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I had just finished making doughnuts for the first time. The deep-fried confections were sitting pat in my living room as I tackled my next major project: cleaning it all up. I hadn’t ventured into doughnut land until now precisely because of the clean-up—deep-frying is a sloppy task—but with infinite idle time at home, this was my moment. I rifled through my recycling bin and found a gallon-sized empty protein powder container (my boyfriend fucking loves his protein), poured the oil into it, and tossed it in the trash. As I lifted the bag out of the can, I noticed that the oil, still hot, dissolved the plastic of the container like a flesh-eating parasite.
This is the part where tragedy strikes. Suddenly, there was a gallon of oil on my kitchen floor. I shrieked, silently scolding myself for being so stupid, for not letting the oil cool for long enough before throwing it away, for being so impatient all the time.
I knew what I needed to do. I asked myself, “Why do we fall Bruce?” Looking at the oil, which was now seeping into the hallway and the living room, I answered, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
“Why do we fall Bruce?” WDWFB? It’s a mantra. It’s a technique to use when you’re at the precipice of a downward emotional spiral. It’s a line from Batman Begins.
In the movie, a young Bruce Wayne is traumatized after he tumbles down a well, which is full of bats, an experience that changes his life forever. (Can’t be the Batman without the bats!) After his father comes to the rescue, he carries his son in his arms and says, “Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
It might seem silly, using a line from a Batman movie as a form of emotional management, but you know what? It works. “Why do we fall Bruce?” is perhaps the first therapeutic method with a movie tie-in. Call me a pioneer. Hopefully, I don’t have to pay a licensing fee.
Perhaps it’s because everyone is kind of a dumbass at heart, but the most effective mantras are always the simplest. Before I had “Why do we fall Bruce?” when I would descend into a vortex of unbearable self-hatred I would write, “I’m OK. I will always be OK. I’ve always been OK,” over and over again. In my “I’m OK” era, anything would set me off, whether it was missing the subway by a quarter of a second, waking up with a killer hangover, or just sitting alone with my thoughts for too long.
It’s a sign of growth, I suppose, that my preferred leitmotif for emotionally-fraught moments has become more didactic. “I’m OK” allowed me to understand that although I was stricken with melancholy and self-loathing, I was going to be just fine in the grand scheme of things.
But every time I ask “Why do we fall Bruce?” it’s to remember that every mistake, big or small, is a learning experience. And although I feel way too much self-hatred every time I make a mistake (I have issues!), there’s nothing that makes me happier than learning something new. “Why do we fall Bruce?...to pick ourselves up” allows you to perceive your woes, your mistakes, your underlying badness, as a vehicle for self-improvement.
Spilling all that oil was my destiny. I needed to use a whole roll of paper towels (a valuable commodity nowadays) to wipe it all up, to pull out every spray cleaner underneath my sink to eliminate the remaining oil, and to panic about the reality that after all that, the floor was still coated in a thin sheen of oil, which I had tracked down the hallways and into the bathroom. I had to google “how to clean up oil,” pour corn starch over half my apartment, sweep it all up, and finally, get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floor with a sponge, because having such an unpleasant experience taught me a lot about how to never spill a gallon of oil on the floor again. Which is incredible! I sincerely cannot wait to not do that a second time.
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