As I lift myself in the air, my hands slide a few inches down the pole. For the fourth time, I wipe the alcohol sprayed towel along the steel.
In class tonight, the move we're learning begins with a horizontal scissor kick and ends with our entire body balancing on one side of the pole.
I pull my body up and form the scissor kick with my legs as my arms hold me in the air. "Lower your hand," my teacher says. I hesitate but obey. A second later, I realize the lower hand placement creates exponentially less space for my super long leg to travel through.
My leg is caught, my hands slip, and gravity pulls me down in slow motion.
First, my head hits the mat, followed by a body-roll over my neck. I remember a more elegant version of this roll from aikido. Vertebra pinch together. The muscles in my upper back tense, panic rushing through them.
Laughter escapes my throat in a staccato burst as I exit the spiral.
"Are you OK?" everyone asks. I stand up. "Yeah, I'm fine," I lie, voice calm, brushing it off, eager to remove my gribble from the room's focus.
Class continues, but the truth is, I'm not fine.
Hitting the ground was scary. The instant panic I felt lingers in my left rhomboid, pressing into my back with its sadness.
I'm not severely injured so I force myself to do the move again, with my hand higher. Get back on the horse, right?
I complete the move but then internally sulk with disappointment. Here was a great opportunity to be honest, but instead I reverted back to old patterns and pretended I was fine.
At the moment of impact, two of my old neuropathways were triggered:
BLAME and PRETENDING
1. I wanted to BLAME:
- The teacher for insisting I lower my hand.
- Myself for listening to her, because I should have listened to my own body.
- The stupid, idiot girl who didn't abide by the "no-lotion-for-24-hour-rule" and created a slip and slide of my pole.
*In truth, none of these things were our faults. But sometimes our first reaction is to find someone else to blame, in order to duck the junk feeling.
2. I PRETENDED:
Laughter was my old, conditioned response to all pain and panic. The unspoken rule was, "Don't let anyone see it affect you."
Pretending, however, is just a comfortable cover, like a blanket to hide things from view. Under the blame and pretending, I was embarrassed, afraid, and sad.
- Embarrassed: to fall in front of the other ladies. Embarrassed that I fell at all.
- Afraid: Up until then, I'd never fallen in pole, so it was a safe space for me. The fall instilled a small voice of fear and doubt. At the end of the class when we danced, I was tentative and didn't trust the pole as I spun. I didn't fly around the room with my normal abandon.
- Sad: I feel silly writing this, but I felt like a kid who'd just fallen off the jungle gym. I just felt sad without being able to connect exactly where it was coming from.
"Aww. You can cry," he said, and tears welled up in my eyes.
How to use this story for your life!
We all want to feel safe and protected and when something happens that bursts that bubble, we tend to revert back to old habits. Everyday we're faced with potentially vulnerable situations. Some days we feel like a hero, who's successfully integrated our learning. Other days, past parts of us show up and we feel like we've taken backwards steps.
This is normal and it's OK. When old patterns show up we have two choices. We can remain trapped in a place of judgment and disappointment. Or, we can practice honesty, authenticity, and self-love.
I can say, "Yep, I fell on my head at pole and some old patterns appeared. It happens and it's OK. I accept and love those old parts of me because they used to be there for a reason. However, I no longer need them. So What Do I Need Now?"
With this pole fall, I needed to complete the move so that fear didn't get the best of me. I needed to admit that I was embarrassed, scared, and sad, and that all those were OK. I needed to talk to someone safe (in this case my husband) who could listen and empathize. And I needed to have a little cry.
When our pasts breach our present, like a whale in the ocean, we don't need to pretend the whale is not there. We can simply say, "Oh, look, a whale. I haven't seen a whale in a while. What do I need right now?"
Remember, when we fall on our head, physically or metaphorically, it's an opportunity to learn about ourselves, our patterns, and what no longer serves us. It's also a wonderful opportunity to learn to love and care for ourselves, as the adults we are now, not as the children we once were or our pasts that may have left scars.
We can love and take care of ourselves right now.