Falling isn’t failing.
This is what I keep telling myself because I fell Friday night, hard. Tripped over the lip of concrete that surrounds the swimming pool in my sister’s backyard. Tripped and went flying, propelled forward, my feet chasing my body, trying like hell to get beneath it. I stayed parallel to the ground, but not on the ground, long enough that my brother-in-law ran to catch me.
He couldn’t catch me.
The part of my body racing my feet finally won, and I went down. Thank God for my hands. The two old pros slowed the motion so my face slid on instead of smashed into the concrete.
Concrete surrounding a pool is a much different surface than say the concrete in your garage. Concrete slabs surrounding pools are rough. They are not made for falling, but rather to help wet folks with wet feet stay upright when they have emerged from the cool waters on a hot day. There are many ways to make concrete slip resistant–broom finishes, special aggregates, even mixing clear plastic grit into the sealer. Either way, I should have veered toward the grass–a muddy face would have been preferable.
I didn’t want to get up.
That’s not entirely correct. I wouldn’t get up.
My brother-in-law leaned over me–remember, I am lying with my left cheek plastered to the slip-resistant concrete–and very gently said, “Bridge, let me help you up.”
No thanks is what I told him. No thanks, but I’m just going to lie here for a while. This may or may not have been accompanied with some light moaning. I just wasn’t ready to get up.
You see, it was Friday. It was early–about 8:30. There was still wine, for God’s sake.
My sister and I had happy-houred with our parents in their warm and welcoming kitchen. I like them all so much, those three. Two of them made me and the other one was made by the same folks. We drank red wine and ate cheese and crackers. When our parents left for a dinner date, my sister and I lifted the bottle which still had some wine in it and went to her house for marshmallow roasting and continued fun.
I ruined the whole night by falling down.
Yes, people fall down all the time. Even when they haven’t been drinking wine. I fall down a lot. I have a tendency to shuffle–pick up your feet dammit! My sister and I walk most days, and she has seen me do some version of that body forward, feet trying to catch up fall many times. She once saw me take my fall to the grass where I did a rather athletic tuck and roll to avoid the concrete sidewalk. She has seen me slide onto one knee so gracefully it could have been a dance move, and she’s seen me correct a fall when I’ve already kissed the ground.
Come to think of it, I didn’t ruin the night by falling down. But getting up was going to put a damper on things. Most of the tumbles I’ve taken have been pretty invisible to others. I wasn’t going to be able to disguise this one.
There was a time when a scraped up face and a black eye wasn’t such a bad thing. A friend and I were talking the other day, and she remembered how when she was younger these sorts of injuries were like badges. I remember that too. When I was sixteen, my boyfriend the quarterback threw a fast ball from across the street, and it tipped off the top of my glove and slammed me in the cheek and blacked my eye. A scab that looked just like the stitching on a baseball popped up on my face. I couldn’t wait to go to school the next Monday because I looked bad-ass.
I do not look bad-ass now.
My brother-in-law sent my lovely sister outside, and she urged me to get up. I got up wobbling and bloody and let her clean my face with a warm wet towel. I let her call my husband who walked down (we live on the same street–I know, I know, I am so damned lucky) and retrieved me. He put his arm around me and comforted me as I cried and cried. And he, along with my daughter, Isky, cleaned my wounds again. They were so kind. Everyone was so kind. Kinder than I would have been.
The injury I have on my face is the sort of injury your damned teenager might come home with, the kind of injury that might cause a certain kind of parent to wag a finger and say things like–I told you drinking is bad, you should have been more careful, I hope you learn something from this, this is a character builder, or even I oughta kick your ass.
I wanted to kick my own ass. Falling isn’t failing, but it sure feels like it. And failing is embarrassing, right? So why is falling embarrassing? Would it be so damned embarrassing if my knee and not my face was all banged up? After all, I can’t not look at my face.
I don’t think it’s me I’m worried about. I think the bad part of this injury is that everyone else can see it. I am 100% out of my comfort zone, out in the world, vulnerable. Everyone can see me. The real me. The one who is broken and damaged and scared.
Last night I was changing the bedsheets, and I found a large notecard that had fallen between the bed and the table where I stack my nighttime reading material. Sometimes I write quotes on notecards because Anne Lamott told me to in Bird by Bird. On this notecard I’ve quoted Brené Brown twice:
What people think of you is none of your business!
Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in the bones.
Well, shit. When I signed up for the Brené Brown class on Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, I wasn’t aware that she was psychic.
I get the message the universe is sending, and I don’t really believe the universe sends messages. Just like I don’t believe God gives you only as much as you can handle. Why in the hell would she do that, and what would she base her decisions on? Would a strong response to a facial injury put me on the This One Can Handle The Bumps list?
Okay, I’m getting off track, but I want to make it clear that I don’t believe lessons are handed out in any cosmic way; however, I do believe that our lives, or my life at least, does afford way too many opportunities for growth. So yeah, everyone can see that I don’t take a hit as prettily as I used to. I’m wiser now (yes older, but I’m going with wiser), and what crone-becoming doesn’t have a scar or two? It’s day four, and the bruises are fading, the scratches are scabbing, that swollen eye is open again, and I just might see a teeny tiny spark.
“Everyone can see me. The real me. The one who is broken and damaged and scared.” Thank you. For every true word.
Thank you, Jena. The space you provide in your class for honesty gives me room to practice being vulnerable on the page. I really appreciate it.
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The second week in January I was in St. Louis for tests at Barnes. Tom and I had gone out to eat and were hurrying back yo the hotel. Of course I had to stop at Starbucks for a take out. As we hurried to cross the the street in a construction zone, my foot caught on something and I fell.
It was amazing like slow motion. I had time to think about losing my coffee, how to fall to best protect knees and coffee, and OMG what will the others think, and please God don’t let me hurt myself.
Well the coffee went everywhere. A nice man helped me up. Tom was very caring. And I was close enough to the hotel snd hospital to be able to decide “hotel”.
I think about this experience often. Thank God for taking care of me once again. Remember the concern of the people crossing the street with me and how they were so helpful and caring. Also how I didn’t want anyone at home to know about it because I felt like an idiot for falling. 🙂
I will try to be more careful but more to the point, I totally understand and appreciate you story.
Thanks Karen–I really appreciate your story. It’s so strange that falling is so embarrassing, but it is. And we are embarrassed in spite of the fact that everyone knows how it feels.
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