I knew it would happen sooner or later.
She’s gotten more and more confident on her bicycle this summer, sailing down hills and maneuvering turns with no fear and a smile beaming across her face. It is terrifying, truly, to watch her fly on those two wheels, the fear only held in check by the every-growing-bigger-knowledge that I cannot keep her held safe with me forever. She’s growing, so fast I cannot bear to blink, and every moment I am humbled and amazed at the human being the Curly Girl is becoming.
And part of becoming is, like it or not, falling. Physically or metaphorically, either way, it happens. Sooner or later.
Today she took a curb too fast and there was no way to foresee or prevent the damage. Cue bloody knees, scraped elbows, and tears. Lots and lots of tears. With cries of “Mommy, I feeeellllllll!” mixed in when she could catch a breath.
“I know, baby,” was all I could say, “I know. And I know it hurts, but you’re going to be okay.”
And then, after I’d held her for a minute and her sobs had subsided a bit, I said, “Ok, let’s get back on.”
“Whaaatt?!?” she whimpered, and again, taking a deep breath, I said, “Let’s get back on.” Looking at me as if I’d asked her to jump into a pool of hungry piranhas, she did. She didn’t go far, we cut our route short and headed for home, but she got back on.
Once we were home, the blood cleaned away and the banged up knees and elbows bandaged, she asked me why I’d made her get back up, protesting that she hadn’t wanted to and I shouldn’t have made her.
I got very still and quiet. So did she in response. And then I said, “What I wanted to do was pick you up and carry you home. It wasn’t easy to tell you to get back on that bicycle. But honey, when you fall, it is very important to get back up.”
When you fall, it is very important to get back up.
Get. Back. Up.
I said it twice more, asked her to always remember it, and finally the beginnings of a grin emerged as she nodded, “Okay, Mommy.”
I remember the first time I fell hard off of a bicycle. It pales in comparision or memory next to the other memories of “falling” I have–when a job or a relationship or a project or a day has not worked out as I’d hoped or dreamed or planned. Or when I’ve simply made a grand and glorious and ugly mistake. Or when I’ve fallen short of what I long to be in this life.
What I’ve learned in the last year or so is that falling–no matter why or when–does in fact hurt (sometimes it seems unbearably so). But it also has the potential to create space for something new to happen. Something that might make you more whole. More hopeful. More you. But only–ever only–if you get back up. As soon as you are able. No matter the aching muscles or bruised heart or shattered notion of perfection. Even if you’ll need to limp along for a while. Even if you”ll need to ask for help (so difficult for me to do). Even if…even if…even if.
Because trying again, not staying down, being willing to open yourself up to the pain of the fall’s aftermath…this is everything.