Last week, I witnessed a schoolboy fall off his bike in the park. It was a hard fall. In more ways than one. He’d been peddling along with a gaggle friends, laughing and enjoying being in that moment. Then he hit a rock and off he came. Most of his friends carried on, but one girl stayed and helped him. He was crushed. As was his front wheel.
I asked if he needed any help, but he shook his head, not allowing his eyes to meet mine. The girl did the talking, assuring me, and maybe him, that he was fine. But in that moment, he was not fine. From the way he hung his head as he got to his feet, it was clear that all kinds of stories were playing out within and around him. A single bump in the road had knocked him down and transformed his mood. Both literally and metaphorically.
And this is not unique to the boy with the bike.
Such a reaction to a rock on the road is common to many of us. Yet all too often, we have no real grasp of what is driving it. We are lost in and to the moment. We wear our shame, our pain, our devastation, our discomfort like heavy jewels, allowing them to drag us down to places we don’t like. But we go there nonetheless.
In fact, we go further. We identify so strongly with the incident that we essentially allow ourselves to become whatever has happened to us. We give ourselves over to emotions of old, forgetting or perhaps unaware that we can choose to consciously respond rather than subconsciously react.
And there is a world of difference between the two. In the subconscious reaction, we hand agency to what has gone before. We allow everything that time and experience has recorded within to form and inform our next move, thought or sentence. And that puts us behind a kind of veil. By consciously responding and taking a breath to look at the here and now as it is, we can lift the veil and remain in calm control.
But we have to remember that we have this choice. We have to remind ourselves that whatever has happened, has indeed happened. Even when the rocks in the road seem bigger than us. And as such, there is no sense in mentally reconstructing the path travelled to dodge them and create an alternative reality that never was. We are where we have landed. All we can do is meet the moment.
And that is a good thing to meet, because the moment itself is where liberty lives. And we can live there with it. No matter how hard we fall.
Main photo by Andrzej Rusinowski on Unsplash