While biking home today, I found myself wrapped up in a feeling fog. I was thinking about work and wondering about love and staring absentmindedly at the starlit sky. In the time it took me to pedal home from my friend Lucy's house to my own abode, I went through waves of contentment and sorrow and self-hate and self-love in a span of ten minutes (I also rocked out to "Formation" with my feet on the bars for about half that time. I've always been super good at time management).
And then I biked straight into the railing of a bridge. The physical pain I felt from banging my knee woke something up in me. Because in that moment, I wasn't attuned to whatever craziness was going on inside my mind. I was alert to the world, to my body, to the bruise blossoming, blue and red and purple, up the length of my thigh. I've long had a weird relationship to my legs. Suddenly, I just wanted to kiss my thick thighs and knobby knees—which have always been so awesome even when I'm unkind to them—and tell 'em everything would be alright.
Sometimes, I don't want to learn any more life lessons for just, like, a second. I'm not in the mood you know? Let me eat my popcorn in peace UNIVERSE! But in spite of the fact that I'm basically a mountain mermaid, I can't control what happens; I can only control my reaction. Although I learn this lesson over and over again, I felt it especially deeply when I banged my knee. My first instinct was to spiral—I had had a long day and a hard week and of course I would do something stupid like this, I always do the thoughtless thing...
But instead, I righted my bike, sifted my sandal out of the creek, and found my keys nestled against a rock. I didn't turn this very minor accident into an indictment of my character. I just went on home and drank a glass of water.
This might not be a signpost of personal growth for most people. For me, however, embracing the moments when I mess up is a big deal. It's really hard for me to forgive myself for not being 100% (I still struggle to forgive myself for mistakes I made years ago). It's as if there is a ticker tape at the base of my brain that perpetually blares GET IT TOGETHER KATE. Every time I don't get it "together," I feel as if I'm affirming that dumb ticker tape. And so I spiral. I say mean things to myself. I forgot to honor just how much I've grown and how much I'm growing, and how, of course, of course, I couldn't be 100% yet because what fun would that be? I'm not ready to have it all figured out. I'm too busy soaking up all the strange joy and sweet sadness and delicious confusion that comes at the very start of the story.
I've gone through so much growth this past year that I can feel the simultaneous pain and power in my heart. We all carry growing pains with us. But maybe, part of turning those bruises into bygone memories is about learning to take note of the moments, however small, when we prove that how things have been in the past is no guarantee of how things are now. It's vital to celebrate experiences that are evidence that we've grown. It helps prime us to forgive, to heal, to forge ahead.
Because the beautiful thing about growth is that it's constant—whether we want it or not, are aware of it or not. There are stretches of time when not too much happens and jolts of punctuated equilibrium when WAY too much transpires and throughout those periods, we are always growing. We're always running our (metaphorical) bikes into railings and getting back up again. It's what we're wired to do. And so the only real challenge then, is to learn how to love that growth, no matter the pain; to kiss our bruised knees and feel nothing but gratitude that here we are, standing upright, ready to keep on moving.