Years later I had a neighbor tell me that my nickname on the block was “the little girl in the dress”.
Of course growing up in the Northeast necessitated matching tights for a good portion of the year, an accessory I also loved. One day Mom bought me a brand new pair and I was so excited I insisted on trying them on immediately. Before I had a chance to adequately admire how they looked, I was sent on an errand up the road; I quickly accomplished this and was happily skipping my way home when it happened: I fell. Flat on my face. In the middle of the street.
I lay there, stunned and confused—bloody and in pain, my new tights in tatters, I felt like I couldn’t move. Fortunately, a neighbor saw me and before someone came along and ran me over, he quickly scooped me up and carried me home. There was no recrimination for having destroyed the new purchase (except from myself); Mom picked the stones out of my knees and carefully cleaned and bandaged them. One wound was so deep I have a scar to this day.
Falling while human is an inevitability. This is something we are forced to learn over and over again; as we grow, more often the fall is not a physical one, but emotional or spiritual. We fall in love, we stumble in faith, we trip on doubt.
Life has a way of bringing us to our knees, literally and figuratively, and often at the absolute worst time. Sometimes we lose support structures we counted on—jobs, relationships, health—and then we can tumble into a free fall. No net, no lifeline, just the sense of an absolute vacuum with no solid ground in sight.
Often when we fall in life, it is a physical manifestation of the fact that we have been trudging, or dragging our heels. Bad jobs, imbalanced relationships and unwise health decisions are all things we know intellectually should be changed or removed, but if this were some easy task, the expression “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” would never have caught on. The extreme example, familiar to psychologists and people who work in child protective services, is children who do not want to be removed from abusive homes. Although to all with an outside perspective on the situation, this would obviously be the best course of action.
Even as adults with productive lives, we can fall into a fear based pattern of clinging to people and situations and behaviors that are harmful to us simply because they are what we know. But growing while human is also an inevitability if you are even a little bit awake; so when we try to hang on to structures that hinder our growth, sometimes life gives us a little push. And seemingly without warning, we are flat on our faces in the middle of the street.
Yet of course there were warnings.
There was escalating unhappiness, fighting or symptoms; there was an over reliance on coping mechanisms or numbing techniques. All of this fairly SHOUTING “Things have got to change!!!” The more we try to ignore this voice, the louder and more insistent it becomes, and we ignore it at our own peril. Because if you can hear that voice, there will be a reckoning; either heed the signs and take action or you will be pushed.
You will fall.
The bad news is that if we ignore our inner guidance long enough to precipitate a fall, there may be collateral damage we will never fully recoup. The good news is that necessary change, even by a forced hand, is always a positive thing. Yes, as a society we have certainly at the very least embraced the meme that “Change is good”, but internally our acceptance of that has a lot of “buts” attached, as in “but you go first.”
So blood pressure and blood sugar rise without us taking action to stop it—until a crisis is reached. We do the same in jobs and relationships; the same old same old until the consequences of our complacency explodes right in our faces. This is what we commonly refer to as “a wake-up call”.
We get our wake-up call and find ourselves in the middle of the street, flat on our faces. Every now and then a kindly soul will see us laying there and carry us out of harm’s way. More often than not we somehow manage to drag ourselves to our feet and persevere. Occasionally we just lie there until we get run over, too. In these moments we understand that as powerful as the human spirit can be, our resistance to becoming can be even greater.
But this is why we fall: we are here for becoming. We are here for growth. We are here for change.
The “fall” is actually a push past your own resistance, your own hang-ups, your own self-doubt. The fall is actually the universe sending you the message that you are ready for more, you are ready to become more. We understand this intrinsically when we are falling in love; yes, there is a risk in that vulnerability but if we are willing to take the leap, the risk will always pay off in a more evolved relationship to the self, if not to the other.
This is why we fall. Like the trees now shedding their leaves, we fall and experience the winter of our soul; a barren and seemingly dormant stretch where we retreat to that inner guidance we ignored and finally give it our full attention. And without the distractions of the “devil we know” getting in the way, we at last hear the message it has been shouting at us for so long.
Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to perfect is to change often.” When we resist change, we are resisting becoming our best selves. This is why we fall; because our best self is always fervently hoping to swoop in and save us from our fear.