Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Free Falling

I could never get the hang of it.

It came up in almost every drama workshop, an "exercise" designed to break the ice and make us work together, trusting each other. But I couldn't do it.

"You are stiff as a board when you fall," said the instructor. "The idea is to relax and let yourself actually FALL," they would say, shaking their head in frustration. "You need to learn to TRUST people to catch you."

"It isn't about trust," I would say, my own frustration mounting as I tried again and again to simply let myself fall into the outstretched hands behind me, allowing them to catch my limp body before it hit the ground. "I can't ask people to catch me. I don't know how to ask that," I would say.

"I don't think you get this exercise," the instructor would say sadly, convinced it was about trust or a lack thereof - but it wasn't. It was about the inability to ask for help, even if it meant avoiding hitting the ground.

I was the child who never asked for anything, you see. I suppose I grew up very comfortably with parents who could provide well for me, but even so my mother would often remark about my lack of requests. I never asked for new clothing or money or toys. I never asked because I didn't know how to ask, and so I was always just content.

When I graduated from high school a cousin came to live with us. She was going to school in the city and her parents lived a fair distance away on a farm. When they came to visit her and us they brought her a small stereo because she had asked for one. A day later my father came home with a small portable stereo (aka the ubiquitous 80's "ghetto blaster") and left it on my bed. I was perplexed and when I said thank you my mother told me it was because I never asked for anything, even if I wanted or needed it.

Over the decades, and particularly in the last two years, I have become far better at asking although it is still difficult for me. It is not about a lack of trust but rather about an inability or unwillingness to show vulnerability in this way, admitting to needing help. I am on occasion distressed that the Intrepid Junior Blogger displays the same behaviour, unwilling to ask for help from teachers, store clerks or friends. It is not necessarily the most beneficial of behaviours to pass on, and I ponder how to change it.

I suppose first though I must change myself. This week I let myself fall. It was hard to release myself that way, to let myself go limp and ask those around me to catch me. I won't go into the details - not yet - but what I found was that when I asked those around me to catch me what formed beneath me was a safety net woven from the hands and hearts of friends, family and colleagues. I let myself go limp and simply fall into their hands, always knowing I could trust them but finally finding a way to ask them to catch me.

This week I went into a free fall, but it was ok. Those hands that were always there waiting were right there to catch me, and I didn't hit the ground.

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