Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reflection on Insights Gained from Falling

Photo credit

I fell into a hole.

It really was just a broken place in the sidewalk but I had a flash of insight, which is why I' m writing about it here. The fall was accompanied by one of those familiar memories of the future where an event seems to be repeated but it's the first time it happens - as in déjà vu.  Has this happened before, I questioned. I tried to think of similar experiences of falling. The first memory I thought of happened after moving into a new house in Puerto Rico. I was jogging and following my bliss down a quiet side street

in a romantic dreamy fog when

Photo credit
I noticed a large Victorian house to my right that was set in the middle of a lush green yard filled with slightly overgrown but cultivated plants. (It looked like this photo of a sub-tropical Victorian home in Springfield, Georgia.) Still thinking about the possible residents of this romantic looking home, my senses were jarred by the view of a new condominium building project. Reflecting about the possible demolition of the aging house, I was suddenly shin deep in a small metal encased hole in the sidewalk. I was cut and a bit in shock. I realized that the accident happened because someone did not replace a cover over a water meter. At first, I was angry because of the missing cover, but then I wondered why I didn't see the hole right in front of me. I felt uneasy as I remembered that when I was younger, I was often told that

I had my head in the clouds. I was a daydreamer. 

Keep your eyes on the road! (photo credit)
Once while driving on the scenic panoramic route on California's coastal highway (California State Route 1), I was so captivated and excited by the view that I nearly drove off the cliff. Talk about entering the moment! So I remember that time of falling into the hole and wondered if I was daydreaming. I keep thinking of Alice and her adventures while she was falling into a hole. I'm showing myself in my own looking glass by observing the way I react.

Thinking now, I remember that I had sprained my ankle exactly twice in my life, and both times I had to be rushed to the emergency room. The first incident happened because I was riding on the butterfly handlebars of a new pink Schwinn bike that my younger brother was steering. (I was twelve.) I was thrilled with the fun loving ride until my foot caught up in the spokes of the front wheel. The second time occurred at the same age. I was when I was sitting on the wheel cover of a tractor driven by my father and my foot slipped into the wheel. In both incidents, I remember the face of the driver, my brother and my dad, looking pained and guilty, which may have contributed to my profound hurt at being wounded. I felt seriously sorry for myself both times. I have an insight as I realize that I want someone else to be guilty and sorry when I am hurt.

The incident of falling into an uncapped-water-meter hole on the sidewalk repeatedly returns to my mind because I notice that I'm looking for someone to blame.

Years ago when I moved to Puerto Rico, I complained to my director about the parking problem at work. I am a bit ashamed to admit to it now but I was overly critical. It bothered me that people would park their cars everywhere and sometimes double park so that I could not leave. In busy times, cars were parked on the sidewalks or drivers would create a middle parking lane behind the legally parked vehicles, which made it impossible for them to leave because they arrived early enough to park their car in an assigned space. My director listened to my explanation about being late to class because I was blocked in and she said, "Yes, this is a small island and parking is competitive." Was I supposed to infer that people didn't have a choice but to break the rules? My angry reaction to illegal parking occurred many years ago. I've learned that rules are flexible and subject to interpretation by the drivers.

The most recent time I fell into a hole, I realized my orientation had changed. I no longer took it for granted that the sidewalk ahead would be evenly paved over. I accepted that I needed to look out for myself in this life. I know I cannot prevent every falling incident (read mistake) from occurring but I noticed that I have accepted responsibility for my own well being rather than blaming others. I realized that thinking or focusing on someone's behavior (rather than my own) resulted in my victimization. I have to pay attention in life.

Living in Puerto Rico (where my expectations are frequently challenged) has taught me to pay attention. I'm grateful for this experience.

26 comments:

  1. I was really captivated by how you express that rules are flexible and subject to interpretation. This is very true not only for parking spaces, but to many things in life. We can't prevent ourselves from falling, but we must learn to stand back up on our own. I really liked this post professor.

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  2. I felt identified while reading your post, professor. We are constantly looking for someone to blame many times throughout our life and it can be simply because we don't have what we really want or the things aren't the way we also want. I also felt the same as you toward the parking lot situation, but this post open my mind about the flexible and subject to interpretation's rules. I will keep it in mind everyday. As you already said, we cannot prevent every falling incident from ocurring, but I believe we are going to learn something from everyone of it.

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  3. Alessandra and Valeria, isn't it interesting how we have a reflex to blame someone -anyone- when things don't go our way? We often think from our subjective point of view.

    Thank you both for your comments. I know we all can relate to the parking lot situation.

    I also thought of other ways that rules are being interpreted, Alessandra and Valeria.

    There are so many "flexible" rules related to driving! haha!

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  4. I thought it interesting how you said that you wanted someone else to feel sorry & guilty whenever you felt hurt. Many times we want to put the blame on someone when really, mistakes are always bound to happen. There doesn't always have to be a culprit.

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    1. So true, Vanessa. It's a habit that's learned at a young age. When we are older, we can realize and try to break the habit.

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  5. The way in which you describe victimizing yourself and needing someone to blame for being hurt hits close to home. Throughout my life I've always behaved in a similar way and would even go to the extreme of pitting the blame on my older sister whenever I could. I think it comes from an innate need for self preservation and fear of accepting failure.

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  6. Yes, Luis. It's control too. I realized that when you said self-preservation could cause the tendency. I believe that we have more control is we take responsibility for what happends - but that does not mean feeling guilty for things that are beyond our control. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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  7. Wow! I often feel like I was falling into a hole, a deep hole when you are most is lost just when you find a solution. We sometimes felt in the hole by a particular reason or situation, sometimes we just want to be in the hole, as ig we needed sometimes.

    On other hand I found very interesting the issue parking because in Puerto Rico do not follow any kind of rules as you and I think is wrong because people want a good country without crime and they begin breaking the rules more basic and make them flexible. I liked this post because I think it's true about the hole and that sometimes we needed to fall in, or just want to do it all depends on your mood. Nice Post!!

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    1. Falling is so surprising it wakes us up to where we are in our lives. Thanks for seeing and talking about the metaphoric connection. The parking principle you write about is a good idea for a class discussion. Bring it up? Thanks for your comment.

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  8. It's great to see how you've gone through very similar experiences at different moments in your life and have been able to perceive them in such different ways. It really shows how far a bit of reflection and auto analysis can take us. Life is and endless learning process, and often times some of the best lessons are the ones that we teach ourselves. Not everyone is able to judge their own behavior in such an objective and constructive way. Congrats on that!

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    1. It helps if you keep a life long journal project as I do. That way you can compare the past versions of experience with the present. Memory is a tricky mental place, it seems to change with our perspective of events. Thanks for your contribution here.

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  9. I can relate to being a "daydreamer", sometimes I see myself thinking so much while driving, I would come close to crashing my car. (Not a fun experience at all). I totally understand that way of some people victimizing themselves when they do something wrong, I include myself. I too have noticed that we are responsible for our own actions, and we have to take care of ourselves and pay close attention to what we say or do. I really like what you say state, "Was I supposed to infer that people didn't have a choice but to break the rules?". This is so true, we aren't supposed to break the rules, but then again, we see ourselves with the "only" choice of breaking the rules. It should not be like this, I think the University should be more aggressive with the parking situation. Great insights on your post professor!

    PS. I wrote the reflection on the conference of Dr. Riess, I would like some feedback of the structure, I put some labels and added some other sites. Here is the link: http://ventureourselves.blogspot.com/2014/11/universe-looks-staticbut-its-not.html

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    1. I like to contemplate and sometimes that limits my task awareness, Liane. It's part of the reason I don't always remember to lookout for myself. Since moving back to the urban area, I've had to learn to keep my eyes open. About the parking, it looks as if that is changing - at least in some areas after the fire truck couldn't enter the parking lot! I'll check your blog out soon. Thanks for your comments.

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  10. As Luis and Vanessa commented, I feel the same way by reading your post. It's very easy to blame the other for all the problems you're experiencing, instead of assuming your faults and responsabilities. I think that we, puertoricans, want a better country and better people, but we only see the other's faults and not ours, so we can never going to solve the main problem. It occurs with unknown people around you (as in the parking), at a relationship (which is very easy to blame the other) or even in the family as Luis' experience.

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    1. Kevin (I had to go to your link to figure out who was writing!) I see you connect to the issue as it relates to Puerto Rico and being responsible. What do you mean about the main problem? Is this a political solution or is it related to right now as things are in Puerto Rico?

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    2. Oh, sorry about that! I didn't realize that my name doesn't appear as the blog's author, hahaha! Well, answering your question, I'm refering to Puertoricans as a whole, as a country, because we want better treat from te people when we go shopping (for example), but when you're at the other's position you are not giving the example for it, so I'm refering more to our actual social relations.

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  11. I have to say that I agree with you completely in the fact that we have to lookout for ourselves in this life. We might have familly and friends that help us and take care of us but we cannot depend on them every single time. We have to take care ourselves and remind ourselves that we are the ones that dictate our lives. I, like you, instead of pointing fingers at someone for them to take them blame, started to confront the situation and that changed me in a very positive way.

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    1. I'm glad that you learned this lesson early, Porfirio. It happens that people learn and sometimes relearn the same lessons. For example, when we encounter a new or difficult situation (such as during travel) our early instinct to blame others may return. It can be a very challenging situation to confront our expectations!

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  12. I feel very related to your writing Professor, since I consider myself a great admirer of nature and as I walk along I get lost in my thoughts. I also liked the perspective from which it is told and the comparison with Alice. Since I was a child, I have had similar anecdotes concerning this situation, and I agree that we must look out in life. This, I've realized much more as I entered college. This writing has made me reflect much more about this situation, though, in which I frequently find myself at.

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    1. I'm glad that you connected to this post, Airined. I love to walk along the beach but have learned to keep my eyes open there too. Once (twice, thrice...) while I was walking someone called to me, "psst." When I looked over toward the sound, I was sorry! At the time there was a problem with exhibitionism along the beach in the San Juan area. I haven't noticed it so much lately. Nevertheless, I've trained myself to be cautious and not to look over toward the sound anymore.
      I'm glad you appreciated the post.

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  13. Just before coming to class I was watching a series and in this chapter talked about this theme. Sometimes we look to blame someone, and make others feel bad. We do not want to see beyond the situation and we just focus on us. I think we need to put ourselves in the situation of the others, and take responsibility for our own actions.

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    1. Yes, Debora, taking responsibility is important as well as seeing a situation from other points of view. What series were you watching?

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  14. The moment you realize that you can't blame anyone but yourself for what happens to you is really shocking because you are the only one to blame and you know that what happened is your fault and you have to live up to the consequence and try to resolve the causes by yourself. What happened to you, Professor, reminded me of the last time I had a car accident, nothing major happened to the parts involved, but it was really shocking to know that all was caused by me and no one else, and having to live with the fact that it could've been avoided by ME if I looked out for myself a little bit more.

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  15. Many people fall all the time, I thinks that what gives life meaning, but what i liked about your post was the motivation behind " not falling". Some people are falling and do not even realize that they are and as soon as they start taking the blame and responsibility for their actions as why they are falling people grow as an individual. People need to speak up for themselves and instead of others to make decisions on their lives.

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  16. As I read this post, I couldn't help but see myself in those stories. I'm the clumsiest person that ever walked on earth and I have a tendency to drift away in my own mind at any time. I have learned to leave with my all my bruises on my elbows and knees, but sometimes falling in unexpected times brings me joy. Yes, I said it brings me joy, I laugh at my clumsiness and people around me always rush to help me. It brings me hope to see that people still care enough to help strangers when they fall. I really liked this post and found it funny that I could see so much of myself in it.

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  17. I was in the middle of leaving an extensive comment and lost it, so I will be brief. This piece is so engaging, I wasn't there with you, I was you. Your connection of your internal and life in time, reflected in the changing architecture engaged me with such beautiful image. I especially liked the juxtaposition of your growth in accepting responsibility for your life and the slacking morals regarding the parking situation over time on the Island. You remind me of one of the 20th century greats like Updike, but that wasn't exact enough, and, when I tried to look it up, that's when I lost my comment. I'm using my phone. but I will be following, and put you on my blog catalog reader. Thank you!

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