“Oopsy daisy, and up you go,” I said to my toddler grandson as he tripped and fell while running outside. This wasn’t the first time he’d taken a tumble. He knew the drill. He took a moment to check himself, rubbed his palms to scrape the dirt off them and then slowly rose to resume his play. Granted there were a couple of time when he fell and cried but after an “Oopsy daisy, up you go,” and a caring hug, he was off again. No blame, no shame, no guilt. Falling is not a failure for him. He doesn’t suffer humiliation. He blames no one. He owns his fall.
I have faced quite a few falls in my years, and each time I’ve had to get up, I remind myself that there is no lamenting my carelessness or my poor choice or blame the fault on others. None of that will get me back on my feet with a lesson learned. To get up, I must counter my ego defense system and take ownership of my fall. Sure, it hurts, but I sit for a while on the ground or “at rock bottom” allowing myself the time to have the hurt filter through me and then I get up “owning the fall.” Owning the fall has made a difference in how I approach the world. Dad taught me that.
As a child, I was quite a spirited girl, quick on the draw, which made me more accident-prone. I always had cuts and bruises over my legs and arms, and stitches which are now hidden in my hairline. One day, while riding a bike in the vast stretches of a sandy path, I took a tumble. It hurt. My ego was crushed but I rose right back up, blaming a small stone that caused my fall. Dad, in his firm yet gentle way said I shouldn’t blame the stone and that I should have paid more attention to the terrain and had I checked the air in my bike’s front tire, I might have prevented the fall. “Own it,” he said. I asked Dad if he ever fell. “More times than I can count,” he chuckled, “But I learned how to land. We fall all the time, but the real mastery is in the landing and owning your fall,” he continued.
At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant. I thought I must literally learn to fall. I watched western movies where heroes and villains would leap from rooftops, trains, and stagecoaches. I admired athletes who fell and knew how to take a dive and roll especially in the game of soccer. I practiced. I would jump from high walls to try landing on my feet and was always the first to take a dare. As I grew older, I took an acting class in which I was taught to fall using certain techniques. I admit, I learned to fall purposefully, but to fall unexpectedly and to land on my feet was not an easy mastery. I asked dad, “How do you fall?” “Like a toddler,” he said. “I lose my balance, I stumble, falter and fall. And like a toddler, I don’t try to justify my fall on anything or anyone other than myself. I own my mistake. I take a few moments to regain my strength and then I get back up and try to not repeat it. That’s the story of our lives.”
There is truth to my dad’s wisdom. That IS the story of our lives. We all suffer our own falls. We fall. We fall in love, we fall out of love. We fall on our faces, we fall out of fashion, we fall into a trap, and we fall for a trick. We fall ill, we fall asleep, we fall into despair, and we fall into silence. We fall into money, we have a falling out, we fall on our feet, and we fall on deaf ears. We fall into error; we fall in line or fall in place. We fall into step, and we fall into oblivion. We fall from failure of youthful ideals, from ambition, from strength, from loss; we fall from grace, we fall in, we fall out. And in each of these falls, if we can take responsibility, take ownership of our situations, we will fall away from our egos and like the toddler, bounce back up because we want to get back up.
I realize that falling and landing as a child is very different than how I fall and land in older years, but I pray I will land with grace toward grace, and rise again with an “oopsy daisy, up you go.” No blame, no shame, no guilt. I own the fall.