“It is what it is” series 1: mastering the fall

I’ve been falling all my life. Always in unexpected places, on flat surfaces, and in awkward ways. Many have confessed to feel embarrassed when associated to my person when I awkwardly lose my balance on the street. But there are some valuable lessons from being unbalanced on flat surfaces….

The calming life by the sea, with the boats swinging in the wind have brought me into a calm mindset every time I set foot out of my temporary house when I arrived in Wales 1 year ago. I was happily walking around the marina one morning and feeling energised by my new surroundings, when I noticed a bike shop. In a very personal impulsive way, I swiftly changed direction towards it. Not that I am a biker, or intended to buy one just yet… Then, 3 meters from the entry, this invisible chain was connecting only two small pillars amongst 10 unconnected ones. I stepped confidently forward and suddenly I see the sky disappearing from my eyes and metamorphosing into red bricks and textured gray concrete. Elbow and knee meet the ground in one perfect slow motion fall… and blank.

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I entered the shop not deviating my route after the event, and the owner looks in awe at me after witnessing this most amazing fall… I believe that was the first time I heard it is what it is in this country, this dreadful sentence that would mark so many more awkward moments the year ahead. Let’s just say I had a bruised elbow (dor de cotovelo as we say in Portugal) for the next month and a half.

Just as much as burro velho não aprende línguas, or literally translated, old donkey doesn’t learn languages (how I love the nonsense of literal translations), the sentence “it is what it is” is the perfect example of an excuse to not change what you can. You may not avoid a fall, but you can totally manage how to react to it, because it is what it is, until it isn’t!
How to master the art of falling in 3 steps:

1. If you have to fall, do it gracefully: Those who have witnessed, more than I like to admit, these countless (un)expected moments, have said I fall in slow motion. Somehow I will unconsciously predict it will happen a few moments just before it does, almost like a muscle memory resulted my long experience mastering the art of the fall. If you have to fall, react quickly, do it calmly, and embrace gravity for the natural law it represents, even if it doesn’t feel like that when you are in mid air.

2. Get support: When you fall, the slow motion effect will assist in getting support. Avoid falling face flat on the floor. The only time your face interacts with the floor is upon seeing it coming dangerously close. It is ok to show you are human in the moment of the fall, as terror will run through your veins and you will most likely show a deformed expression mirroring your immediate unbalanced existence. However, your existence is the one of a warrior, so fall on your knee and elbow / hand. Fall as it was meant to be and conquer the floor. The pain will be sharp but you will not feel it just yet. Accept it is natural and inevitable, which brings me to the most important part: the cliché – it doesn’t matter how you fall, but how you get up!

3. Get up in a single motion: Never stay down for long. With the same speed and calm you fell, get up in a single movement. Almost like break dancer, make three synchronized movements that end with you standing tall with feet on the floor. The expression on your face must also transform into normality again. You will be a bit bruised, and so will your ego, but a small period of temporary amnesia will help you get through the initial shock and social embarrassment, allowing the pain to build only in your body. Then laugh it out to disguise the pain, and carry on reacting as if nothing happened. Others with you, may feel as embarrassed as you are, so it is in a way a social sharing experience.

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One year ago “It is what it is” quickly passed through the bike shop into the work place. Everyone at work uses it to justify the events resulted from running a complex and fun operation where every day is different and the unexpected happens. Despite the healing and comfortable benefits this sentence brings to ones acceptance of surrounding circumstances, it is what it is… until it isn’t, and won’t settle for anything less. The unexpected never truly is!

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