have been about, which is a celebration of how far I have come since my accident. Instead, I let it be some kind of judgment of myself.

I do not like how I let these para-climbing competitions elicit ungracious thoughts in my head, like, comparing levels of disability, or number of competitors/finalists in a given category. I just have to accept that it won’t be a level playing field and it is what it is. I can choose to participate, or not.  I’m thinking I might enter competitions against able-bodied folks, get my ass kicked, but feel good about it.

A friend wrote to me, and I think his words hold some merit:

Wendy, I have been thinking about your happenings and, in a nut shell, my feeling is that you might realize the most satisfaction getting along as a "normal" person rather than defining your life as a champion disabled person. It seems silly that the state of competition is such that people end up arguing how disabled someone is. It also saddens me to see that you would risk permanent injury to your all-important fingers…Most people have problems that impact their day to day lives.  The nature of the problems of course varies..  The challenge seems to me is to adapt to living notwithstanding the problem, not to have the problem defining who you are as a person.”

It is true; I don’t want to be some kind of “champion disabled person”. I feel like the way I inspire people is to put my head down and quietly do my own thing. I have received so many touching messages from friends who have reminded me that my harsh judgment of myself, for finishing 4th in a really strong field at my first international competition reflects that I have the spirit and heart of a champion, regardless of whether I finished 1st or 4th. Every one uniformly agrees that I am being too hard on myself, duh. I thought my accident had made me much more easy-going and kinder to myself; but, as this experience reveals, this is not always the case. I sometimes wonder if my accident has made me more empathic, but perhaps less sympathetic to other people.

Sometimes I think my introspection is a tremendous curse. It makes me ponder and wonder about many things, that I should perhaps just let go of and just let be. On the other hand, I like to think there is tremendous value to all additional memory that goes towards all this processing.

I hope the injuries acquired are lesser than the strength and insight gained.

Thank you for following this brief episode in my life. I am looking forward to the next piece of news to share.

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