“Look Miss Rachel! Look at what I can do!” Lucas shouts as he hangs perilously by the trapeze bar on his play set. I watch nervously as his Spiderman shoe kicks over the bar and he hooks he knee over the top. I inch forward preparing myself to catch him when his 4-year-old strength inevitably gives out, and he plummets to the mulch roughly three feet below.
“Lucas, I don’t want you to fall. Please stop doing that; it isn’t safe” I shout while continuing to slyly move toward him. Undeterred, Lucas continues his trapeze bar conquest; flailing his legs over the bar while attempting to hang upside-down.
“But Miss Raaaachel. I HAVE to fall. That’s now you learn” he protests in one of the biggest cliché phrases I have ever heard.
A bit angry, I retort, “Lucas, you do not HAVE to fall to show me whatever it is you are trying to do. In fact, you do not have to do it at all if you think you are going to fall and hurt yourself. You can show me another time. Let’s just swing the normal way, and you can show me your trick later.”
“No, I want to show you now. I have to do it now. Just let me do it” he asserts a little overdramatically for a four-year-old.
“Do what you want Lucas, but I will be here to catch you if you do fall” I say, resigned to his stubbornness and need to show me his trick.
And, do you know what? He did it. He kicked his legs over the bar and hung upside down…without falling.
So what did Lucas’ pleading about “having to fall” teach me? He reminded me, in his own little way, that it is ok to fall and make mistakes. In fact, sometimes falling is the only way to learn. I tell my students all the time that mistakes are learning opportunities disguised as failures. Use your mistakes—because mistakes will inevitably occur—as fuel to motivate you. Mistakes are not the setbacks or failures society will lead us to believe. Thomas Edison is often quoted as saying, “I did not fail, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison’s attitude reminds us that mistakes are not irrevocable; mistakes are often a springboard for finding and implementing ideas that will work. Oftentimes the fear of perceived failure is enough to keep us from attempting something new, like recovery. How many of us learned to speak perfect English the first time we tried, or mastered the Viennese Waltz on the first attempt? I am willing to bet very few if any. However, there are many times in our lives we tried something even though we knew the risk of failure was high. The risk of failure is often lower than the prize of triumph.
Most days we need to be like Lucas: kick our legs over the bar, hope to be successful, be prepared to fall…but not let the fear of the fall or the fall itself stop us from doing what we want to do. I fully expect to make mistakes in recovery and in life in general. Nevertheless I will never let those mistakes keep me from living a life free of my eating disorder. I will not let those mistakes allow ED to exert her control in my life and I will not let those mistakes keep me from my ultimate goal…LIFE.
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.