Autumn, After I Fell Down the Stairs


Fall is a good time to slow down.

Do you feel that? All that summer pressure to go-go-go, all those photos of beaches and sunny patios on social media — they’re easing off. The nights are easing in. And here we are, with a little more darkness, a little more space, a little more allowance to be the people we are under our surfaces.

But how do we get there? I wonder that. I was so, so busy this summer. Getting Hello Writer ready to launch, running retreats, fitting in family time; I was always on my way to the next thing. But then, and I wonder if you can relate, the rushing turned into a habit. I didn’t need to rush, but I didn’t stop.

Then I tripped on a dog toy, fell down the stairs and my ankle turned purple and swelled up like a large, tender fruit. Like a plum meets a cantaloupe. I have a lot of photos you don’t want to see.

Now I need to slow down.

So the question: How to actually do it? Slowing down is one thing – if we don’t have things to fill the spaces, that time will fill right back up.

I believe that that’s where curiosity comes in. Bear with me.

Every second of our lives, we’re surrounded by stunning, unbelievable things that could make us explode into tiny pieces of wonder. But most of it bounces off while we’re thinking about bills or looking for our keys… And that’s good; it’s self-preservation. If we took in every tiny beautiful flower, every scrap of interesting conversation, we’d be annihilated. Distraction is like an immune system for the over-abundance of beauty in the world.

They say that every snowflake is different.
If that were true, how could we go on?
How could we ever get up off our knees?
How could we recover from the wonder of it?

Thank you, Jeanette Winterson. This is what I’m talking about. We can’t look at every snowflake. We can’t stay in that state of wonder. Our knees would get so sore.

But, when distraction becomes a habit rather than a filter, we can lose out on the things that we need the most. That’s what’s been going on with me. And curiosity is how I’m working to slow back down.

Curiosity is like a quiet little compass leading me to the things I need. It’s a very soft voice reminding me who I am when I’m not trying to run away. I need to get quiet to hear it. And I need to not judge.

Oh my God, it’s easy to judge. I’ll give you an example. I grew up in a house with a lot of classical music. My brother, sister and parents all played it. They listened to it constantly. It did nothing for me. I’d be yawning through symphony concerts or hanging in the basement blasting Ani Difranco through my headphones, memorizing her in-breaths, thinking that if I were just a little different, a little better, I would be able to feel the same wonder and release and inspiration from concertos.

What. A. Load. Of. Bullshit.

Ani was my symphony. What matters is that I had a symphony — that something was getting past my distractions and leading me back to my core.

So I’m working on that these days… with my tensor bandages and my physio exercises. What are my symphonies right now? When I happen to have 15 free minutes, what if, instead of flipping on my phone, I ask myself how I want to spend them, and then pause and listen until an answer comes?

Here’s some of what I’m finding:

  • I like coffee! Drinking a coffee on the porch in the morning while the world around me wakes up sets me up for a much gentler morning than I would have otherwise found.

  • The smell of Marshall’s neck fur is completely indescribable, yet whenever I take the time to smoosh my nose in there my whole body softens.

  • Tarot cards are fun! Who knew they were so fun? You probably did. I did not.

  • I’ve been underrating the weird joy of cop shows my whole life.

Okay, now over to you. What is your curiosity pointing to? If you took away the “shoulds”, what would you be gazing at?

Chris Fraser