Joining the dots…

Well I confess I’d forgotten how to log into my blog and before I knew it, a year passed and I realised that there has been a lot going on! Its not possible as a one woman band to do everything, and I have been blessed this year with some great help from Lucy at Wild Tree Digital who has helped my internet operations become greener through this low data site and eco-hosting. I also was delighted to work with Hannah Rannaldi on the Fear of Falling workbook – she is brilliant at taking my text and turning it into something that is easy and enticing to use. She was also on the same page in terms of trying to minimise the environmental impact of creating a new product, so she was able to source eco printing options from a company who gives back in terms of supporting women leaving domestic violence.

I have tried to move to a more politically active stance this year, though its not been easy and feels disheartening at times. I’ve spent time writing letters, signing petitions and more recently going on my first climate march. Successes have been the positive response from the BMC about switching to a greener bank. I think its easy to forget that our money in ‘our’ bank accounts actually gets used by banks for investment, and most of the high street banks use that money currently to invest in fossil fuels and other unethical practices. If I told you that you were spending your annual salary subsidising fossil fuels, I am sure that would horrify most people. That was the point I wanted to make to my membership organisations – it means little to buy recycled paper and reusable coffee cups if your entire income is invested in deforestation. So far, no response from MTA or the BPS, but I’m going to keep asking. I have also offered coaching and mentoring opportunities to underserved groups and tried to use more diverse images in all my workshop materials. I’ve got a long way to go here, and am trying to educate myself about racism and white privilege.

What I have loved about the last 12 months or so is the return to hybrid working. I’ve delivered a lot of webinars for various organisers – the Women’s Climbing Symposium, the BMC, the Danish Mountaineering Club, and soon the Mountain Medicine series. This normalising of online lectures has made climbing psychology far more accessible through reducing costs, reducing access issues (though I still need to understand more about how to improve subtitles and slide layout for people with hearing and visual impairments) and recorded webinars give more flexibility for people like me who sometimes struggle with childcare. I’ve also been delighted to return to face to face sessions with individuals and groups, and having that ability to observe people first hand is so important. The biggest event so far this year was this weekend’s Women’s Climbing Symposium at the Hangar in Sheffield; it is by far my favourite event as the atmosphere is so special. Where else would you see 200+ women, having a go at things they find difficult, laughing off any embarrassment at failed attempts, encouraging each other to have a try, and supporting each other when vulnerabilities come to the surface. In its 11th year, its going from strength to strength.

As the end of the year draws near, I’m wanting time to stand still a little and at the same time excited to see what is next. I’ve got about 6 weeks left to work on my book, which will be published by Sequoia Books next year – like anyone writing a book, more time would be great, but at the same time it will never be perfect and you have to draw a line somewhere! I’m hoping to fill in the gaps left by some of the books which have gone before, based on my experiences as a coach and psychologist over the last 15-20yrs, and adding in some of the newer research in this area. I’m also lucky to be helped by Pete Edwards who is tenacious in chasing up missing references and research articles for my book. Once the book is in, it will be time to edit the Smart Chalkbag for an updated version 2! Another exciting development for me is being part of the International Association of Psychologists in Climbing. We are a group of psychologists from around the globe who meet monthly for peer supervision and support, and are currently producing a position statement and accessible guide to eating difficulties in climbers, hopefully the first of many guidances to come. The aim is to share knowledge with climbers and coaches about all things psychology-related, and keep up with and hopefully contribute to ongoing research. Climbing as a sport is still so new in psychology terms, there is much we don’t yet know for sure, so sharing good practice is vital.

Finally and on a personal note, I’ve been pretty unlucky with my health for the last 4 yrs. Whilst I’m still under investigation and treatment, I am making slow progress and I am hopeful about what next year will bring once I start a new treatment regime in December. I’ve been unable to climb much for the last 4 yrs which has been difficult for me, particularly as it has felt like one step forward and two back. I have reactive arthritis, joint issues and muscle wasting as a result of my illness, so I guess I’m going to be learning to work with a new (but not improved!) body – time to get stuck into the psychology of injury, rehab and chronic illness I guess. I’m lucky to have a supportive group of friends and family around me who don’t mind if I need to cancel last minute, or can only manage half an hour at the wall.

What stands out for me over the last year is the same theme that WCS21 focused on this year – connection. We are all connected – to each other, to our actions, to the planet – we just need to join the dots.

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