“It don’t hurt you when you fall, only when you land”

Monday 30th January

The words are courtesy of Michelle Shocked, a rather remarkable Texan woman I first heard in the early eighties.  She sings her own hybrid mix of country, blues and gospel and anything else that comes to her ear.  Her politics are pretty left wing and out-there, and she also has a very American attitude to religion, which I find annoying in the extreme.  But she also has the voice of an angel, and sings some very memorable songs, and always sings from the heart and with total honesty.  She has this incredible talent for writing lines and tunes that you remember, and that pop into your brain at the most unlikely times.

This line is from a song called “Over the Waterfall” and I never quite understood the meaning of that rather clever line.  I mean, of course it is true that falling in itself doesn’t hurt one, but the landing, the bump, the broken bones when you do come to earth, do hurt.  So what?  It still hurts like hell, and whether the pain is during the fall or the landing, the fact that you have fallen results in the pain surely.  But today I suddenly perceived another meaning, and maybe one which Michelle had never realized herself.  I was sitting minding my own business, when that line came into my head, and you know how it is sometimes, I just couldn’t shake it out.  And it suddenly came to me that it was an analogy for life; nobody can stop you falling, it is human nature to fail and to have set-backs.  But it isn’t those setbacks, those failings, those troubles that cause you the pain, but how you land; how you deal with them that matters.  So we shouldn’t be scared of falling, to fall is to be human, we just have to learn how to land.  So when a love affair breaks up, or a friend dies early, or some other drama in one’s life loom so large it seems to black out all hope and the world seems dark and painful, we have to learn how to land with as few broken bones as possible.  The lesson here is not in living your life so carefully that you never fall; no-one can be that clever, but in being able to cope with the falling, being able to achieve some sort of soft landing, to be able to not let the stumbles and pitfalls of life drag you down completely, but to have the ability to survive, to carry on, and to overcome.  Just like going over the waterfall in the song.  It don’t hurt you when you fall, only when you land.