Thank God for training wheels.
Learning to ride a bicycle was easy for my grandchildren. Just months after they learned to run, they were pedaling down the sidewalk to the park, with no fear of falling. They had training wheels.
If only I had been so fortunate. My family was poor, so I was a teenager before I got a used bicycle for Christmas, which Daddy modified with a horizontal bar from the seat to the handlebars so people wouldn’t know it was a girl’s bike. There were no training wheels, so I learned to ride by falling.
After a few skinned knees and elbows, I was ready to ride and have fun.
Lots of snow was a pile of fun.
My parents never told me to stay inside because I might fall on the snow and ice. Instead, they wrapped me in warm clothes and told me I could go outside and have fun. I could fall as many times as I wanted, and I had no problem with that. It was a prerequisite for having fun.
Falling was part of the adventure.
I never owned a pair of ice skates, but that didn’t keep me from sliding across the slick spots in my leather-soled shoes. Each time I fell, I learned better balance until I could fly like the wind across a twenty-foot stretch of ice. Piles of snow wasn’t much for sliding, but it was great for falling—especially the deep, powdery stuff.
Since using my bed for a trampoline earned a spanking, nothing could be more fun than playing in the ice and snow. But then I learned about skis and dreamed of someday racing down the mountain slopes like an athlete in the Winter Olympics.
Falling became a fulfilled dream.
I’d been married ten years when my wife walked up with a church bulletin, smiling. “We have to go,” she said. I wasn’t about to say no to a church ski trip at Crested Butte, Colorado.
I was told we needed ski lessons, so we signed up for a beginner class in the afternoon. No way was I going to wait that long. I buckled my boots, shouldered my skis, and walked to a level area that led to the beginner ski lift. So far, I hadn’t fallen, but I was ready.
Snapped into my skis, I used my poles to push forward. This was easy until I reached an ever-so-slight slope and started sliding. How do I make these things stop? “Whoa,” I said, but that didn’t work. That’s when I learned the best way to stop. Fall down. And do it quickly.
Definitely, I needed that group lesson. All I practiced was side-stepping up a small hill. I made a pie shape with my skis and somehow willed myself to turn right and left. I fell several times, but that was okay. This was fun.
Falling led to flying.
The next morning, I was the first person on the beginner lift. How wonderful it would have been if someone had taught me how to get off. You guessed it. When in doubt, fall. My skis came off, but that didn’t matter. Already I was having fun.
Anybody who is smart enough to think an umbrella might work as a parachute can figure out that it’s impossible to ski uphill. That was my trick. I manipulated just enough of a turn to be headed slightly uphill, which let me slow down enough to turn and go across the slope in the other direction. After a dozen falls, I looked like a pro, flying back and forth from one turn to the next, from the top of the lift to the bottom.
Falling comes from looking too good.
A friend on the lift saw me zipping across and making turns like I knew how to ski. “You’re doing great,” he said. “Come with me.”
So I followed him to the big lift that led to the “intermediate” slopes, which is Greek for “get ready to fall if you don’t know how to ski.” The first part of the run was easy, but then I got to steep part. Before I could get halfway down, I was going too fast, but I knew what to do: fall.
By the end of the day, I had fallen so many times that I could wring the water out of my ski suit. But I’d never had so much fun in all my life.
Falling makes the next day better.
That night, my strained muscles recovered and became a little stronger. As I dreamed, I must have been reliving the experience, visualizing how to keep my balance, control my skis, and make better turns.
When I hit the slopes the next morning, I went right back to the intermediate runs I had skied before. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Those steep parts where I had dared to fall so often—they now looked only half as steep. From then on, I didn’t fall very often, but I was having lots of fun because I knew my limits.
I could push myself a little farther, because another fall would teach me more and add to the fun.
Sometimes the fear of falling is worse than the fall. In that case, we should let ourselves go, learn from the adventure, and discover the fun of falling.