The Upside of Falling

18 Jun

There are worse things than falling. Giving up when faced with adversity, for example, and living safely within one’s certain boundaries of success, as another. I recently learned of these through beautiful and tangible illustrations worthy of sharing.

Last weekend, I went to see some friends perform from Delibes’ famously charming ballet, Coppelia. You may recall my friend Caroline and our ballet mistress, Stella, from my past posts about breaking the Guinness World Record. So the first excerpt was a lovely duet with Caroline and another dancer. Next came a male solo by Stella’s young and talented grandson, Lashard.

Then, at about (3:20) in this video, Lashard’s music stopped. For a second, my heart stopped with it. But then something truly remarkable happened: Lashard kept dancing. For what seemed like a frozen eternity but was really only another seventy-five seconds, he kept dancing. Even though the music played only in his head, Lashard orchestrated every leap, jump and turn on beat, causing a stunned and appreciative audience to applause throughout. Their spontaneous clapping punctuated the intimidating silence, during which could only be heard the deft workings of Lashard’s feet, as they landed in their prescribed positions on the vast and empty stage. I was incredibly proud of my young friend and deeply moved by his courageous perseverance.

Next came Caroline’s solo, which was executed gracefully and flawlessly. Finally, the three dancers joined together on the stage. After about four minutes of challenging choreography, however, the unthinkable happened to Caroline. As seen in this video, she fell to the ground. It was only for a second, and she was back up again in her final pose as if it had never happened, but I was devastated for her. An otherwise perfect performance had been ruined at the very end. Or had it?

When I afterwards attempted to console my friend, expecting her to be very upset, she surprised me yet again with her casual, good-humored reaction. She laughed and explained how falling is actually a good thing. While not ideal for a performance, of course, it does help you know that you’re stretching the limits of what you can do. She had gone for the double pirouette, feeling it within her grasp. This time, it didn’t work out, but that was okay. Or to grossly misquote Lord Tennyson: ‘Tis better to have tried and fallen than never to have tried at all.

What’s more, Caroline’s theory means that never falling is actually bad, a sure sign of complacency. Yikes! The metaphorical mandate for my life is clear. I must reprogram my brain accordingly.

FALLING IS NOT FAILING. They are two different things. Trying and then falling is growth, and hence, succeeding. So here is my challenge–and yours, if you want to take it: Let’s see if, the next time things don’t go according to plan in our lives, you and I can embrace falling with more perspective and, yes, with more grace.

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One Response to “The Upside of Falling”

  1. becca puglisi June 26, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    What a great lesson for all of us to learn! Especially in the the writing field. It’s easy to see every rejection, every less-than-adoring critique response as a sort of failure, but they totally aren’t. They’re necessary stepping stones to improve and get you where you want to go. Thanks for the reminder!

    I met Vivi at the SCBWI conference yesterday and am so thankful that I found her and your blog. I’m following!

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

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