It’s the Other Part of Climbing

The words rolled off her tongue with such ease that I found myself quietly stunned in the wake of it. In the span of just a few seconds, I had become suddenly jealous that a another person could be at such ease, such peace, with  a concept I’ve struggled in vain over for most of my life.

“Falling – we have to be prepared for that right?” My rock climbing instructor nodded at the class before speaking again. She was a young 20-something with a slight build and unassuming presence that seemed deceptive, given the depth of her encyclopedia-like knowledge on everything from gear, to technique, to basic scrambling, to alpine ice climbing. She spoke as easily and confidently about building anchors into the side of a cliff as if she were telling you how to boil water or button your shirt. And it sort of made the rest of us feel like maybe we could be rugged adventurers someday too, even as we sat there struggling to figure out how to get into our climbing harnesses.

“Anyway,” she shrugged, as she informed us about the different strength levels of a climbing rope, “the rope is important because of falling.” So simple. Of course it is. “Because falling—that’s the other part of climbing.” And then she even sort of laughed. We’re talking about the potential of dangling helpless from a wall with muscles trembling from exhaustion and a high probability you won’t reach the top of your climb – in front of everyone, no less – and she just laughs it off.

She carried on with her instructions, but my brain was stuck on her words, no longer tracking with the lecture. Her simple logic was so affecting that it just kept playing over and over again in my head. You need a rope because it’s a given that if you climb, you will fall. It’s not for if you fall, it’s for when you fall. Be prepared for it. Anticipate it. And then keep going. 

I hate falling — or as I know it, failing. In fact, I detest it so much that it is often a good enough reason for me to avoid trying. And actually, if I dig a little deeper, I think the root of the problem is a lot of misplaced value on an ugly little thing called pride. Guarding that pride at all costs has prohibited me from growth. In terms of weight loss, I’m so terrified at the idea of having a “gain” week that I conclude it would be better not to make the effort at all. In terms of blogging, I’m worried that I won’t be able to express myself exactly right, so it’s easier to skip it. I get frustrated knowing that everything I write won’t be the best thing I ever write, so I just don’t write at all. In both cases, I’m cheating myself.

The argument goes something like this: If I don’t have a perfect success record, I’ll have failed, which will destroy my pride, which will destroy me. It’s a pretty devastating vacuum to live in–never try, never fail, but also never change and never get better.

You know who does falling well? My best friend Ashley, who has lost more than 60 pounds and spent more than a month between 188 and 192, but didn’t give up, and now she’s 10 pounds down from that and still going strong.

You know who else? Liz, Another PriorFatGirl, who gets on here and posts diligently every week, whether she is up or down.

To me, they are the bravest people in the world, and I want to be more like them. With dignity, they fall. They accept it, they let it go, and they keep on moving steadily up the mountain.

So I guess it makes sense that my instructor’s words were a refreshing spring for my soul. They were an invitation to return to the heartbeat of my character: I am a girl who likes to try new things. The thrill of the unknown beckons me, and spontaneity ignites a rush that finds me jumping on planes at the last minute and winding up in Seattle without my purse or packing for an unplanned camping trip in less than 30 minutes and forgetting essentials, like the tent.

But fear of falling has kept me from walking down that road for the sake of gaining personal health for far too long. It can be corrected though, I can be corrected. And it starts with daring to take the rope, because falling is just part of climbing.

Failing is part of succeeding.

Gaining from time to time is part of losing.



  1. Great post. I have the same fears of failure. Loved how you said this

  2. Wow. This resonates with me BIG TIME. Make a plan for falling? But if I make a plan, that just means that I’m planning on not doing it perfectly, and heaven forbid I actually PLAN TO BE HUMAN, because all humans fall or fail at some point. Thanks for sharing this – maybe today when I make the attempt to try, it won’t be so devastating when I fail since I’ll have my safety ropes in place. 🙂

  3. “I detest it so much that it is often a good enough reason for me to avoid trying.” 100 times, yes. Absolutely beautiful post.

  4. Ashley (The BFF) says:

    Elle, lemme tell you. You got this. You know how to lose weight, you know how to be healthy. Make it a priority in your life. EVERYTHING WE DO, there’s a percentage of failure. I think I’m a damn good teacher, but sometimes I don’t get everything right. I think I’m a damn good makeup artist, but I sure can’t get every winged liner or foundation match perfect. It’s a part of life, and when you realize that, it’ll be all good from there. A gain is NOT the end of the world. A couple oreos is okay from time to time. I had an ice cream cone last night and it was AWWEESOME. Just keep pushing. You know what to do and I’m always here for you!!

  5. Great perspective!

  6. Debbie L says:

    Thank You!! I needed that. I just joined WW (again, for the umpteenth time) and will weigh in in about 3 hours. Did great my first week. Afraid I’ll stay the same or will have gained this week. Same song, 2nd verse. But, not doing anything at all for sure means gaining. I love when you write! Never stop.

  7. Failure to plan = planning to fail. We know damned well that when we choose to fail with our food intake, there will be consequences. Making excuses in advance is counterproductive.

  8. Katie M says:

    I loved this: You need a rope because it’s a given that if you climb, you will fall. It’s not for if you fall, it’s for when you fall. Be prepared for it. Anticipate it. And then keep going.

    Thank you for sharing this perspective.

  9. Lindz, Great writing..a God given talent.. Love you the way you are, or ever will be!! G’ma

  10. Pleeeeeease continue to write….here, another blog, a book, graphic novel–I don’t care!!! I will buy it!!!!!! You are a fabulous writer, and I love getting insight to your life!!!!

  11. Elle, you were a great inspiration to me when you were writing. I hope life is treating you well, and I wish you’d come back! Even if it was just to say you didn’t want to write anymore. I just feel a need for closure. There’s a community of girls here ready to offer support and encouragement whenever you need them!

    • Sheila, I thought I was the only one that came here every once in awhile hoping to see Elle has posted something and I’d just missed it. I also miss her writing and her inspiration. Elle, I too hope you’re doing well and will come back if, and when, the time is right for you. We miss you!!

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