It was the moment of truth; I was three-quarters of the way into the headstand I’d been practicing for two years. My legs were just about straight when a little knee wobble freaked me out and suddenly, I was down. Magically, I rolled forward into a somersault and landed on my butt, not on my neck like I’d feared all along. The yoga teacher gave me a concerned look, so I flashed her an “okay” hand signal. I was initially embarrassed, but then a huge sense of relief came over me because I’d finally fallen. All along, I’ve held back from pushing myself to do a headstand because I was afraid of falling and hurting (or paralyzing) myself. Now that I’d done it, I realized it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. The guy next to me in class even complimented me on “the most graceful fall out of a headstand he’s ever seen.”
As fate would have it, I wasn’t done learning my lesson for the day. (I also wasn’t done flashing the “okay” signal.) I’d recently purchased a fancy new road bike to go on long rides through the country and compete in crazy-people pastimes like triathlons. The Cannondale was assembled and ready to go. I, however, was not. The bike terrified me. Attaching my feet to the pedals seemed like a really great way to crash a very expensive bike. But with a little prodding from Luke, I strapped on my helmet and climbed onto my beautiful deathtrap.
After riding for roughly ten miles unscathed, I was feeling good about getting the hang of the bike so quickly. We pulled up to the last intersection before home. I unclipped my right foot before slowing to a stop, but decided to lean to the left for some curious reason. Down I went. The look on Luke’s face was priceless. It was not a look of concern, rather one of utter disbelief. A stranger who witnessed the entire scene was kind enough to not laugh at me and asked if I was okay. I untangled my legs from the bike frame and flashed him the “okay” signal.
Twice in one day had I dispelled long-held fears by simply falling down. The imagined outcomes were far worse in my head than in reality. Which leads me to wonder: What else have I held myself back from because the anticipated outcome seems too difficult, painful or paralyzing? From what I’ve just learned, the fear of falling is harder to live with than the act itself.