Sunday, September 28, 2003

One minute, you are at your mom's house, having just checked in on the cat and finishing up your laundry. You realize that you still have your comforter, your big, fluffy down comforter that you took to her house to wash in her jumbo sized machine and hung over the railing on the third floor for three days to let it dry. It's early in the morning, no, not dawn early, early as in the dark hours of the morning. You have your big duffel bag, and stuff the comforter into the duffel bag. It's huge, big enough for a body if you were so inclined to stuff one in there. Instead, it's your comforter. Your now clean, fresh, and very light comforter.

You begin your walk down three flights of stairs, one duffel bag over your shoulder, the big one dragging behind you. You hit your knee on the wooden railing.

You curse.

You step down to continue, and feel nothing but air.

And then you're tumbling.

As you land on the second floor landing, having rounded a corner in your fall, you pause.

From one second to the next, is how fast your life could have terribly changed, had that fall gone the worst possible route.

Tonight, for me it went the best route. Perhaps it's because I let my body crumple. Or, the fact that I had two duffel bags full of laundry to cushion my fall. My head narrowly missed the wooden threshold of the door leading into the second floor living room. Had it hit, it would have been hard. I had momentum. But like the crumpled clothing, my body had taken on the form of a rag doll. Boneless, without fight, and thankfully without injury.

I will be sore tomorrow, but thank God, only that.

To add insult to a near miss injury, an almost empty can of soda I was carrying spilled on the comforter. It was diet soda, so I said, "Fuck it," and stuffed the comforter back into the bag where it had peeked out. It was a tiny bit on the corner. I could live with that.

I've always been a good faller. I don't fight it, and instinctively I know how to fall to prevent injury. As a result, I've never broken a bone in my life, and I had many chances. I was the kid who climbed everything that there was to be climbed and got into everything there was to get into.

When I was six, I once hung off a second story balcony over a perilous rock cliff because the other kids told me that there was an invisible trampoline that would catch my fall.

I believed them.

We were all too young to contemplate serious injury. To them, my fall would be like that of Wile E. Coyote, where I flatten myself but get back up unhurt, all good for a laugh. I gripped that metal railing, my legs kicking, staring at the red flat rocks far beneath me. We were at a friend of our parents house whose property, like ours was on sharp hillside in a woodsy area. Our parents were in the front yard enjoying their barbecue, thinking we were all playing nice in the woods. Instead, one of their daughters was hanging off the side of their house with the firm belief that an invisible trampoline would break her fall, as the other kids cheered her on to let go. I remember loosening my fingers, then tightening them back up. Letting my hands slip from a palm grip to one where my thumbs were released and top two digits were the only things holding me to the railing.

"C'mon Anne!" the kids yelled, "let go! It will catch you!"

I looked down again as they promised me it was there, then had a thought. It wasn't disbelief that there was an invisible trampoline that finally hit me, but I wondered how I would know where to land on it if I couldn't see it. What if I missed? At that thought, I swung my body back and forth to gain momentum, then kicked my leg over the railing where my hands gripped. As the kids called me a chicken and groaned at their disappointment, I pulled myself back onto the balcony.

Then I challenged them, "Why don't you do it?"

There were no takers.

None that would even hang over the railing.

Though I didn't fall that time, there were many times that I did. Each time avoiding breaking bones. I don't know how I avoided that with the stunts I pulled over the years, but my body and I have always been good communicators when it comes to physical activity. And that includes falling.

Most times, when we think of falling, both figuratively and literally, the focus is on getting up, trying again. But we forget that the fall that took us to that point is the first part of that getting up process. Depending on how you fall, getting back up can be an easy, or an incredibly difficult task.

Tonight, thanks to luck and knowing how to fall, I was able to get up with ease and not difficulty.

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