In 6th grade, my class took a field trip to Washington, DC in January. It was so cold and windy that we all took special care to bundle up, and not just because the teachers said so. While we were walking from one monument to another, I slipped on a patch of ice and fell on my bum. A friend who was walking with me, giggling, said, “Andrea, I’m just laughing because you even fall gracefully!” Then she helped me up.
This moment has come to mind poignantly over the years, as I remember how embarrassed I was, and angry with myself, yet my friend smiled at the grace with which I fell. How could this be? It reminds me that often we are at our most beautiful when we are vulnerable in others’ eyes. Sitting there on the ice looking up at her, expecting ridicule, I was met with love.
I think falling is something I still resist (or perhaps, failing). In the practice of Contact Improvisation dance, I’ve been lifted dozens of times into the air, and learned to land gracefully. But there is a difference between landing and falling. Landing is something you plan, falling just happens.
When I moved to Toronto 2 years ago, with plans to start a new career, I did everything I could to ensure a smooth landing. But 2 years later, all my careful planning hasn’t yielded much, and I’m now having to drastically re-draft my idea of my future. In this sense, the landing is turning out to be a slow-mo fall – a fall precipitated in many ways, by lack of awareness that I was falling at all.
When we resist our vulnerability, or resist sinking into the “ground” of the present moment, we can so easily miss opportunities to be lifted by circumstance in ways we simply can’t plan or expect. Moving to Toronto has been a free-fall in which I was offered various opportunities for support. Some of them I took, and some, I passed by. Looking back, I could have used them all. But it was my lack of awareness of my need for support that let me miss out. I thought I didn’t need those arms to catch me.
Still, now that I’m admitting how scary and vulnerable it has been to move to this metropolis and try to make a living here, the web of support has appeared and it is so abundant.
In this life, nothing is certain. We are bound to risk, to fail, to fall. But perhaps in admitting we are falling, and admitting how vulnerable we usually are, we can learn to be lifted, and perhaps, even, to bounce back.