This morning I was running down a dirt trail with my sweet girl, Lucy. Suddenly, she stumbled. There wasn’t much on the trail to trip on, but her back leg hit something and her foot went out from underneath her. Instantly, I felt myself reach for her. “Are you okay, girl?” I quickly said out loud to her as I felt my body lean down toward her. She kept right on going looking back at me as if nothing had happened. Much like the look she gives me when she farts and I say something to her about it, “What? I didn’t do anything.” Two interesting things occurred to me in this moment. The first was that my heart opened with huge loving for her as I saw her stumble. She is going on 11 years old and I’ve seen her stumble more and more lately. Each time it happens I feel this same way. I feel a deep loving for her, care, and concern. I don’t want her to hurt. I want her to be able to do everything she wants to do. I want nothing but the best for this amazing companion who has been by my side for some of the darkest days. We’ve been through a lot together. The second interesting thing to me was how unaffected she was by this stumble. It’s as if it didn’t happen for her. She didn’t stop or even slow down. She just took the next step without pause. What would it be like if I didn’t make my stumbles mean anything? What if I just took the next step?
I, too, have stumbled recently. My stumble was inside of a new relationship. I created an expectation that led to quite an upset. I also took things personally, withdrew, and retreated to an old familiar place of self-doubt and self blame. It was a painful stumble. But, I didn’t simply take the next step. I stopped. I judged myself for the stumble. I beat myself up. I made myself bad and wrong for not getting it right. I berated myself for always messing up things when they seem to be going so well. I took the stumble as I sign that I’m not good enough.
What if Lucy did this? What if she stumbled on the trail and immediately stopped and fell to the ground whining. What if she didn’t want to go on walks anymore because she was afraid of this happening again? What if she questioned my love for her because she thought she wasn’t a good enough companion anymore? What if she thought I wanted a new puppy that could run so much faster and not stumble on the trail? What if she just stopped on the trail and gave up? Seems weird huh? It’s heartbreaking to think of her doing that and really bizarre to picture. Yet, this is what so many of us do all the time. We judge our mistakes, our stumbles, and beat ourselves up for them when we fail to measure up to some perfect standard. Somewhere along the line we made it not okay to stumble, to make a mistake, or to fail.
I work with individuals who have stumbled a lot and stumbled hard. They have taken massive falls in life and this is usually where I meet them, just after a tough fall. I feel that this is such a privilege. I get to be with someone when they are at their most vulnerable. They are hurting, often embarrassed, and struggling to find the next step. What I feel for them is very much what I felt for Lucy in her moment of stumble. I feel my heart open and feel myself leaning in. In no way do I feel judgment for them having stumbled. I feel compassion, loving, grace, and a deep caring. I want them to know that I see stumbling and getting back up as a sign of courage, strength, resiliency, and willingness– all things I value very deeply. These individuals inspire me and walking with them during this time is an honor.
I find huge gifts in stumbling. There is always learning for me when I fall and the process of getting back up strengthens me. With each fall, mistake, failure, or whatever you want to call it, I receive gifts of grace, compassion, courage, and willingness. I learn more about who I am. The greatest gift of all, to me, is that I learn to love a little more deeply and little more unconditionally. I think stumbles have gotten a bad rap. They are a necessary part of growing.
While I have huge compassion for other people stumbling, I’ve been slow to bring this to myself. Somehow it’s perfectly fine for others to fail, but not for me. I find it easy to love and embrace someone who has fallen, but hard to do that for myself. So often, I have been the harshest with myself during these times. Interesting? During times when I’m hurting, I’m shaken, and finding my confidence and footing again I’m the worst with myself. Not very helpful.
This is the gift of Lucy’s stumble and my own recent stumble. I can see how I’ve been being with myself and how unkind that has been to my heart. It’s okay when I stumble and when I fail. Most of the time this is where I grow the most and come into a deeper level of loving. After a painful period of not connecting in this new relationship I found myself in a place of deeper loving. As we both got back up from the stumble we hugged. In that moment, I cried. They were tears from deep within. They weren’t tears of pain or regret. These were tears of deep loving. I was moved by how connected I felt and how much love I felt in this moment. Interesting again… we stumbled and what was created was deeper loving and more connection.
I don’t find myself loving people because they are perfect and don’t make mistakes. I find I connect most in the times of stumble and the process of getting up and taking the next steps. I don’t love Lucy because she is perfect. I love her because we have both stumbled greatly together. This is what I want to do with those in my life. I want to run together, laugh together, stumble together, get back up together, and love together. So, with me, you can always stumble.