About the Fear of Falling
This morning, I fell off my bike on a tiny path between the rice fields. In my defense and in the defense of my ego, it is a tiny path of dirt and rocks, with many turns, where there is just enough space for one bike to pass and where there is always someone driving in front of you. It is a tiny path that I am trying to avoid, but sometimes I get fooled by my GPS. I was going to my yoga class, early and feeling calm, when I hesitated upon making a U-turn. Then, I heard this little voice in my head saying: go ahead Camille, you can do it, trust yourself. I couldn’t say if it was pride or just an absolute faith in my abilities as the boundary is thin.
I focused, like I rarely did before, and I entered the tiny path. I was driving so slowly that it was like I was walking seated on my bike. There was a Balinese woman behind me, with her little boy on her lap, who was waiting for me to move forward. I was carefully assessing the danger of every rock, every pothole. I was, more or less, dealing with the situation. Everything was going quite peacefully. In the middle of the tiny path though, I promised myself to never come back here ever again. These people are crazy! I don’t want to die lost in the rice fields in 35 humid degree weather. I could walk, walking is great, I could leave my bike here and end on foot, to change my identity and never come back. As soon as I could, as soon as there was enough room, I pulled myself to the side so that the Balinese woman can pass me. She looked at me with a big smile of acknowledgment and compassion. I restarted, proud to be a civic expat and relieved to arrive soon.
And just there, at the end of the tiny path, with victory so close and when I was about to grant myself an amazing psychological medal which would have been translated into an ice cream on the beach during sunset, I fell. I saw myself falling. Peacefully. Without pressure. At the moment when the fall becomes unavoidable, there is nothing much to do but wait. I heard the little rocks squeak under the wheels, I felt the bike slip on the side and my body nicely thrown to the dirt. At the very moment I hit the ground, I remembered that I was alone and far away, and my throat squeezed when I realized that probably nobody was about to worry about me.
And then, I saw the Balinese woman running towards me and asking if everything was ok. She helped me to get back on my feet, she picked my bike up and hugged me. She explained why I fell off my bike, that I had braked with the wrong brake. She didn’t speak English very well so she put her two hands on my handlebars and showed me how to do. You need to brake holding the two brakes at the same time, otherwise you slip. I felt so deeply grateful for this woman. I thought about my mother. And about my father too, who explained to me three hundred times that we have to brake with the two brakes in the same time. I looked at the Balinese woman and I saw my parents, here in Bali, on my tiny path in the rice fields. I told myself that, no matter where you are, no matter how old you are, you remain the child of you parents. I told myself that, when your parents are far away from you, you are a child of the world.
I got back on my bike, knowing that my knee was hurting but also that it wasn’t serious. Probably a big scratched bump. When I arrived to my yoga class, I asked for alcohol to clean my knee. I really believed that I was about to perish when I wiped the soaked cotton down on the wound. I cried on the inside, smiled on the outside. It made me think that I probably didn’t skin my knee since I was a child. That I didn’t scratch anything at all since I was a child. That I didn’t clean a wound or put a bandage on in ages. It made me realize how brave we are when we are kids. We’re not afraid, we fall, we get hurt, we get back up on our feet. We don’t scream when our skinned knee is being cleaned. To be clear, I didn’t scream when I cleaned my knee but only because there was too many people around and that I was ashamed. I fake cleaned the entire wound, but truthfully I touched it and focused on the outside parts of the wound, where it was bearable. I followed my yoga class as best as I could. And then, I went to the clinic to check that everything was ok and that I wasn’t about to need to have my leg amputated.
I always have been afraid to fall. And for years, I never confronted it, I didn’t even think about it. Since I am in Bali, since I am learning new things every day, I am constantly facing my fears. I think about it every time that I get on my bike. I lost my balance one or twice, without knowing why. I felt my bike slip one or twice, without knowing why. I knew that I’ll eventually fall. We understand pretty quickly what we are supposed to do. For all that, we generally learn what we shouldn’t do by doing it.
I think about it at every yoga class. I am working on my arm-balanced postures almost every day. When I am in front of a wall, I am super confident, I go up to my inversion and I hold it. As soon as I am in front of myself, in the middle of the room, I cannot even rise a leg. I am frightened by the fall. What if I break my neck? At every class, I have one obsession, to learn how to fall. To learn how to fall so that I won’t be afraid of trying anymore. I asked my teacher, I begged her to help me. She answered that we cannot learn how to fall, that we just have to fall. That the body always takes over. The body knows how to fall. To trust my body and not to fall with my head. I immediately understood this. Not to fall with my head, not to intellectualize the fall, let my body do the body’s work. I went in the middle of the room. I rose up my handstand, I held it a few seconds, I felt the moment when I was about to loose balance and I let myself be pushed around. My body got down by itself and I landed on both of my feet. I think that I rarely knew something as freeing as this in my life before.
There are so many things in the fact of falling. Off a bike, or off a handstand, or even off a project or a relationship. The fear of falling, when we don’t see it in a literal way, is also a fear of being mistaken, a fear of suffering, a fear of failing. To fall means to try. To try something new, something we haven’t mastered yet. To try with humility and to accept to be wrong. To let yourself have the possibility of not succeeding. To let yourself have the possibility of understanding and growing up. To fall means to have faith. To have faith in your body, to have faith in yourself and in your ability to rebound, to have faith in life. To let yourself be pushed around. And then, to pick yourself back up again. And try again. Again and again. To keep learning. Again and again. Until you succeed. And at this exact moment, to try something new. Never stop falling.
To fall brings us back to the child we all have been. This little child who lives inside of us, who fell one thousand times and one thousand times got back onto his feet. How many times did we fall before learning how to walk? This little child who, most of the times, is bored in our adult lives. We should never stop falling. We should never stop enjoying ourselves. To enjoy ourselves has nothing to do with money, alcohol, drugs, dancing on the beach all night or having sex with strangers. To enjoy ourselves in the sense that children enjoy themselves. To learn new things every day, to smile at people, to laugh at rules, to take the moment as it comes, to let life happen, to live in the body. Children are not afraid of falling, it is exactly the way they play. They fall and get back up all the time. And this is a beautiful metaphor of life. Life is a playground, if we don’t fall, we don’t learn, we don’t grow up, we don’t play. If we don’t fall, we don’t live.
When was the last time you fell? When was the last time you did something for the first time?
With all my (and my knee) love,