I have been ice skating three or four times in my life and every time I set foot on the ice I feel the same sensation.
The wobbly knees. The racing heart. The sheer terror of trying to move the thin blades on the slippery ice.
For the first few minutes I am nearly paralyzed. I jump at every passing person’s shadow. I teeter on the edge of the rink. I breathe deeply and attempt to slide forwards but the motion is less smooth and more like a drunken stagger.
If I could only quieten my noisy mind and still my anxious heart, I know I could do this.
But the fear of falling always slows me down.
The panicked feeling of losing control makes my legs stop working.
As I look around, I see kids who barely come up to my knees, who are careening around without a care in the world. I wonder why that is?
Is it because they have sweet, innocent minds not yet tainted by the worries of this world? Is it because they’ve fallen once and they know it’s not so bad, so the falling no longer scares them? Or perhaps, it is just because they are closer to the ground so when they fall it doesn’t hurt as much.
I wish I had their fervor. I wish I could skate with their gusto. I wish I too, wasn’t afraid of falling.
The thing about fear is that it immobilizes us. It keeps us rigid, tense and hyper-aware of our surroundings. It prevents us from having the fluidity needed to move forwards.
There is something known as the fear-tension-pain cycle which women often experience in childbirth. The more afraid a woman feels about giving birth, the more tense she becomes and the more tense she becomes, the more pain she feels which leads to more fear.
To break the cycle, she must lean into the pain. She must face the fear and reduce the tension.
I see life as somewhat similar to giving birth.
We are constantly creating something out of nothing. Painting gentle strokes onto the canvas of our lives. Making art and beauty with the words we speak out, sing in the shower and whisper under our breath.
And in this birthing of something new and not yet known, we have to lean into the pain of the process. If we give into the fear, if we allow ourselves to tense up or pull back, we’ll find ourselves stuck.
Our ideas will run dry, our dreams will fade in the sunlight, our creativity will crumble like dust.
We have to allow ourselves to feel the pain in order to create. We must push through that fear of falling and make something anyway.
We have to be like those little children, unhindered by the slippery ice and sharp blades. Undaunted by the chill in the air and their lack of coordination.
To live, we simply must fall.
And that is what scares me the most. The lack of control. The absence of order.
There isn’t a road map for following your dreams or a safety net for falling in love, it’s just you and the ice. Miles of frozen water stretch out before you. An endless, unmarred horizon. A blank, white unknown.
At some point all of us are faced with a choice, will we hold ourselves back or will we wobble out onto the ice?
There is a time to hold back and there is a time to leap forwards, the key is recognising which move will serve you best.
I’ve been foolish with this decision before and of course, I have been hurt in the process.
But what I have found is that most often, it is better to take the leap because the fall is never as far or us fatal as I am expecting. And somehow, I always recover after the fall. It’s as if the fall makes me stronger. I suppose that dropping down to the lowest possible place means there is nowhere to go but up.
Taking a risk isn’t the safe option but it’s the only one that will allow you to fly.
You’ll never know how it feels to glide around the rink if you don’t step out onto the ice. You’ll never find love if you keep your heart locked up. You’ll never experience an adventure if you don’t seek it out. You’ll never know your full potential if you don’t give yourself a chance.
Because the other thing about the fall is this…it’s exhilarating. It’s breathtaking. It’s intoxicating.
The reason we come back time and time again is because the fall makes us feel alive. Fully human. Impossibly free.
The truth is, our broken bones will heal. Our shattered hearts will mend. Our deflated ego will be restored. What do we really have to fear when we’ve survived every fall we’ve ever had?
Because the alternative is to live a despondent life. To stick to the side of the rink. To hide ourselves away from anyone and anything that could hurt us. To never know the dizzy, dancing way it feels to take a running leap.
I don’t want to live that way.
I don’t want to be afraid.
I don’t want my thirst for control to limit me.
I’d rather fall on my face a thousand times than be the kind of person who isn’t willing to try.
“When you get the choice to sit it out or to dance, I hope you dance.” – Lee Ann Womack