I watched an amazing movie yesterday called Touching the Void. It’s not a new movie but it is new for me. It tells the true, incredible, epic, survival story of a climber named Joe Simpson in the mountains of Peru. He injures his leg terribly. It is a break that makes his leg unusable. The weather turns bad and he and his partner are exposed on soft snow they can’t hang onto. The snow blocks their vision and the partner accidentally lowers Simpson over a ledge. He is hanging in the air pulling his partner off too. The partner decides to cut the line. Simpson falls into a deep crevasse.
From there I can only tell you he endures super-human challenges. I watched how he did it. First, he focused on what to do, not on how he felt. If he panicked, he re-focused on his task rapidly. He had no one but himself to rely on, but he was thinking constantly, not in self-pity but on how to keep moving forward. One strategy he had was to make small goals that he had to achieve by a certain time. Once he reached his goal he immediately made a new one. This kept him moving forward all the time, but with small goals he could achieve, rather than a seemingly impossible huge goal. In this way, inch by inch, he crawled off a mountain to life.
I couldn’t help reflect on autism when I saw this. Working out of a neurological illness is kind of like being in a crevasse. I see that small, steady goals, an absence of self-pity, and focusing on thought, not emotions, works on that too. Simpson may have survived by true grit but it’s a lesson I can learn from.