fall down nine times, get up ten
posted: March 9, 2010
I fell while running one time. I’m not a person who falls very often – even when negotiating icy sidewalks – but I fell in spite of the fact that spring had melted away all of the ice, leaving just the asphalt.
I was crossing a quiet side street. One moment I was on top of the world, my eyes trained on the horizon and its infinite possibilities. The next thing I knew, my eyes were at ground level as I hit the sidewalk with a splat. A few cars drove by on the main road, but no one seemed to notice the girl sprawled out flat on the ground.
Get up, get up, get up! came the message from within. Bounce back up! Act nonchalant! Never let ‘em see you sweat! Get up and keep on running!
I stood back up and, ignoring the little tweaks of discomfort here and there, resumed running. If I ran on confidently, perhaps no one would know that I’d fallen. The knees of my track pants were dirty, but I figured if I ran long and hard enough, it would be enough to undo the memory of the fall and lift the dust right out of the fabric.
That physical fall was momentary, but our psychological falls sometimes seem to stretch on for months on end. I find myself wishing that the mental process of pursuing a goal were as easy as the physical one: even if you fall flat on your face, you can bounce right back up and keep on running as fast and as far as you can. A few bruises are nothing compared to staying down and giving up after falling – or getting up after you’ve fallen, turning around, and retracing your steps.
Many times we fall mentally and don’t make an effort to get up. Many times we fall mentally, give up, and retrace our steps. Sometimes we sit there, feeling sorry for ourselves; sometimes we regress backwards, falling into old habits of inaction and thought that aren’t going to get us anywhere.
At those times, we need to stop lying there. We need to bounce back up and keep on going. Remember the horizon and its infinite possibilities? As we run past pessimism, self-indulgence, and self-pity, we can imagine these things falling away from us, just as I once imagined the dust disappearing from the knees of my track pants as I got up for the tenth time, and kept on running.
Celebrating the ability to get back up a tenth time: a leap of faith.