I fell through the ceiling in my hallway tonight. I was carrying a stupidly heavy box of books from my packed up office (a box that was so I heavy I actually thought to myself: I should probably just leave these downstairs), and since my attic doesn’t have decking (but does have a high number of obstacles to easy walking) I missed one of the joists and my left foot came crashing through the ceiling below.
It’s a good thing my butt already has a crack in it – as it is, I almost gave myself a second one. Luckily, nothing sensitive got injured, and all I ended up with was a three foot square hole in my ceiling and a baseball sized contusion on the right side of my butt (which was helpfully treated by my sitting on an ice pack for 20 of the most awkward and least attractive minutes of my life).
For someone who just quit his job and has a limited income right now, this was not a welcome experience. Doubly so since I also have the handy man skills of a six month old.
So now I’m sitting here, staring at the massive hole in my ceiling, and all I can think of is Michael Caine. Specifically, this clip:
I love that clip for a thousand different reasons, not the least of which is Michael Caine’s accent. The man just sounds cool. But I also love it for the truth it contains: we fall down so we can learn to rise. Life has its way of asking us to go backward in order to go forward; we’re not fond of that fact, but it’s true all the same.
I had coffee with a friend tonight (well, now that I think about it, I had coffee; he never drank a thing) and we talked about life and the changes that it holds. For me, the changes with my job and career track; for him, the adjustments to fatherhood and how his writing/creative life has been put on hold for the moment. As we often do, we reminisced about life in high school and college, and we each were able to identify a specific point, or a specific thing, that – if we could do it all again – was the one thing we’d do differently. We talked about that for a second, and then my friend said something like this:
“But you know, by not taking that path, we’ve become the men we are today. So in some ways, not making those choices taught us to make them when they counted.”
We fall down, so we can learn to pick ourselves back up.
I know plenty of people who’ve fallen down lately (and for some, it’s more accurate to say they’ve been shoved down cruelly or kicked to the ground). There are people who are simply looking for enough hope to make it through the end of the week, or the day, or their particular shift at work. They wonder if things will ever be in their favor; if they’ll ever reach that point where life feels like it’s moving forward more often than it feels like it’s going back. The dream is still out there, but they’re tired of it being beyond reach.
All I can say is that falling down isn’t the worst thing in the world. Going backward isn’t always bad. It’s staying there that’s the issue.
If we fall down, we must get up.
That’s the path of reward – that’s the life worth living. Even gaping ceiling holes can be patched and made good as new. But sometimes, we have to live through those moments to believe that.