I've learned a lot about falling over the years. Today was a perfect example. No matter how hard I tried to keep my skis pointed in the right direction, they kept on getting away from me, going whichever way they pleased, taking me where I had no intention of going.
Every fall and catapult was a lesson in humility. Every missed turn was a lesson and a regret. As I found myself, over and over, headed in the wrong direction, all I had time to think was "how did this happen?", "when will this stop?"
And as I found myself falling, launched, tumbling down the mountainside, I lost all sense of time, sense, reason. I just watched the mess happen, as if from above, seeing myself for the inexperienced, bumbling, fumbling, lost mess that I am.
And then, inevitably, it stopped. And I found myself head first or tush first in the snow bank, or worse, splayed motionless and contorted in the middle of the piste, praying that one of the pros wouldn't mow me over as they came effortlessly and masterfully speeding down the slope, conquering the mountain, showing skill and brawn while I flayed like a fish out of water, trying to position myself against my poles to regain my footing and pretend that I actually have what it takes to be here.
But I am one of the lucky ones. I have a sixty-five year-old, former racing champion ski instructor. Every time I fall, she skis effortlessly back to me, telling me to relax, catch my breath, and take my time getting up. I am always motivated by my shame; shame at falling, shame at seeing this older woman, younger spirit egging me on. Shame at having my skis stuck straight into the hill, tush pointed to the sun, head buried in a snow bank. The shame motivates me to get the hell out of this mess 'real quick'.
Irrevocably, I get back up. Nothing broken, nothing shattered, nothing torn. So far! I regroup. And my instructor's voice eggs me on, whether she is saying the words out loud or I am just recalling them in my head. And I take the hill on once again. Sometimes very slowly. Sliding sideways, letting one leg take all the pressure. Sometimes traversing over the fall line, then turning straight into the mountainside. I hear my instructor's voice: "Forward, forward, stand up, weight on the right hip, relax the left leg completely, turn; forward, forward, stand up, weight on the left hip, relax the right leg completely, turn; forward, forward, ..."
And then, without realizing how I got there, effortlessly, I am at my destination. And I find myself surprised at wanting to head right back up the mountain. Bruised, battered, but not defeated. I wear my professional ski gear like a shield, my bruises and humility like a badge of honor. I conquered the mountain, not seamlessly, not as gracefully as I'd hoped, not without pain. But I am here, still standing, still willing, still intact. And so I head back up the mountain, determined that I will do better, determined that I will conquer the fear and inexperience that caused me to flail and fall EVERY SINGLE TIME.
That is "me", falling down the mountain. Then there is "me", falling in the ME. And I realize that it's not so different. I can take the fall, I can take the bruises, I can take the pain.
In my life, I have the two most amazing instructors ever. One is 51, my soulmate, my confidante, my soldier. One is seven, my miracle, my inspiration. Every time I stumble, flail, crash, they are there. Their voices resound in my head. I can do it, I can get up on my feet again.
Breathe. Relax. Take it slow. You can make it through the pain and the humiliation. The fall didn't break you; now stand up and keep on going. Shift the burden, move forward, turn towards where you're going, face down the hill, to where you're going, don't look back. Turn your body towards the valley, towards what scares you. If you hug the mountain in fear, you will fall.
And irrevocably, I get up again. I slide a bit, I take my time. And then I turn face forward to the future and let the natural rhythm take over. In me, in the ME. I've learned a lot about falling over the last few years.