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We are finding it hard to feel safe.

We all have favorite people and places that make us feel safe.

In those places and with those people we feel we are free from danger. Whether  we really are is another story.

Being with one of my favourite people, in one of my favourite places, I fell. Literally. To the ground. Because of the place and because of her, I felt safe, content and connected. And, feeling that way, I fell.

We were having a lively conversation about the need to pay attention to the threats around us. My friend, at my side, warned me two times of a real threat in our path. And twice, not once, but twice, I ignored her warning. Because I was so concentrated on explaining to her how fear is a valuable emotion that seeks to protect us and that is why we need to pay attention to it, I did not pay attention to her.

“Maca, we’re going to fall!” she said to me. Twice.

And we fell, literally, to the ground.

At the warning, which for the third time I ignored, we fell. The defeat.

That’s how I was left: defeated by ignorance, with my hands on the ground, next to one of my favourite people, in one of my favorite places, feeling -now- absolutely unstable, ridiculous and bewildered.

While the blow to our bodies, fortunately, left no major after-effects; I’m still trying to comprehend everything that fell, with me, in that fall. When I hit the ground, it took me a while to get back on my feet, I was in shock! Partly I still am, because of what the ground reminded me of: in your safe place you can fall. There are no guarantees against falling. Just as there are no guarantees against old age, illness, death and the collapse of everything (people, places, civilizations, life forms, etc.) around us.

A dear friend, also one of my favorite people, asks me what I am saying when I insist that “the world is falling apart”. Another suggests I change the narrative. It sure isn’t easy to hear me say those words, to insist on that point.

A world falls apart, as I fell apart that time, in one piece,. As I fall apart at times, when some issues overwhelm me, when they surpass my human and modest capacity to adapt to them. It usually happens to me in the second half of the year. I’m sure some of you resonate with that experience. I’ve been at it for a while now. And it seems that, for those of us who are highly sensitive, it is proving even more challenging in this post-storm-pandemic time (if we can call it that).

“Too much” maelstrom, noise, light, movement, commitments, stimuli, threaten the safety of my equilibrium. I stagger. And sometimes I fall. Fortunately, in the material world in which I prefer to live, I find by my side people with whom I can stand up and laugh at the blow to the ego that staggering and falling entails.

Laughing connects me to humility, that which reminds me of my ever-present vulnerability. Laughing reminds me of my fragile humanity and the gravity of the force that calls to me when I fall. Because I don’t fall into the void. It is to the ground.

Then, that wise part of my stunned heart that falls, reminds me that I can let myself be held by the Earth; who, firm and stable, receives me, who receives everything that falls on her, without asking for explanations, or giving lessons; simply with open arms, open to the bewilderment that floods us when we fall.

To those who, like me, are moved by the changes, uncertainties and instabilities that constitute us, I offer part of the harvest that falling offers:

1. Safe places fall

As Jorge Luis Borges says, “there are no other paradises than lost paradises.” The precious jewel of being alive is lost. The feeling of stability that overwhelms us, gives way. The certainties of the moment, the ideologies that are promoted, the illusions that are sold, the proselytizing that inundates us, the stories that we buy, everything is lost. The most beautiful flower and the juiciest fruit, we all end up as compost, feeding the future.

Despite the sense of security of my favorite place in the world, to which I am attached, I fell into it. And it hurt then. And it hurts now. How I wish that in that place, I would never fall! A part inside me longs for the mythical figure of the womb: to be fully contained and safe again. A part that must die to become fully human, before I die, as someone says. In a way, the bewilderment of that fall reminds me of the joke of the person found dejected on the ground, who is asked what happened to him and answers: I was born. Primitive and original experience of falling that we all share. And from which it may take us a lifetime to recover.

The irony of the fall has to do not only with the fact that it was precisely in my safe place in the world but also with the fact that I was talking about how much we need to pay attention to fear in order to protect ourselves. Tell me what you promote and I will tell you what you suffer from. Human incoherence that twice made me disregard the warnings of my friend who did pay attention to the risk of falling.

I recognize then how much distraction invades me when I feel safe, how much risk lies in it, how easy it is for me to lose sight of the right measure of fear that allows me to protect myself. Could it be that the propaganda that we are all subjected to and which seeks to overexploit our fear is making me immune to it? Something like the story of the boy who cried wolf. For some time now, my life has been filled with voices that cry ‘wolf’. And I’m having a hard time believing them. And the wolves, as far as I know, are not yet extinct. They are still here, among us, even in our favorite places, in our favorite people and even more, within ourselves.

2. Falling hurts

Being neither young, nor jovial, falling is starting to become a serious business.

It was too when I was 5 and 15 and 25. Falling hurts. Always. What you thought was stable and firm, for a few moments is no longer so. The realization hits, shocks, scares and hurts. In the body. It hurts there, in the body, always, regardless of whether the fall was literal or symbolic.  Falling hurts in that body that we still are and that is present in all our experiences. Just as the Earth receives us with open arms, our bodies receive all our falls with open arms.

We cannot free ourselves from the pain of the body, no matter how much metaverse, online and virtual we believe ourselves to be. Just as we cannot free ourselves from falling.

“It’s okay”, “nothing happened” some say to try to soften the situation. No! Sorry. It did happen, it does happen when someone falls, when reality frustrates our desires, in that glorious capacity that reality has to be what it is, not what it should be, not what we want it to be, not what we deserve. That reality (internal/external) that is always at a sufficient distance from our desire, to guarantee us the sufficient quota of frustration that allows us to mature, to become fully human. At least before we die.

Something always happens to everyone who is alive and falls. Whether we are aware of it and take charge of processing that pain is another matter. A thing of the utmost importance, of the same gravity of the force that calls us to the ground when we fall. Something happens that hurts, as it hurts to lose our health, our life, the people we love, the projects we dream of, and so on.

When I insist that the world is falling apart, what I am saying, my friend, is that it is MY world that is falling apart, the only one I know, the one that saw me born, grow, learn, bleed, fall in love, get my degree, reproduce, work, fail, laugh, cry. When my world falls apart, I fall with it.

The loss of stability, of hope, of biodiversity, of respect for life, of trust in institutions, of intimacy in couples, of solidarity in communities, of harmony in families, of mental health among us, are not fantasies or speculations of my threat system. It is the realization of facts, all around me, that hurt.  They hurt because they matter. They hurt because I care about those falling pieces. They mattered to me before, they matter to me now and they will always matter to me. Among other things, because it is from that pain of ours that the continuation of whatever comes to this world that is falling apart will be born. Or at least that is how it is supposed to be. Some say that if we are aware of our pain, instead of remaining distracted or anesthetized; if, instead of becoming activists and/or agents of change, we act, change and do that inner work, challenging and courageous, to take charge of understanding with compassion and integrating that pain, perhaps from our compost will come a new earth, a new story. Maybe…

3. We do not fall alone

They say that we are born and die alone. I completely disagree. When we are born it is more evident, isn’t it? We are born from a human being. At least we still do: we still come from someone. From some-two, to be exact. When we die, we leave someone, some-twos.

Regardless of the human beings from whom we come and from whom we depart, it is to Earth that we come. And it is from the Earth that we leave. With her, in her, we are always. And she sustains us, firm and stable, always. Without asking anything in return. Nothing. Pure welcome with which it is good for us to make peace. Seriously and in series.

Between birth and death we fall several times. In all of them we are never alone. Whether we give our attention, to those around us, is another matter.

When my friend and I fell together, I appreciated the concern each of us expressed for the other, the help we got off the ground, the laughter we shared, and the conversations that arose between us about the limits to our human capacities for awareness and coherence.

From that moment to date, I have had several more falls. In each of them I can recognize that I was not alone, to receive the bewilderment and pain of falling.

When I fall, as when I see my world fall, I need to be held. Simply. Not to be told that “everything is going to be okay” (that widely held conspiracy theory), not to be told that “nothing is wrong”. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a lot going on. We are falling and it hurts. If we embrace each other, as we fall, it heals the wound. Like they do at the end in the movie “Don’t Look Up”, when the people, at the table, hold hands while waiting for the end.

Otherwise, if we don’t hold hands, if we don’t embrace, we will continue to marinate in our traumas, as I heard someone put it brilliantly recently.

4. Connecting is what it’s all about

If there is no place guaranteed against falling, if falling hurts and we are not alone, then the fact that we are together has something to say about it, doesn’t it?

We are social beings from our first day to our last day on this earth. It is because of others that we come into this world and with others that we leave. In between, every opportunity of life offers itself as an occasion to relieve us, among ourselves, of the pain of existing. It is the breast you seek at birth, the look you seek as you grow, the embrace you seek as you fall in love, the listening you seek as you enjoy and suffer, and so on.

We need each other. We are designed to soothe each other from the pain of falling. The gaze of the other, the word of the other, the presence of the other, the existence of the other heals us. We have been doing it since we have been on the face of this Earth. It happens that, sometimes, we lose the practice a little as we are probably all aware of in these times of pandemic outbursts. It is good for us to remember it. At least I humbly believe so.

Some say that health has a universal formula. It is called balance. Not too much, not too little. Just right. Others call it the “middle ground” or the “optimum”.

There are two balances that help me significantly. One is emotional balance: when my emotions are balanced, I can remain standing. When they become unbalanced, I fall. It’s as simple as that. Really, literally and symbolically. As in the case with my friend: too much passion in conversation made me lose sight of the fear of falling. I took it for granted that I would remain standing. I was wrong.

All emotions in balance include the right measure of anger, fear, disgust, grief. Not leaving any out is how I remain firm and stable, like the immense Earth that sustains me and that, without needing to judge or condemn, composts everything that falls on it.

The other balance is what I do to balance myself, when I am fortunate enough to realize my imbalance. One part is what I can do for me, my own tools if you will. The other part is the other, the other as a support. For example, my own part is usually going to my favorite places, doing my favorite things. The other is the power my favorite people have over me, to make me feel content and contained. I tend to lean more towards one of those two because I am more comfortable with one than the other.

To honor the balance, to recover from the imbalance when I fall and to water my seeds of resilience for all the falls to come, I try now to cultivate the other part. Because I know that everyone’s – and everything’s – destiny is compost.

So, in closing, I am deeply grateful for the lesson of humility and shared humanity that each fall refreshes for me, grateful for my ability to connect with the Earth that sustains me when I fall, when I drop what no longer serves me and when I let go of that illusory temptation to believe I am independent, unbeatable and infallible.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, falls of mine. For the relief from suffering that I receive, for the relief from suffering that it allows me to offer and, especially, for the relief – sweet and kind – that it allows me to offer myself when I remember.

The closer I get to my death, the more grateful I am for that capacity of ours to connect with others who are interdependent, collapsible and fallible, stopping unhurriedly at the side of the road, to converse and reflect on what it means to be born, enjoy, fall, grow and die as human beings in this peculiar 21st century we cohabit.

Thank you for being Earth present and connecting with these words of mine, which sprout in longing swells of embraces!

About the author: Macarena Kolubakin

Human being, almost 50 years, wife for more than 20 years to the same man, mother of 2 young ladies (17 and 18 years), living with Michi, our cat, love to read, to contemplate, to cook, almost vegan, member of a Sangha, also of a lot of small group. Prefer always small groups. For ever highly sensitive and passionated about compassion and critical thinking.

Image: Macarena Kolubakin

balance, falling, vulnerability

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