The great philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Every journey begins with a single step.” And so my journey of getting back on a bike, after being hit by a car two years ago, began with a single pedal in Davis, California. About seven pedals later, however, I was on the ground, surveying the damage of my bloody kneecap and trying not to cry about it.
My friends were very gracious about the incident, even going so far as to praise me for it.
“Boy, you really know how to fall!”
“You fell like a rockstar! I’ve never seen something so graceful.”
“You should teach others how to fall off of things like you do.”
Okay, that last one was made up, but the point is, they were sympathetic. And encouraging.
The thing is, before I got hit by a car, I never fell off my bike. Which makes me think it was a fear-based fall. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. And I don’t enjoy it and it seems to hurl me deeper and deeper into isolation, from myself and my experiences. I’m losing my willingness to keep trying when the end result is falling on my head/face/knees.
I bet that sounds melodramatic. Ohmigod bruised knee! How did you go on?! And I do feel silly that my self-confidence can be so bludgeoned by a few scrapes or a dizzying back bend. But it’s like how if you’re told you’re stupid over and over again, you eventually start to believe it, even if it’s not true (especially if it’s not true). It’s attrition. Each fall is a falling away. And yet, the antidote, the trying over and over again with little difference in results? That’s crazy.
When I was little, I cried all the time. Every little thing would make me burst into tears. Getting my tee-ball picture taken, old folks homes, Sears commercials, losing to my brother in Connect Four. Then, in December of 2006, it stopped. I’d been crying off and on for two straight months before that, due to the many poor decisions – or actually the one poor decision I made over and over again – involving a lot of faked orgasms, frenemies, and the kind of desperation that’s as appalling as it is alluring. To put it even more vaguely, welcome to the Hotel California.
During that last crying jag in December, I had what my therapist would’ve called a “breakthrough” had I not recently decided that listening to Evanescence was far cheaper and more reliable therapy than anything offered at Howard Brown. Strangely, not being able to cry filled me with a kind of pride. Had I gotten over it? Was I somehow more evolved? Or was it a frightening regression that should’ve been remedied by punching myself in the face repeatedly while watching Hotel Rwanda?
Now, it seems, my childhood self has come back around, ready to spring a leak at the most inconvenient times possible – Oh hi, new supervisor. No no, I’m fine! I’ve just been punching myself in the face repeatedly.
How do we go back even further though, to the days when we were learning how to walk? When setbacks were amusing, funny even. We fell all the time! Did that deter us? Did we say, “Well, fuck it. It’s crawling from here on out.” Of course not. We got up and tried again.
There’s a joy to falling that I desperately need to learn again. Then and only then will I have truly earned the title of Falling like a Rockstar.
P.S. Go read my blog post at Mother Jones about who is the most powerful gay American. Leave a comment too ’cause the commenters on MoJo can be really mean and I don’t need to cry anymore!