(Warning!! This post is of a very personal nature and may offend some readers.)
This is a video from a very popular rock climbing route in Yosemite. This technique is called a pendulum traverse. Climbers call it "The King Swing” and it takes place on a route called “The Nose” on the 3000’ feature called El Capitan. About halfway up this particular route the cracks and features kind of peter out once you get to the top of that flake the photographer is standing on. Since the rock doesn’t have any little cracks or bumps there is subsequently nothing to pull up on or stand on. Therefore, no way to climb it. The only solution is to go back down and see if you can find another path. Sometimes you see another path but there really isn’t any way to get to it from underneath. The only feasible solution is to do a pendulum traverse. Just as the name implies you lower down as far as you have to and swing back and forth until you can grab a section of rock that is will allow you to climb it.
I’ve done several pendulum traverses, although not this one. They can be quite intimidating. Sometimes you’re not quite sure if you’re swinging into a section that will be just as unclimbable as where you were. One time it was an emergency situation and this was the safest technique to get off the rock during a thunderstorm. But every time I was more than a little apprehensive. The technique requires much more planning than it appears and things have to be done just right in order to stay safe.
Even though the route ahead seems insurmountable it’s quite a weird feeling to hang your butt on the end of a rope and run back and forth hoping to grasp something better, something that will allow you to keep progressing. It’s not exactly the safest thing to do. The times I’ve done them were only in situations where I was absolutely sure that it was the only way to keep on progressing. The risks can be high, but the rewards can be even greater if this leads you to better climbing or a way out of the current predicament.
I’m at a point in my life where I need to take the King Swing. I’ve been on a path that has provided me with much joy and happiness up to this point. I felt like I was growing, learning and progressing. But for the last several years I’ve been stuck on a ledge looking for ways to keep moving up and not finding anything to hang on to. It has taken me quite a while to even consider looking for another path. I’d been raised to believe that the path I was on was perfect and there was no reason to stray from it. But I just couldn’t see where or how to continue. Consequently, I’ve lowered down a little bit and begun to swing back and forth looking for another path.
I believe I’ve found a path. I’m not quite sure how good the climbing will be over there but I’m sure it is more promising than where I am now. Who knows? This new path may lead me back onto my original path from a different angle. Or I may end up having to lower back down this new route too and look for yet another path. I just don’t know right now.
To those of you who aren’t having any problems negotiating the blank sections of the original route, I have no criticism at all. Congratulations. You are better skilled at finding the route than I am. Simply because I am looking for a different path I have no criticism at all if you are making it work for you.
I’m not suggesting that anybody take the steps that I about to without doing at least as much thorough research, soul-searching and earnestly looking for all of the answers. This decision, to take the swing, has not be reached casually. In my case it has been years and years of agonizing study and prayer that has brought me to when I am now.
It’s time to set the metaphor aside. This post has nothing to do with rock climbing. I’m talking about my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For the past several years I’ve been stuck on a ledge and could find no way to keep moving forward. I’ve discussed some of the specifics on this blog numerous times, but I don’t wish to get into them today. To my friends and family who are members of the church I hope that you will take this with the spirit with which it is intended. I am very grateful that you are in my life and I mean absolutely no disrespect to you at all. I have never felt that absolute agreement on everything was necessary for me to love you and this decision will not stop that. I hope that you can see it in your heart to still love me. The most apprehensive part of this decision has been the considering, reconsidering and re-reconsidering the effects it will have on my family.
I fully expect that many of you will not understand my decision. I’m under no delusion that this will be easy. But I believe it will be better in the long run. I’ve seen other friends and family members struggle with some of the same issues that I have. It’s been very selfish of me to let them struggle alone while I conceal my struggles and go through some of the same things they have been.
I am grateful for everything that I have learned so far on my path. Please don’t think that I am going to consider abandoning all of the progress and the good things that I’ve learned in the process. I have no plans to start stopping by liquor stores or breaking any other of the moral and ethical codes the church has taught me. Quite the opposite; I cherish those values and I look forward to continuing to incorporate them into my life.
The private answers to the questions I have asked in my prayers have led me in an unexpected direction, a spiritual path which, at least for now, has proven incompatible with Mormon doctrine. This search for a new route has brought me some of the most profound surprises and also the deepest sadness of my life. It is very hard for me to leave a path that I love so much.
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