Grounding Climbs has transformed wildly since its inception two years ago, but one thing that hasn't changed is my BIG excitement to connect with other movers and share our conversations about how we move to heal and grow and the great challenges and adventures along the way. I'm so honored to talk with these incredible individuals about their movement and what it means to them. We have coffee, we chat, and I think you're going to be as inspired as I am by these beautiful movers. The first Coffee & Climbs is this Thursday, August 13th at 10am CST. Tune into our Instagram Live at @Rebecca_lynnb.
On what I thought would be a lonely, insignificant day in December, I went on a trail run near my home in Dripping Springs, TX. There was an airy spring to my step despite the heaviness I felt. The ground was soft and supportive at the same time. The crunch of the leaves was soothing and I began to feel a sense of peace as I ran through Charro Ranch Park. I felt a literal and figurative breath of fresh air and a feeling of returning to me. I found this a bit odd considering the chaos swirling, no, more like torpedoing, through my life. My husband had left. To where and for how long, I did not know, but somehow there were two things that were getting me out of bed every day: running, and my dog, Timer.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. I hate running! So did I. And it wasn’t something that came naturally or easily to me at all. But as I was coming out of a knee injury, and with divorce looming on the horizon, I paid a visit to my PT and declared I intended to run a trail half marathon on my birthday, depending on his prognosis. Once he cleared me for training, there was absolutely no stopping me anymore.
Back on the trail, I can’t recall what training day this was, but trail running was providing me a reprieve from being prisoner to my emotions. I was able to step away from my mind fairly easily and become more of an observer rather than an active participant in my tempestuous grief and anger. The trails kept me present, grounded, and each step propelled me into what felt like a fuller version of myself. I found comfort in being able to control my pace, following a path with a known destination, and foraging on even when I wanted to give up or when the trail became less obvious. Even if it was just for an hour of my day, that one hour made me feel like I could keep going no matter what happened.
As I continued on my run, I surprised myself by how good I started to feel, especially considering that getting out of bed was a big chore these days. But I felt at home on the trails, supported by the trees, whisperings of the wind, and the roots and rocks that assembled in challenging but fun patterns. It was while I was concentrating on a particularly rugged section of the trail that I saw a flash of silver and grey. Startled, I looked up, and running along side of me to my left, was a wolf. I stopped dead in my tracks unsure of what to do. I held my breath as she continued running, eventually cutting in front of me with a quick glance in my direction before taking off ahead. Stunned, I wondered if it was safe for me to continue. There are no wolves in Texas, I would say, half questioning that fact. But I know what I saw, and to this day, there is no convincing me otherwise.
I decided to continue with my run. There was something majestic and empowering about whatever it was I just witnessed, and as soon as my run was over, I immediately drove to the bookstore to purchase Women Who Run with the Wolves. I had been meaning to purchase it for years and I couldn’t imagine a better time to do so. Following this strange event, my training would continue to excel, my marriage would continue to decline, and I would run a 25k trail race on my birthday a few weeks later and continue to sign up for every race I could afford or attend. It wasn’t about my time or what place I would finish at (I was far from anything impressive), but it did become about this new community I was falling in love with more and more each day. Runners are so kind on the trails, and there’s something about cheering on strangers and strangers cheering on you that makes this world feel a little less harsh. Like climbing, I would take these lessons I learned from the woods and apply them to my daily life. These trail runs would help me to better focus on the path directly in front of me instead of looking too far ahead and worrying about something before it even happened. Like when my eyes use to follow the trail for the foreseeable distance and if I saw an upcoming hill, my body would immediately slow down. I would feel tired and start to loose steam, and all before I even began the incline! How powerful the mind is. But if I focused on what was directly in front of me, it was more manageable, taking one step at a time until I reached the finish line. Just like my divorce, I had to take running and training day by day, and often times when it felt really grueling, I’d have to take it moment by moment.
About a year or so later, I made a new friend. We started spending time together and eventually I met his dog, Nova. Nova is a mixed husky who is wildly friendly to humans, predatory to other dogs, at times seemingly feral, and she looks incredibly similar to a wolf. We didn’t get along right away. This was shocking even to me as I had not met a dog I didn’t like, more like, I didn’t love. But she was difficult and aggressive, and I wasn’t use to the husky energy after having been around Golden Retrievers for so long. But as time went on, this friend became a partner, and Nova would eventually accept that her duo pack had become a trio, and even more unexpected, this little pack would eventually embark on van life, hardly really knowing one another.
As I mentioned before, Nova is at times wild and mostly only listens to her dad, my partner, Dylan. So you can imagine my trepidation when he headed off to a family trip and Nova and I stayed behind in the van. By this point we had become pretty close, but that didn’t give me any hope that she would behave with dad gone. She was mostly wonderful during this time, however, except for the unfortunate incident when she pushed me down into a cow pie and then proceeded to pounce on me out of excitement. That’s Nova for you.
Since Dylan was gone, I had opportunity for alone time for the first time in a long time. I imagined things would come up in these moments of quiet and stillness, and they did. One night in particular, I found myself moving through a bout of painful unlearning and sat ruminating on the floor of the van. A few tears forged pathways down my crow’s feet, gliding down my check until Nova sweetly devoured the salty tears that were filled with my self-pitying woes. She slapped a big lick across my face and suddenly I jerked my head up and stared at her in shock and wonderment. A wolf. Her eyes locked intensely on mine and I finally mustered a whisper. Was it you? That day on the trail flashed through my mind and I realized how much Nova looked like the creature I saw. She was much, much smaller, but her face was strikingly similar. She stared at me fiercely as if she was on the precipice of telling me something important. Her gaze then snapped in a jarring instant and she was looking past my head. What??, I barley uttered. I turned my head slowly, unsure what I was expecting to see, until I saw the tiny clan of terrorists that I had been trying to get out of the van all day. Flies. That fleeting moment between us, if it even was a moment, was gone, and she was hungrily licking her lips and baring her teeth in preparation for their destruction.
Since beginning van life, Nova, Dylan and I have run many times in the mountains. The remote settings allow for Nova to run off leash and it brings me endless joy to watch her sprint in and out of the tree lines, sometimes taking off up to 200 yards before eventually circling back to us. I can tell, like me, she is free out here. She has stepped into her power and is living the life she’s meant to.
Whatever I actually saw that day, whether it was just a coincidence or a sign from the universe that I really was going to be OK, I cherish that memory. It was a gift and a reminder that the only person I was ever meant to chase was me. Now, Nova and I coexist rhythmically and we find our harmony best when we run through the woods. She doesn’t belong to me, nor I to her, but she is living proof of my resilience and of a bigger collective resilience in both trying and empowering times.
On our last run together, Nova and I explored Three Sisters Wilderness outside of Bend, OR. We ran effortlessly through the woods, streams and wild flowers. It was exactly how I remembered that strange day in Dripping Springs, except this time this wild, sweet wolf was running with me, and I felt overcome with emotion that this was so, so much better. Look how far we both have come, I said to her. I then glanced at my watch realizing we needed to head back to the van. The sun was at a perfect golden hour and followed us as we weaved along the curvy, rocky trail until it slowly tucked itself behind the mountains turning the sky cotton candy dreamy.
Life is hard. I believe no one is exempt from that. Pain presents itself in different stories and in different ways to each of us. I have found that sometimes navigating through pain is harder than the pain itself...
Over three years ago I joined a seemingly simple, girly and mainstream fitness community. You may have heard me mention it a time or two...Founders, Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, of Tone It Up, had easy enough recipes and workouts to follow along with, and it actually seemed fun, and, well, it really was.
I fell in love fast and hard. I signed up for every meet up, bought the protein powder and the workout gear, and surprised myself by my newfound commitment to health and fitness, something I had been struggling to maintain for years. I wanted to be fit. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted to be healthy and present for my family. This was, at the time, my “why,” and I felt fairly confident about it.
And then something changed. Somewhere in the first nine months I had a shift. Somewhere in the countless meet ups, check ins on social media, SoulCycle classes that helped to change my thinking, this obscure and cliché phrase, self love, was integrating and altering my thoughts and habits without my realizing it. However, this emotional and mental shift came to my awareness in a painstakingly abrupt and unexpected moment when my family received some bad news. I crumbled. It was as if the pain that I carried for 30 years, the pain that had no voice, finally caught up to me, and I handled the news in a way that I am not proud of. But I got through it, and soon I felt my why had changed. It was no longer about the toned abs, but rather how necessary movement had become in maintaining my mental and emotional health. It had become my therapy, escape, release and fuel to get me through the good and the bad. I almost felt I had it all figured out again. But of course, life happened...
It began as a small snowball effect. I was laid off from a job that I loved because the company was being acquired. Three days later, my dog died unexpectedly. A short time after that, my depression returned. Four months after that, my grandma passed away. And a few months after that, I was injured. My therapy and sanity (movement) temporarily inaccessible for eight long weeks. All of these things were challenging. They were hard. They were also just life. But then 2018, and the rough patch and pain I thought I was finally overcoming, came to an explosive finale in October. My sweet little family experienced agonizing heartbreak, and in a single evening, my entire world as I knew it came crashing down.
When I think of that fateful night, it is one of the few experiences that is still hard for me to put into words. How does one speak to or write about what it feels like when their husband says they no longer wish to be married? To this day, it brings me pain, and it is something I work hard on healing constantly.
This moment, though, unbeknownst to me, would be a defining and turning point in my life. It was hard. It made everything else I endured over the past year look like small hills. This, however, was a monstrous mountain that had me guessing if the journey might actually kill me. It wouldn't, of course, but everything I had learned up until that point, everything I had been working to improve in the past two years, would be put to the test. As far as I could see, I had two choices: The first was to continue drowning like I felt I was, the second was to love myself harder than I ever had and to show up for my family in a way that was new to me. In a way that felt impossible, yet crucial to our journey, all at the same time. So that's exactly what I did.
On September 23, 2017, at the Tone It Up tour, Katrina made a promise. She said, "From this moment on, you'll never be alone. You'll have the incredible power of the women around you." I took that to heart. So, I wasn't alone. I relied on the support of my parents and girlfriends. Finally, after years of denying it, either from pride or a genuine unknowing of how to tap into the army of support that I had, I embraced it. Finally, I found a voice for pain I didn't know how to speak to, or how to even validate. I showed up for myself in a way that I had never done so before. Unfortunately this change was forced by the painful circumstances I was going through, but regardless, it was happening. I FINALLY went to therapy. I finally listened to myself when the true answer was no, and when it was yes. I finally understood just how powerful movement was when it came to healing and growing.
I'm unsure at what point I began to feel like an entirely new person. Parts of the old me almost unrecognizable. But I would be lying to you if I said I never slip back into old thought patterns, or that I don't have days where I suck at being there for my loved ones, or for myself. Or that I'm not a messy, imperfect human, because I 100% am. It's just different now.
I use to say that I live and breathe fitness. Now I say, I live and breathe movement. The journey from joining TIU to today has transformed wildly. I don't care about the number on the scale. And I do feel strong. But more importantly, I'm able to navigate life much more easily, whether it's moving through heartbreak, or the monotony of the workweek. Movement has helped me to experience joy and happiness in a bigger and deeper way. It has helped with my ability to be a better friend, daughter and partner, and with my ability to love them better and harder. It's given me the ability to stop being so hard on the people I love because I'm no longer wrapped up in unrealistic expectations I put on myself.
This is a preliminary story of how Grounding Climbs came to be. During my darkest moments, I went to the rocks. I found the ability to heal, forgive and recharge through my climbs. They grounded me. And this is why I have a calling to talk about movement as it relates to growth and healing more than ever before. I know a lot of this was about Tone It Up, but only because it was instrumental in how I got to where I'm at today.
I hope this series helps you to feel empowered in whatever it is you are called to do. These stories move through the range of emotions because I feel every single emotion is important to explore. As my therapist would tell me, if you cut out a single color in the rainbow, the other colors cannot exist. And that is what Grounding Climbs is. It is all of the colors. It is heavy, light, sad, happy, exciting, work. It's life.
Hello friends! After a brief pause, Grounding Climbs is back. We have so much we want to share with you all, but for now, I want to address something that I think has been on all of our minds; 2020. Before you skip this post because you think you’ve heard it all, hear me out:
We all now know that 2020 inflicted grief we never saw coming and exposed grief that has long existed and far too long been ignored. In the aftermath of public lynching’s, riots and immeasurable loss and injustice in the Black community, we’re seeing a scramble among individuals, brands and businesses to “do their part.” We’re seeing floods of social media posts that state their allegiance and promise to do better. But the overdue interest in the Black community begs the question, will it be enough? Will it last? Will we keep the conversations going long past the shift to new news? Because ultimately (and unfortunately), media outlets will surely find something else to occupy our attention with.
I had been thinking a lot about how we can keep the work and conversations alive long past their trending expiration date when I realized a few very important and key points. As we navigate disassembling our own inner racism and building our own roles during the multiple pandemics our country (and the world) are facing, here are some things to remember:
The first is, rest is a luxury. It is a privilege. I believe it’s okay to know this while acknowledging and honoring when we need to take them. If we lose steam, become unmotivated, disinterested, maybe even exhausted, taking a break allows us to reset and return stronger. If you're like me and have access to this privilege, we can use it to our advantage in order to keep the work going no matter what social media or the news tells us to pay attention to.
Next, we must continue doing the hard work. But then, and equally important in my opinion, we must find connection. Rather than regurgitate information that we feel no connection to or mindlessly share because everyone else is, let's find something that we can relate to, even if it’s just in a small way. Use it as a tool to continue this path long after the media stops talking about it and your friends stop posting about it, because that genuine interest will fuel continued research and growth. Find what gets you excited and motivated because whatever it is, I believe that if we create connection, we’re likely to form new habits that stick and increase our chances of keeping these conversations going.
This next one is more general, however, it’s important to learn how to better speak with someone moving through grief. Even if we’ve been through it ourselves, it’s hard to remember just how disorienting it can be when we’re not in it. The first rule of thumb I like to remind people of is, please do not compare yourself or a situation you have been through to someone else’s. Refrain from language like, “It seems like you’re doing great!” Or, “At least…”. No matter how good your intentions may be, statements like these are invalidating. And, they are assumptions. When I was going through my divorce (mind you, I know this is nothing compared to what is going on in our country) it drove me absolutely crazy when people would tell me how well I seemed to be doing. I was hanging on by a thread. I was seeing a therapist weekly because my mental health had taken a scary toll. But we aren’t taught to be raw and vulnerable. We’re told to be strong, and most often people want to hear that you’re doing well, so we force a smile and maybe let out a, “I’m ok.” In this day and age, “I’m ok,” should probably be universally accepted as a silent cry for help.
Moving on...It’s okay to not ask someone every day how they are doing. It's likely it’s not changing from their day to day yet. Again, I know this gesture is well intended, but a better offering might be, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Or, “I’m here if you need anything.”
Be mindful of stories that you share with someone in pain. If someone is dealing with trauma or grief, hearing about someone’s brother’s sister’s wife’s best friend’s experience might actually not be what they need in that moment. In fact, this can have the opposite effect and trigger the trauma they’re already going through.
Be thoughtful of the advice you have to offer. While I love the trending self care that goes around, it’s important to remember that this in itself is an exposure of privilege. While these tips and tricks might help you relax, when it comes to deep-seated pain and trauma, bubble baths and face masks just aren’t going to cut it. We must be mindful and intentional about the advice we offer for one’s road to recovery.
I strongly encourage refraining from saying, “At least progress is being made now.” I implore you to not glorify movement toward basic human rights. Please do not glorify working toward what should already be in place for every single human being. Yes, thank God we are making strides, but we should not pat ourselves on the back for granting someone the ability to live freely.
And finally, I don’t care how successful a person appears to be, how well their family appears to be doing, the size of the smile on their face…often times we have no idea of the weight a person is carrying, and sometimes it’s the silent sufferers who are hurting the most.
Still with me? Feeling a little peeved because you said all of these things to a loved one? So did I at one point! This post is meant to offer suggestions for better communicating with one another. I’m still learning. We are still learning. Many of us are navigating new territory we've never encountered in our lifetime. But the more we know, the better we can be.
Once upon a time, there lived a princess who married her perfect prince. Although the princess didn’t believe in happily ever after, she did believe she found the closest thing to it.
Sadly, one day, the prince left unexpectedly, and in a month’s time the princess would lose her husband, her dog, her cat and her life as she knew it, thus beginning the darkest period of her life. Without much hope for herself or belief in who she was, the princess did the only thing she knew how to do best. She went to the rocks. And she climbed, and fell, and failed, over and over again.
Not too far into her new life, she found photos of her six-year-old self in Yosemite National Park and realized that while she felt like she could not survive without the prince, there was another dream, a bigger dream that had been with her all along. So the princess traded her castle for a pumpkin, one with four wheels and that could hold a bed and food and water.
She traded her name, “princess,” for one much more suitable for her. She would now be known as a “dirtbag.” In three weeks time, this aspiring dirtbag will leave for Colorado to begin a new chapter. One filled with climbing, adventure, trails (after covid, of course) and that is greatly focused on healing and growth. Much like the heroines in the Miyazaki films she loves, “she’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman (even herself) is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”
Divorce is disruptive. Every part of my life disassembled at its mercy. Yet, it was anything but merciful. It was a mirror that reflected parts of who I was that I did not want to see but that desperately needed to be acknowledged. I grappled with how I wanted to announce the divorce for quite some time, feeling limited in my silence but uncertain that my words would give the experience justice. It wasn’t until I was back in Utah, embarking on a ride I had journeyed once before, that I realized exactly how to speak to what I had been going through. It became so obvious. The best way I know how to express my experiences is through movement. So here goes...
We start up the mountain and everything has changed since my first and previous ride a month ago. The trail looks different, but is familiar at the same time. In the beginning, the ground that was once rich with life and greenery is now dry, exposing roots and trees twisted in turmoil. Death is apparent.
The fog was a slow burn that morning, quietly rippling up the mountain and eventually retreating to the top where rock meets sky, blurring any distinction between the two. Like foam washed upon a shore, it lingers omnisciently at the peak of the mountain.
At first my wheels fight against the current of snarled roots that appear to bubble up from the earth, but these bubbles are unyielding and threaten to knock the bike off the trail. As the ride progresses, the nature subtly changes. Parts of it nourished, colorful, other parts bare and muted. Somehow, though, no matter what part of the trail I’m on, the grass appears to be greener elsewhere.
Eventually the trail becomes blanketed by golden fallen leaves from a summer come and gone. My wheels begin to turn effortlessly under me, propelling me up and over root and rock and the decorative patterns the foliage seems to intentionally make. The ground is disrupted by nature’s limbs and stone that were once apart of the mountain. The climb increases in grade as the journey begins to set in. Shortness of breath ensues. A steep incline becomes visible ahead. It’s familiar and stirs a visceral feeling from a previous attempt. But this time, the fear is met with a surprising glide up and over the unstable ground. I have made it. There’s brief reprieve and a small downhill allows the wind to run its fingers through my hair and gently kiss my face. Happiness peaks through the rigid consternation. The vegetation begins to change. The Alpines give welcome to the Maples. There is debris scattered among the strong and proud standing trees. If they mourn what they’ve lost, they do so silently. The wreckage lain at their roots doesn’t make them any less beautiful, though. They serve as a reminder of their resilience and the conditions they’ve weathered from four changing seasons. Like scars, they each hold their own story.
As I near the top of the mountain, the sun begins to peak through the branches, like broken dreams it weaves in and out of the shadows, creating patterns of interchangeable darkness and light. Both equally painting beauty across the trails. The top is near now. Hairpin switchbacks tempt to propel me off the mountain. Just when I’ve exhausted my last breath, I’m forced to unearth power to survive the final rocky incline. Then, there’s stillness, save the rise and fall of my chest. The leaves above begin to ripple against one another, mimicking the sound of rain, but instead of a storm, the sun shines brighter. Now, the fog seems to have disappeared entirely. Evidence of its presence only known by the dewy drops it left behind.
The top of the mountain, itself, is not profound. There is a bit of wonderment at how I’ve already arrived. It takes a minute to sink in, and it demands a thoughtful glance around and down its landscape. Suddenly, there’s a clearer picture. Like looking at a roadmap, the trails and pathways weaving in and out of varying terrains, and the big and small indentations, are what make the mountain this mountain. There is no other just like it. The entirety of this mountain is made up of every past experience that has befallen it. It’s strong. It’s grounded. And, perhaps surprisingly, it’s forgiving to the changes it has seen, and wholly and lovingly thankful for every part that makes it what it is. The mountain is unmovable, despite the evidence of impact it has endured. And I realize, the mountain is much like me. Similar to the mountain, there is infinite love and insurmountable grief that actually was surmountable. At the top, a mind mostly clear with scattered fog that gives way to new territory unexplored. Like breadcrumbs, the fog serves as a guide of what is yet to be unearthed and what demands to be discovered. Parts of the trail are reminders for the people that were met along the way, the moments when the wrong gear almost knocked me off track, and the ups and downs that I overcame. There is peace. There is also a looming uncertainty of what is to come. Because I’ve learned enough by now to know the downhill, while down, will be no easy feat, nor should any assumptions about it be made.
The first time I attempted this ride, much like the first time my husband walked out on me, I was left feeling like I was wrapped so tightly in a cocoon that I might never come out of. Now, I pause at the top of the mountain with a new set of wings flapping rhythmically against the changes around me. Exhilarated and terrified for the next climb. Yet, still, tethered to the ground by the humbling humility this journey brought me.