My last week’s Field Note made me feel quite horrible. Not because of the subject matter – granted, not a particularly cheery one – but because of how much I didn’t like what I wrote.
Last Sunday, a friend of mine organised one of her monthly climbing meetups, and I joined in to help out. With over 40 women showing up, it seemed that we all had a great time, and I ended up having the biggest day of climbing since 2020.
Since the pandemic, I haven’t been out on the rocks much, nor have I been training. Perhaps somewhat ironically, writing Born to Climb took me away from my bouldering goals, and I was happy to focus on the book. Then, a series of injuries kept me pretty inactive and, finally, catching Covid in August last year prevented me from getting back in shape.
Two years of relative slouching, followed by a lingering post-viral fatigue, meant that for a while I had to take it very easy. It was only last month during my trip to the US that I felt like I started to regain some of my energy – not working for a couple of weeks and spending more time outdoors certainly helped.
Then, last Sunday, during the Betty Beta meetup I was able to completely forget about my tiredness, the shortness of breath that had been my constant companion for a while, and the ridiculous amount of sleep I needed to keep functioning. (Most autistic adults have a reduced capacity for REM sleep, meaning that we spend longer resting. Add the Covid fatigue on top of that, and I felt like I was spending most of my life in bed.) As we say in climbing, I was super psyched.
A day later, I sat down to write a Field Note about the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris 2024 Olympics. There was so much I wanted to say, so much that had been bubbling in my head after reading the news. I have been involved in writing about the Games since 2012 when I wrote a series of opinion pieces for a left-leaning Polish magazine. Then, my university thesis briefly touched on the relationship between outdoor sports and the Olympic movement, and I was dubious about the benefits of climbing becoming an olympic sport. All those years of learning and writing about the Games meant that I was excited to write a really good note last week.
After a few hours of staring at the screen, it was clear that it was not meant to be. Perhaps fatigue and brain fog are a poor excuse for not executing a piece of writing as well as I had hoped. Still, with the subject matter being particularly close to my heart, and having thought for a few days about what I’d write, I was sure it should have gone better. In the end, I sent out a lukewarm Field Note – a far cry from what I had in mind – and collapsed in bed.
The next day, rereading the piece made me feel sick inside as it seemed that I had failed not only my readers but also myself. At that time, I didn’t make the connection between climbing all Sunday and not being able to think clearly the day after.
Later in the week, with a beautiful forecast and two guests at home – one of them my best friend, and another a refugee – it was again time to climb. After the Betty Beta meetup, I was super psyched to touch rock again, and this time ended up having not one but two big days in a row. I was overjoyed – my guests were happy and I was clearly getting back to my old, fit self.
To a degree, I wasn’t wrong. Not long ago, it would have been impossible for me to climb for a whole day, let alone two. I am still incredibly happy that it is the case now, but I didn’t realise that I would pay for it more dearly than expected.
The following day, having spent so much time in the forest, I was planning on returning to my house renovations. The first task, wiring an electrical circuit in the cellar, required some thinking – anthropologists and writers are not renowned for their skills with wires and sockets, but I knew that with a quick YouTube tutorial, I’d be fine. I always am – I can put down parquet flooring, plumb bathrooms, and fit wood-burning stoves. I even did some wiring before, so a few light switches and sockets shouldn't pose a problem.
I put down my wires on the floor in the front room and started planning how to rig everything together but the more I looked at them, the more they seemed like an insurmountable mathematical equation. Three coloured cables danced in my head, tangled, and made zero sense whatsoever. I stared at them intensely, watched videos, stared some more, and felt more and more lost.
To clear my head, I went to the shop to pick up some missing pieces but I could barely focus on keeping the car on the road. Then, walking through the aisles of the DIY store, with my heart pounding and cotton wool in my legs, I finally realised that I wasn’t well. I went back home, cancelled an evening date with a friend, and went to bed. With a short break to have dinner, I slept for sixteen hours.