I have a nice bike, two actually — but I don’t like to crash, so if I ride at all anymore it’s inside on the exercise bike. My last “big crash” was about four years ago, I broke my thumb. I was looking at kittens in the parking lot of the Shinzen Garden and fell over from a complete stop when I couldn’t get my foot out of the clips. It’s not quite as good a story as when I passed out and cracked my head whilst blowing (up) Fred Flinstone, but I’ll save that one for another day.
There is a right way to fall off your bike. The trick is to go limp and to resist the urge to break your fall by extending your arms or legs — that’s how I broke my thumb, I put my hand out to break my fall…and break it did. Had I just landed on my side I would have been bruised, but probably not broken.
That’s not to say that falling right will avert injury, some falls are just breakers no matter what you do. But in general, if you can convince yourself in that moment when everything slows down and you know you’re about to crash to relax and just roll with it, you’ll probably be better off.
I think that the same might be true for life in general, though I’m still working on the complete execution of the metaphor. Sure a lot of crashes are preventable, some are the results of embarrassingly “rookie” mistakes. But some crashes are unavoidable and their end result is out of our control. And that slow motion “moment” may take days, weeks, or longer. Watching a loved one die. Waiting for test results. Enduring a divorce. How we handle the tumbles and crashes of everyday life makes a difference.
To just go limp and succumb seems to run counter to our instincts, or maybe it feels like weakness — to not fight all the way down to the bitter end. It’s so easy to be hyper-critical of yourself when you’re on your way down. The inner monologue of “I’m weak,” “I should be able to handle this,” “I need to be strong,” “I have to prove myself,” etc… is so counter-productive. You still fall, only now your injuries include those you gave yourself on the way down as you flailed about in a futile attempt to control the uncontrollable.
The New Testament says (somewhere) that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. I don’t equate weakness with wimpiness. In fact, I think it takes a lot of discipline to be weak sometimes. To just fall.