Last weekend I was doing a trail run; it’s a newish trail and totally new to me. As I turned to go up an incline, I saw that rock the whole way. I saw it, I knew I needed to step over it… but I didn’t make it.

See, trail running is a different animal. You are likely to roll your ankles several times or land awkwardly; you just have to stride with it and keep moving. The most important things to know are
A) Pick up your feet!
B) Keep your eyes down and watch where you’re going.
C) Pick. Up. Your. Feet. Seriously.

Usually, if you do that, you will be fine. In my case, though, my eyes were down, I was trying to pick my feet up – I just didn’t quite get it done. As my right toe caught the rock, I knew I was going down. I threw my arms out, tried in vain to save my balance, took a stagger step with my left, and for just an instant I thought I might recover… Yeah, no.

The funny thing is, this all happened in slow motion. I can distinctly remember each motion, each instant, knowing what was happening and what I was trying to do. Finally, as I went to the ground, I realized I was about to face plant so I rolled my head under and hit the ground with my forehead instead of my nose. In retrospect, maybe not the smartest move – but I remember thinking better my forehead than my face.

I hit the ground and I’m sure made an awful grunting noise. My trail buddy turned back to see if I was okay; I popped up and said, “I’m fine.” The truth is, I didn’t really know how fine I was yet, but I said it out of instinct and kept moving. Moments later I felt warm liquid on my face and thought, “Oh, I’m bleeding…” but when I checked, it wasn’t blood. <I’ll go ahead and apologize for this imagery now!> I had some blocked up sinus fluid/congestion and apparently the knock on my skull popped that bubble, so it was all over my face. Lovely. At least I was breathing easier…

I kept moving, and honestly wasn’t much worse for wear. A day later, there was a sore spot on my forehead and a scrape on my shin, but I was no more concussed than normal and feeling fine overall. My brain keeps running the “crash footage” over and over, so that’s fun too…

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced the slow-mo life. A few years ago, I caught my toe on a lip in the sidewalk and as I went down (again seemingly in slow motion) I rolled to the right into the grass. As a result, I only caught my forearm and wrist instead of my whole body on the concrete. I got a fun scar on the wrist, but the rest of me was fine. I knew the lip was there; I ran there all the time. I’d almost fallen several times in that same spot, in fact!

Which raises the question:

If You Can See It Coming, Why Let It Happen?

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ferris Bueller

All snark aside, it’s a fair question. Sometimes things happen so quickly that we get totally blindsided. Often though, we can see it looming closer and feel it about to happen, almost overwhelmed by helplessness as the crash occurs. Were we really helpless, though?

Picture a student who finds themselves struggling to keep up. Maybe they are used to handling schoolwork easily, but now they are in a new place. The classwork is harder, their focus is not always on school, and they start to fall behind. One assignment, hey, they can make that up. But there’s another, and another, and suddenly it’s an overwhelming wave.

Could they see it coming? Yes, most likely, if they are self-aware.

Could they have stopped it? Yes, if they completely changed how they were using their time.

Are they likely to do that? Well, generally we don’t learn from other people’s mistakes. so until they get burned because they can’t cram fast enough or make up enough points, they probably won’t change right away. Hopefully they learn before the next semester.

Work is the same way – one project milestone leads quickly to another. You have to close your reports every day, but who has that kind of time? So you keep on keeping on and you’ll catch up when it slows down… you hope.

Falling in slow motion is scary and frustrating because we know what’s coming but can’t seem to avoid it. There’s a feeling of inevitable doom about it all. There is a way out, though.

Steer Into The Skid

Defensive Driving tip: Winter is coming. When your car starts to slide and skid, what should you do?

  1. Keep both hands on the wheel. Okay, yeah, that makes sense – if you feel out of control, do what you can to maintain control.
  2. Step off the gas. Look, you can’t outwork a bad diet. You can’t outrun lack of sleep. You can’t keep dumping fuel on the fire and expect things to get better. Slowing down will help you regain control.
  3. Steer into the skid (if rear-wheel or all-wheel drive). “Steer into the skid” means to turn the wheel to the same side the back end is sliding towards. This may seem counterintuitive in the moment, but it’s the best solution to get out of the skid.

If you run away from your problems, they don’t get better. In fact, they often get worse. Facing them can be scary – but it really is the best way to fix the situation and regain control.

The next time you feel yourself falling, instead of just saying you’re fine as a knee-jerk response and repeating the same steps, do these things to help you maintain control. Fix the small things. Then steer into the skid. Face your issue and resolve it. It will be scary at first, but you will thank yourself down the road.

Photo by Ashley Bean on Unsplash