Monday, February 09, 2009

falling

“We’re all going to fall in this life,” he intones in his trying-not-to-sound-like-a-Brooklyn accent. “When you fall, fall with awareness and acceptance.” I am standing on one foot, my other foot perched on my inner thigh. My clasped hands stretch up above my head into “tree pose” and I try not to notice my ankle wobbling ever so slightly. I gaze across the living room, my eyes focused on an object across the way, and I stand firm. This time.

I have had my share of falls. Balance is not one of my strong suites, literally or figuratively. I have gracefully entered a pose only to end up galumphed on my fanny with the beautiful, resounding type of thud you only get from hard wood floors. I have landed spread eagle center stage in front of hundreds of people, which, coincidentally, creates this same resonant thud, only louder. I have sopped up ice rinks, wiped up flights of stairs, and taken home large chunks of muddy trail all over my tail end. I have tripped, I have careened. I have wobbled, I have walloped. I have, indeed, fallen in this life.

As for the awareness and acceptance piece, the verdict is still out. I would like to think I am less mortified than I used to be—more able to laugh at myself, less worried about what an idiot I must have looked like. I’ve come to accept that this is just part of who I am—I am the girl who has to hold the railing every time she goes down the steps. The girl who must always look where she is going when she’s walking. Or driving. Or moving at all. The girl who should stick to sledding and never try skiing, since she’s bound to end up on her fanny anyway, so why not start there. So, I guess I could say that the acceptance piece is coming right along.

My daughter got a taste of this lesson—falling with acceptance—over the weekend. It was a hard one to watch. Coming off of her last gymnastics extravaganza, she went into this past weekend’s meet with great expectations. An expert at expectations, both met and unmet, I encouraged her to just do her best and enjoy herself. Nothing like an unmet expectation to spoil a perfectly good evening. Or week. Or life. But I digress.

Warm ups went swimmingly, and I tried once again to be content with sitting in the chairs and not being the coach. So many words of wisdom to impart, if only there were someone there to listen. Would those words have made the difference? Who knows.

They lined up along the floor for their first event, the uneven bars. One of her favorite events, this was usually a high score for her. She should be off to a good start. She told me later that as she watched the other girls go through their routines, she began to get nervous because the judge seemed “really strict.” When her turn finally came, she ponied up to the bar and began to swing. “I told myself I was gonna do my best, Momma. I told myself I was gonna get a 9.” She went at her routine in earnest, and probably a little too fast. She ended up falling out of two important elements, and walked away with a 6.9. She wouldn’t even look at me, or her yellow ribbon.

My heart ached for her—I knew the feeling of coming off a huge success only to have a failure meet you where another happy, shining moment was supposed to be. I also knew how hard it would be to refocus for the remaining three events, if she were to try to redeem the rest of the day. I wanted desperately to talk to her. I had to hope past conversations would resound in her head instead. She moved on to the beam, and managed to pull off a nearly flawless routine. Red ribbon this time—though many parents around us thought her score should have been higher, I was just relieved she had pulled it together. But I still wanted to talk to her.

As luck would have it, this particular meet was held in two separate but connected gymnasiums, which meant a huge shifting of crowds and athletes was necessary half way through the event. I took advantage of this mass exodus to snag her and her ribbons. I looked down at the yellow ribbon, where she had written “I sucked” on the back of it. On the front she had crossed out “Achievement” and had scribbled in the word “Failure.” I gave her a “what is this about” look. “I SUCKED,” she verbalized, burying her head in my chest and receiving my embrace. I pulled back from her and took her face in my hands.

“You’ve got to shake it off, Bub. Everybody falls. You’ve got to shake it off and keep going. Thinking that way isn’t going to help you.”

“But Momma…”

“No buts, Bub. You remember Momma’s yoga video? What does he say about falling? We ALL fall, don’t we? We have to fall with what?”

She looked at me blankly.

“We have to fall with awareness and acceptance. Acceptance. You fell. So what. Shake it off, and go do your best.”

She grinned, slightly embarrassed. “Okay, Momma…” And off she bounced.

Wouldn’t you know, she pulled herself together, and pulled off a 9.1 on floor and a 9.05 on vault. Two blue ribbons. The day had been redeemed.

In the car on the way home, she lamented that she had hoped for four blue ribbons, like the perfectly tall and proportioned Amanda from one of the lower levels had gotten. “Acceptance, Bub. It’s about acceptance. You pulled it together after a rough start and got two of the highest scores of the day—I think that’s pretty huge. Don’t you?”

She wouldn’t answer me, but I didn’t push it. We pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot and I simply announced that we are going to celebrate. The night had been a huge success, and we were going to acknowledge it. She ordered the biggest breakfast she could find on the menu, ate it all in one sitting, and together, with smiles and laughter all around, we celebrated falling and getting back up again.

3 comments:

Julie Morrison said...

Beautiful story, so well told, I'm still weeping.

Cindy said...

I LOVE this, Lorie. I LOVE it. I also thought of the womens US Olympic Gymnastics team from this summer. Talk about falling--A LOT. But they won. They WON. Good for K!

lorie said...

thanks, guys!