Friday, July 11, 2008

Learning to Fall

This last week has been pretty powerful. I felt a weight on my shoulders, the heaviness that comes with the build up of unshed tears, maybe. And then the dam broke.

It started with a visit to one of the families I have been working with all year, a family whose home I never once visited without Sage. I felt an upwelling of sadness for myself and for the circumstances of the family and for the little girl who is in my class, who seems so vulnerable to me.

So, as I was driving home, I was processing this experience, and I was stopped by a police officer for speeding. He asked me if I had any reason or excuse, and I told him that I was distracted and did not realize I was speeding. He told me that he was writing me a ticket, and that he just wanted me to be safe.

He was so kind and sincere, and something in me released, and I started to cry - hard. I told him I wasn't crying about the ticket, and I would be okay. I cried all the way home.

I can't separate out one reason. Part of it was that I couldn't believe I had been speeding, driving in a way that might be unsafe, after knowing first-hand how quickly and unexpectedly an accident can occur. That really was just part of it, though, and the rest is a jumble of feelings that I have not begun to sort out.

And maybe there was not a particular reason, just a build up of energy that had to go somewhere. When I was in the hospital, one of the chaplains told me that grief will be released, either through crying or a creative outlet or exercise . . . or if it gets pent up enough, it will come out sideways and hit anything nearby - like a spouse, a coworker, a friendly police officer doing his job.

I continued to feel shaken and weepy for the rest of the evening and on into the next day, but Saturday I woke up feeling renewed and hopeful. It amazes me - the way life flows on whether we bob along like driftwood or we fight it the whole way.

Today, Michael and I went paddle boarding again, and just after I stood up on the board, a speed boat zipped by, creating a wake that rocked me and pushed me forward. I felt my whole body tense in an attempt to stay balanced.

Later, Michael told me that when he is on the board in rough conditions, he has a practice of relaxing into the motion of the water and the board. He said it is actually easier to stay on that way than if you try really hard to keep your balance.

He also told me that it is important to always be ready to fall in. If you feel ready to fall in, you don't waste your energy on the fear of falling. Later, he walked to the back of his board and fell into the water. He came up smiling, happy to be cooled off on a hot day.

I think sometimes I walk through my life a little scared of falling in the water. I want to stay balanced - always. And really, what is the point of that? Even if I could stay balanced all the time, it just means I miss out on the refreshing experience of falling in.

How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing -
each stone, blossom, child -
is held in place.

Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth's intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God's heart'
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.



Serinekat said...

I can totally relate. I think a great secret to life and emotions is just to flow with it. They taught that to us in childbirth classes and I think it applies to everything else. Just breathe and go with it. If it is hard or unpleasant it will soon pass and you will feel relief or cold water.

Anonymous said...


I think we would call this a 'breakthrough'? I am so happy to read about these events in your life (except the speeding and ticket!). Don't try to deny these realities, you will not succeed, as the chaplain said, they will find their own way out one way or another. Next time though, tell the policeman what is going on, it might help with the ticket but more importantly it will give him a real affirmation that his job is good and worthwhile! And maybe he will go home to his wife and children and hug them long and deep.

Love you,

Amee said...

I really needed to hear this. I've been feeling a heaviness lately and trying very hard to stay balanced. It's been exhausting. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jessie,

I remember the time I got a speeding ticket a few months ago. I was driving along, too, distracted, thinking about an interaction I just had at work, not fully present while driving. I broke out in tears too when I got the ticket. I realized that he was just doing his job, and he reminded me that he just wanted me to be safe. That day a series of stressful events occurred that culminated in the speeding ticket. The officer was just doing his job. The expensive ticket reminded me to empty my brain before I enter my car. Later, I cried to a co-worker. She put her work aside and gave me the gift of being fully present. Her love and compassion lifted my Spirit.

I relate to the desire to stay balanced, and the fear of inbalance. Whenever I start to feel unbalanced, I do whatever I can to get rebalanced. If only I do more yoga, spend more time in nature, exercise more, sleep more . . . perhaps I will be more balanced. After getting that speeding ticket, I began to think that I was unbalanced and needed to take more yoga classes, surely then I would helo me be more balanced. I still sway. The other day I saw a dragonfly sitting on a piece of grass. He held on, even as the wind blew so hard. His wings opened. They were so flexible that they just moved with the wind. I admired that dragonfly.

Thank you for sharing. I am so blessed to read your writings. Knowing that I am not the only one who walks through life "a little scared of falling in the water" and thank you for being willing to take the risk to "Just fall in." How inspiring!!!

Jessie, I am so fortnuate to know you!!!

I love the poem. the reminder to surrender to the earth's intelligence so we could rise up rooted, like trees.