How to Free Fall with Grace
If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that it’s been nearly dormant since December. The last post I wrote chronicled my mom’s holiday heart attack and emergency triple bypass. Since then, the speed at which the universe has thrown things in my direction has hardly slowed, and now, voila, May has arrived, and with it Lupus Awareness Month. I can’t very well let this month go by without a blog post; after all, lupus is the underlying motivation for this blog, so here’s a snapshot of what’s been keeping me from blogging for the last four months…
I put it out there to the world and the universe that I was sick of being a stay-at-home mom and was ready to work full-time outside of the home. Then BOOM I got a job. Since the beginning of December, I’ve been working my ass off and loving it.
Part of my job involves travel, and thus I found myself in Phoenix at a conference for a few days. It was the first time since my son was born that I was (basically) by myself–no baby, no husband, no family or friends. Palm trees and 80 degree weather almost made it feel like a vacation. It also gave me time to breathe, do some yoga, drink too much wine and think–really think–about what I want out of life.
I’ve lived a fear-based life since my earliest memories, playing it safe to decrease any opportunities to be hurt or disappointed and optimizing my chances of being happy and carefree. SPOILER ALERT: This tactic didn’t work. Not ever. In fact, my cautious approach to life often led me to endure situations that would make most people lose their shit and take to the streets in protest. And it also led me to narrow my life experiences. Study ballet at NYU? Much too far from home! Major in fine arts? Way too risky. Join Peace Corp? That’s just crazy talk. Backpack through India? So dangerous.
Maybe my inner responses all sound reasonable to you; they certainly did to me. But then one day I reflected on the choices I’ve made–safe, sane, cautious choices–and I realized: I was reflecting on the lives of two people, not just one. One person is clearly me as everyone including myself knows me. I think things through and always opt for the safest path. I am reliable, albeit a little boring. I will die filled with regret for the things I did not do.
The other person is also me, but a me that has been continually deferred. I’m adventurous and want to save the world and all the people on it. I weigh all the facts and may very well choose the more dangerous path, consequences be damned. I’ve been enriched by my experiences and am at peace with myself.
It’s kind of like realizing you had a twin you killed by smothering, and wondering what they would’ve been like.
My closest friends, whom I admire for their kindness, adventurous spirits and tireless efforts to be the best in their respective fields, have been inspiring me for years, and I’ve often joked that I live vicariously through them. But suddenly my ghost life, spent hovering around the periphery of the living world, has become untenable to me.
While this realization has been exhilarating at times, it has also been interspersed with the disorienting, nauseating feeling of free falling. I’ve never jumped from a plane (an activity fraught with danger and thus off-limits), but when this feeling hits me, I imagine it feels exactly the same as plummeting towards the earth, without the assurance of a working parachute.
My first instinct was to yank myself back onto the plane. Yet, for once my inner voice was quieted by a more urgent voice telling me to let myself fall. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped off the edge. I fell down, down, down until I thought I’d choke on my own vomit and tears.
As I continued to fall, I didn’t suddenly find myself enjoying the thrill. But from time to time the rushing air would catch in my tangled, useless parachute and slow me just enough to regain my courage. I opened my eyes and looked around me. Although the ground still seemed to be rushing up at me at an alarming rate, I knew the impact wouldn’t kill me.
It occurred to me then that there are different ways to fall from great heights. There is the wild, tumbling, fearful fall that I’ve mastered over my lifetime. And there is a calm, collected, even graceful fall that I’d suddenly found myself embracing. Free falling with grace doesn’t mean you’re no longer fearful; it just means you and the universe have come to an understanding. You’re falling, whether you like it or not, but how you do it is up to you.
I take a deep breath, and with love in my heart and my eyes open, I plunge.