On a recent morning run in Greenpoint, I slid on a slippery crack of the sidewalk and fell down in the gutter.
I wasn’t hurt. Aside from small scrapes on my left elbow and right palm, the only true casualty was to my shorts, which got drenched in a sewer soup of rain and trash that I’d rather not think about. My iPhone, by some stroke of luck, survived without a scratch. And so I stood and brushed myself off, ready to keep running, as three separate passersby paused to make sure I was okay.
“Oh, yeah, totally. No, no worries! Yep, I’m good. It’s all good. Thanks! Thanks.”
That’s what you’re supposed to do when you fall, right? Brush it off? Pick your ass up and get back in the game? Keep pushing?
We all trip. Tripping is just a silly, simple, inevitable thing that happens to everyone. Those of us with a particular propensity towards clumsiness (I won’t name any names) might be apt to trip at least once or twice per day.
But when you really fall — hard, hands on the ground, with a tiny rose of blood blooming somewhere on your shirt or shorts — maybe that’s gravity’s blunt and brutal way of begging you to slow down.
Maybe you’re actually supposed to sit there with your sore, bruised backside in the gutter for long enough to figure out why you didn’t see that slip-up coming.
Long enough to look ahead for any other unseen obstacles.
Long enough to allow your brain and body to recover — adequate time, plus extra, because you deserve that added grace.
And long enough to let the insecurities speak up. They’re the little mental voices that say, “You’re weak. You’re failing. You can’t keep going. You should never have started.”
Instinctively, in the shock of that trip and tumble, I twisted my internal monologue into a message of strength: “No worries! Yep, I’m good. I got this.” But I was only trying to evade my anxieties.
If you ask my anxieties, I was never a “runner” anyway. If you engage them, they’ll remind you of the way the word “athletic” made me gag until a few short years ago. They’re terrified that stopping for just a second might mean I’ll never get back up.
We all have our own wild worries that whisper loudest when we fall. Falls from grace, falls from glory, falling short — every fall, literal and metaphorical, is a reminder of fragility.
We’re just glad to not be broken. We want to keep moving forward, as quickly as we can, to prove that our strength surpasses our vulnerability.
But our strength and vulnerability are both based in that same space. They’re both down on the ground, in that sticky, soggy, sore spot, in the mud of the gutter.
We can’t banish our insecurities by walking or running away in a rebellious insistence on proving them wrong. Instead, I think the secret is to stay with them a little longer, familiarizing ourselves with the trivial tone of their irrationalities and allowing them to ramble until their throats dry up. That’s when the quieter, calmer truth gets the chance to speak.
The truth is the deep-down, grounded trust that counteracts the fear. It’s the voice that says, “Actually, you don’t have to keep pushing. Sit down for now. Rest right here. You can try again tomorrow.”
We have to learn to trust ourselves to try again tomorrow.