THE JOYFUL FALL
I fell today. Plunged into a puddle of mud and water. Face first, I slid on my stomach down a forest trail.
It was a proper fall. None of this half hearted toppling over — but a full on belly slide. It reminded me of when I was younger and we would set up a slip-and-slide in the garden of our house in Petersfield. We would cover a large tarpaulin with dish soap, get into our swimsuits, run and then launch ourselves onto the slide. We would spend hours and hours sliding again and again and again. Each time brought with it the same excitement and exhilaration. It was as if we were super heroes defying the laws of nature, traveling faster than was humanly possible. A cannonball being fired from a cannon or a bow being shot from an arrow.
Today’s fall was much less elegant. I was running one of my favorite trails near Palo Alto called Windy Hill. The trail starts at the bottom of the Santa Cruz mountain range and then climbs steeply up to skyline, a road that winds itself across the top of the range. Once you reach skyline, the trail zig zags down again through a wooded forest. Each turn is sharp and exciting, and the turns seem to keep coming and coming as if you will never reach the bottom.
It was particularly muddy today. El Niño recently cast its spell over Northern California and the rain has been almost nonstop for the past week causing the trails to turn into meandering mud baths. As I ran carelessly down the mountain, I was talking to myself in my head, unaware of the surroundings. Then my foot hit a curve, I lost my balance and slid — face first down the trail. Ungracious, joyful, at one with nature.
After falling, I lay in the mud for awhile and smiled. The sound of the trees whistling in the wind and the birds singing. It was as if the fall had immersed me fully into my surroundings, jolted me back into the present, forced me to bathe aimlessly in nature.
As with any proper fall, I have since reflected on it and have come to an important realization. There are too few situations in my life where I fall in this ungracious, unexpected yet joyful way. That is not to say I don’t fall — I fall a lot. I say the wrong things in meetings, send emails with a glaring typos and make purchases that I immediately regret. But these falls are not joyful. I spend time thinking about them, wishing I could take them back, worrying about the consequences (which are all too often small to none). Frankly they cause me unnecessary anxiety as I regret the past and worry about the future.
The beauty of my fall today was that it caused me no anxiety but rather forced me into the moment. It jolted me out of my little internal world and allowed me to experience the greater environment I was surrounded by. And as with any good fall, it filled me with new questions and intrigues — why are there so few joyful falls in my life? Can I create opportunities for joyful falls? What if I fell joyfully in my work or social life? Would it bring the same exhilaration, questions, intrigues and ultimately help me view the world in a different way?