Why Do We Fall?
One of my favorite movie lines is from Batman Begins where the character of Alfred rhetorically asks Bruce Wayne, “Why do we fall, sir?” And then answers himself with “so we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Last weekend, I caught a ferry to Santa Cruz Island, which is one of the Channel Islands off of the coast of Southern California. I love walking outdoors and one of the great things about living in California is the variety of terrains you can traverse.
Over the past year, I’ve been working with several osteopaths to gain greater mobility on the left side of my body, which is partially paralyzed. One of the most rewarding things about hiking in new places, while working with these doctors, is when I visually observe my body moving joints it hasn’t before. Or in the case of Santa Cruz, my body being able to walk on rougher surfaces easier than in the past.
After about an hour of being on Santa Cruz, my body got tired from walking on the rocky terrain and moving differently. My left foot is currently in a position of drop — the ankle doesn’t flex up at a 25-degree angle as it does for most of us. And as a result of being tired, I tripped.
So I got up, dusted myself off, and then an hour later on the walk off the island, I tripped again and landed on the same right knee and right elbow.
Now, I fall much more often than the typical adult in their 30s. It happens every few months or so. There isn’t an easy way to avoid falling with my left foot drop.
But the important question here is — what I have learned from all of this falling?
Yes, when we fall we show ourselves we can get up, but I think we also learn through falling that we can break out of our normal patterns (both physically and theoretically).
I was in more pain after this series of falls than I can remember experiencing in a while. And the beautiful thing about the days that followed was observing my left foot, which has been historically weaker, hold more weight and flex in ways I haven’t seen previously except immediately after appointments with my osteopath.
Osteopathic treatment involves a doctor using their hands to help my body remember its natural tendency to heal. After a treatment, I usually feel much taller with a straighter spine and also notice that my left foot better flexes when walking. However, those feelings and new ways of moving usually fade quickly after I leave my doctor’s office, am not consciously paying attention to how I’m walking, and return to my normal hustle
When I put my feet on the ground the morning after my double Santa Cruz fall, I noticed immediately that my left foot was flexing in the same way it did after osteopathic treatment. It was more fully supporting me.
My left foot, which usually carries less weight, had clearly started to learn to carry more and was ready to put that knowledge to use when my right knee was in pain. Using this foot differently was a new pattern my body was ready to deploy.
Why do we fall? Or reframed another way, what I have learned from all of this falling?
We fall because, after the fall, we see new patterns we are ready to use.
We fall because, after the fall, we are able to witness other parts of our body or community step in to help us.
We fall because after witnessing ourselves get up, we are then empowered to lend our strength to others when they are in pain and need help getting up.