We all know how important it is to get right back on the horse, if you will, after taking a spill, but The Speed of Falling Objects author Nancy Richardson Fischer’s firsthand story proves just why that is.
Take this from Nancy Richardson Fischer: Fear is a very real thing. It helps us keep ourselves safe, but can also hold us back from experiencing all of the amazing things life has to offer.
Like the protagonist in her new novel, The Speed of Falling Objects, Nancy Richardson Fischer once experienced a pretty scary accident, though she didn’t realize it at the time.
Why? Because she didn’t let fear get the best of her.
If anything, her experience, which she details below, demonstrates just how much mind over matter matters and the importance of getting back up.
Because if you don’t define yourself, fear will do it for you.
The Speed at Which I Fell
I don’t remember falling. All I recall is a flash of yellow and green when my head bounced on the asphalt. Then I was somehow on my feet, trying to walk off the pain. There was a cut above my right eye—my helmet shifted on impact and my skin scraped on the second bounce. Bright red runnels of blood streamed from cuts on my elbow and hip where my bike shorts had been torn away after skidding along the rough road.
In 2018, my husband, Henry, and I had climbed over 660,000 feet on our road bikes, so it wasn’t like I was a total rookie. I’m not embarrassed to say those climbs all took a decent amount of time—it’s not about the summit, it’s the journey, sights, people met, wildlife, and friends made in distant places. This accident, my first big one in 15 years of cycling, occurred in Australia where kangaroos bound across the road in the early morning, requiring a keen eye and the ability to veer or quickly brake. The roads, though, were relatively empty, and I’d already made the switch to riding on the opposite side from the US.
So how had this happened?
My biggest concern, as I stood on the verge trying to walk off the pain radiating through my body, was whether any of the venomous brown snakes I’d seen flattened on the road lurked in the grass. My ears rang and I was dizzy, but at that moment avoiding a deadly snake bite and the ability to move were both super important to me. The latter meant that I wasn’t badly hurt.
At some point, the car that caused our accident returned. The driver, who’d decided to pass on a curve and then veer into us when another car appeared (headed straight for him), rolled down his window and yelled that he’d given us plenty of room. His wife, silent in the passenger seat, looked mortified. I told him to go away before my husband could yank him from the car.
“I’ll head back for our van,” Henry said.
I shook my head. “No. I’ll ride back.”
“That’s not a good idea.”
“If I don’t keep moving, my muscles will lock.” This made sense to me at the time as I figured I’d pulled a muscle.
We walked slowly to a side-road, me leaning heavily on my bike. Henry again said he wanted to get the car. I’m stubborn in general, but especially when hurt, so eventually he helped me get back on my bike. I practiced riding down the quiet road. I didn’t fall off. That was good enough for me.
It was a very slow 15-mile ride back to the car. On the hills, I tried to stand on my pedals. Each time something shifted in my pelvis and ribbons of agony unfurled. I sat back down and kept pedaling. When we neared the car, Henry rode ahead so he could catch me and unclip bike shoes from my cleats. It struck me, as I gingerly lowered myself into the car, that this is what I do…I get up and get on with life despite hurt or fear. But that wasn’t always the case.
I was a diver throughout my childhood. I loved learning new dives on a trampoline, working up the nerve to take them into the pool, and the way my body felt launching then spinning through the air. Most divers have accidents — a sport that scores highest when you’re as close as possible to the board encourages living in the danger zone. When I was 16, I had my first one. Right from my bounce I was off kilter, but thought I could still pull off my dive. Instead, I landed on my back on the board then scraped off the side. Luckily, my only injuries were bruises and cuts. But inside, my confidence crumbled. I was a junior in high school, and Regionals, the competition leading to States, was only weeks away. I bowed out of the competition.
I could’ve gone … but I didn’t.
It felt awful to let my team down. In the wake of that disappointment, I asked myself some tough questions. Was I someone who let fear control me? The answer was yes. Was this the person I’d choose to be in the future? That question took a bit longer to answer. I returned to diving two months later, determined to be the girl who decides instead of letting fear be in control.
This is not to say that I don’t have moments of terror. The first time I went skydiving, barfed from turbulence in the plane and had to land without jumping… the time I went scuba diving, was circled by a shark, and never wanted to get back in the ocean… when I learned how to kite-surf and cried after each lesson, terrified by the power of the kite. But I went back up in that plane and jumped, kept scuba diving because I had committed to an underwater research team, and learned to kite-surf, eventually falling in love with the sport.
I didn’t think I was capable of any of those things, and some I chose to never repeat, like skydiving, but they each enriched my life. I became a person who, despite her insecurities, flaws and uncertainties, could follow-through. And it turns out that knowing you have the mettle to do that matters more than the result.
So it wasn’t just denial of my injuries that got me back on my bike that day. I wanted the chance to define myself. Was it the smartest idea? Nope. Turns out I had broken both my superior pubic rami — part of each side of my pelvis — in four spots, and had a pretty bad concussion. But two months later to the day, after many sleepless nights, more than a few tears of frustration, crutches, and walking sticks, I got back on my road bike.
Worry whispered through my mind as I clipped into my cleats and pedaled onto the road. The first few cars that passed by made my pulse race, but an hour later, as I watched the green hills roll by, the birds swoop overhead, and horses dance in their pastures, I was filled with joy.
Fear is a survival tool. It’s vital at times, useful as a weapon in an arsenal to keep us upright and thriving. But it can also be an impediment that robs us of the chance to discover who we are, deep down. Every time I’m afraid, I recall all the incredible adventures I’ve had because I refused to allow fear purchase in my mind and heart, and then I choose the scarier road, regardless of whether the result is success or failure, and the chance to decide who I am and continue to grow.
About ‘The Speed of Falling Objects’ by Nancy Richardson Fischer
Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren is no stranger to falling. After losing an eye in a childhood accident, she had to relearn her perception of movement and space. Now Danny keeps her head down, studies hard, and works to fulfill everyone else’s needs. She’s certain that her mom’s bitterness and her TV star father’s absence are her fault. If only she were more — more athletic, charismatic, attractive — life would be perfect.
When her dad calls with an offer to join him to film the next episode of his popular survivalist show, Danny jumps at the chance to prove she’s not the disappointment he left behind. Being on set with the hottest teen movie idol of the moment, Gus Price, should be the cherry on top. But when their small plane crashes in the Amazon, and a terrible secret is revealed, Danny must face the truth about the parent she worships and falling for Gus, and find her own inner strength and worth to light the way home.
The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer will be available October 1, 2019, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or Indiebound. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!