In college I fell down a flight of stairs at a frat party and landed on my face… there was a little alcohol involved in this incident. That trip down the stairs landed me in the ER for the night with huge medical bills and a lot of explaining to my dad. It also gifted me my college nickname, Digger. I went to school on the coast of Maine and in these parts a huge fall, or wipe out was called a digger. With the accent it sounded more like diggah, usually used with wicked… a wicked diggah. This term was actually kind of cool and a good thing. It meant you were really going for it, such as in skiing. While the name had some prestige to it, I was embarrassed about it. I didn’t share this nickname with anyone and cringed a little anytime I was referred to as digger. I felt shame about the fall and tried to hide it as much as possible. This is a trend I continued for a long time and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone.
I wrote a blog a few months back about a similar thing, Lucy’s Stumble. I must not have fully gotten the message because the falls have gotten more intense and more frequent. Unfortunately, so have Lucy’s. Lucy had a pretty good digger on Sunday morning. She was hit by car. Physically she is okay, a few stitches and bruises. However, emotionally she is a bit traumatized. Again, there is a lot of learning in this for me. We wrapped Lucy’s leg up in plastic and put a sock on it so her bandage wouldn’t get wet in the snow. She braved it and marched right up the trail. It wasn’t long before we ran into someone on the trail and inevitably it happened, “Oh no! What happened to her?” I felt my stomach drop as I shared that a car hit her. I felt like such a bad parent. “I should have had her on a leash!” “I should have been paying more attention!” “I’m not taking very good care of her!” “I’m not good enough,” I berated myself. I can only imagine how parents feel with their kids. How must it feel when your kid gets an F? Or gets arrested? Or gets divorced? Or files for bankruptcy? Or feels suicidal? It must be gut wrenching on many levels.
I think we are losing our ability to fall. It seems to me that more so than ever we have, as a society, an attitude of if you are not perfect, you are doing something wrong. Or if your kid is not perfect, you are doing something wrong. I get the sense that the second one is even more painful. What if we have this all wrong? What if falling is the good part? What if this is what we are supposed to do? And we do! We all fall. It seems in everyone’s life there comes a point at least once when a situation occurs that yanks the rug out from underneath you. It is a fall that can’t be fixed, understood, controlled, changed, or explained. Sometimes this is a death, or illness, or divorce, getting fired, or being incarcerated. At some point we all fall greatly. Often times this is what shakes us out of our current thinking. It is what puts life in perspective and teaches us what really matters. I have seen some pretty profound revelations after great stumbles… or diggers.
So, what if we have falling all wrong? What if it is not something to be hated, avoided, or denied? What if we embraced the fall? What if we approached these challenging times with an open heart, compassion, humility, and a willingness to learn? Maybe then we could see just how helpful and necessary the falls are to learn, grow, connect, and uplift.
I’ve stumbled A LOT in my life. And only every time has there been profound learning. The greatest stumble was the night I almost killed myself. Yet, that night is one of the most profound. It was the first time I heard the small voice, the voice of God. Thank God for that fall! As Carl Jung says, “where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold.” Amen.
Why am I writing all of this? I share my experience of falling to encourage us to have more acceptance, patience, compassion, and love with others and ourselves as we fall, and again, WE ALL DO. Often we are quick to judge and shame others and ourselves for falling. This fosters secrecy, which is the birthplace of shame. This is not helpful to mine the gold of the fall. It just keeps us down, and makes getting up that much harder. Our kids are learning this from us. I just spent time with a 14-year-old girl who tried to kill herself in her bathroom because kids were teasing her so badly. This breaks my heart. She was willing to give up everything in her life because the pain of being made fun of was so intense. Kids were stepping on her while she was down, not helping her up. Not one kid took the time to reach out a hand. No way! They would get knocked down too. We can do better. We can make falling not only acceptable but admired.
If we took the disgrace out of falling we could learn so much more. Imagine if we could share our falls, mistakes, and challenges as freely as we share our victories. We could also share the learning! I think we tend to shun those who have the most to teach us, our greatest teachers– the ones who have fallen the hardest. The addicts, the homeless, the hungry, the poor, the incarcerated, the beaten down. Or the ones who have been there, the survivors, the veterans, or our elders. There is so much wisdom, loving, compassion, and kindness in the world. If we could just turn failing on it’s head and see it for what it really is, an opportunity to learn, grow, connect, love, and hear the one voice that really matters, the small voice.