Friday, January 27, 2012
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about falling.
It seems to keep coming up.
I had a conversation with my mother the other day where I talked about feeling like I am about to just take a deep breath and jump off a cliff. Where I've finally made a decision and am committing to a definite course of action, and yet have no idea what will actually happen. I don't know if I will fall or fly.
Then I had a conversation with my husband where we discussed some of the changes happening and he smilingly reminded me of his mantra, "Just enjoy the ride." We laughed about what a roller coaster our lives have been in the last few years. He was telling me we're on this adventure together, and we might as well savor every moment of it, good or bad.
And then tonight I saw the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and one of the indelible images and feelings I took away from the movie was of falling. Falling from the World Trade Center. Falling through grief.
I've never been one to love amusement park rides. I don't like scary movies or scary rides or haunted houses or any type of purposeful scaring of myself. Life is scary enough for me without these little adrenaline thrills. But so many people do. Absolutely love roller coasters and skydiving and bungee jumping and cliff diving and extreme skiing and parasailing and hot air ballooning and a million other hobbies which basically are about falling. So why do we have an enormous, instinctive (and rational from an evolutionary point of view) fear of falling from a great height, but relish the thrill of falling in these other situations? The reality of falling is the same in both scenarios. Falling, whether intentional or accidental, adheres to strict laws of gravity. The only difference is in our feeling of control. Our faith in the landing. Our belief in our ultimate safety.
Our belief that we are safe. We get a thrill of survival from that stomach-wrenching drop on the roller coaster, knowing the steel tracks and the careful engineering and the metal safety bar will protect us. We trust that the water will absorb our dive, that the bungee cord will rebound, that the parachute will open. So instead of screaming in genuine terror during the fall, we scream with a lesser, though real, fear mixed with delight and triumph and laughter.
The belief that we are falling to our literal or metaphorical death triggers terror and regret and sadness and loss. It is the fear of this feeling that prevents us from taking many risks in our life--the fear of falling, but even more, fear of obliteration, of not surviving. So we scare ourselves in small controlled ways, to prove that we can master death, can survive the impact. We ride carnival rides and watch horror movies and snowboard and keep falling so we can keep landing safely. The only difference emotionally between actually falling and pretend falling is the belief that we are safe. That we will survive. And if we can take that feeling--that we are safe--with us into any situation, then we can experience the thrill and delight and mastery instead of the bone-deep terror and fear. The truth is, if we are falling, we don't really know if we will land safely. Rides malfunction, parachutes don't open, ropes break. But how much better would every experience in our life be if we chose the thrill and delight and laughter of feeling like we are falling in safety. How much better to just always choose to believe we are safe and just go ahead and jump.
This includes our creativity. It takes courage to create. It takes courage to reveal ourselves in a naked way and to put it out there in the world. Try to choose to feel safe and jump off the cliff of creativity. Jump; it's the only way to find your wings.