Falling Down

I SUPPOSE THERE ARE WORSE THINGS that could happen than falling down in the Whole Foods parking lot while returning to your car with a bag of groceries, but at 5:30 last evening, I couldn't think of one.

I was wearing a wrap dress and a pair of chunky-heeled sandals. I don't usually wear heels, but these were comfortable and sturdy Dansko, with a thick square heel on the bottom and a substantial leather upper. I only describe the shoes in detail because there was no other reason why I would have taken a tumble. The parking lot had been recently paved, it was dry, and I didn't notice any pebbles or other obstacles. Nevertheless, I managed to fall off of my shoes in spectacular fashion, just a few steps from my car.

This wasn't my first fall. A couple of years ago, I went down while walking down a stationary Metro escalator. I was carrying a wheeled briefcase and it caught on a step, throwing me off balance. I was lucky that the escalator wasn't moving at the time and even luckier that I was just a few steps from the bottom of a short escalator (instead of at the top of one of the really long ones). I jumped up, my lip bleeding, trying to act like I totally meant to do that (what? you don't fall on purpose?), lest anyone nearby become concerned or feel obligated to come to my aid. Then a train entered the station, so I quickly gathered my things and hurried to catch it. Because that's what you do. When I got home, I threw the shoes I was wearing in the trash. I blamed the shoes.

As you're falling, time stands still, and your brain issues a series of vivid thoughts:

Oh no not here please no oh shit

Please don't let me break a bone

Sure glad I didn't buy those eggs

I hope no one sees me

This is going to hurt

Try to act natural

Whatever you do don't cry

I landed  - OOOF – with my left knee taking the main impact and my left arm breaking the fall. I immediately scrambled to my feet. In that moment, it made sense to me to act as if I'd done it on purpose. The worst possible thing would be for some stranger to have to decide whether they should come rushing over to help me. Even worse if it was someone I know. Quelle Embarrassment.  I opened the trunk – nothing to see here, folks! – and placed my grocery bag in it. Then I realized my plastic milk bottle was dented, so I wrapped it in a plastic bag in case it should leak. 

Finally, I got into the car and looked at my knee. It was scraped but not bloody, and it would bruise, but it was fine. Phew. Then I realized there was a woman sitting in the car next to me, pecking at her iPhone. Either she missed the spectacle, or decided to act as if she had. I was equal parts grateful that she didn't add to the scene and insulted that she didn't think enough of her fellow human to at least roll down her window and ask if I was OK.

I didn't throw away those shoes – they're still pretty new – but I did feel that same anger towards them.

The part of this that puzzles me is that feeling of not wanting anyone to go to any bother. I would pretty much rather die than have anyone go out of their way to help me. I'm not good at being on the receiving end of kindness. I'm trying to get better, but it makes me a little… uncomfortable. 

I remember reading a story written by a friend, of how she was at a party and realized she was choking, actually choking, and rather than inconvenience anyone with her little problem, she quietly went into a hallway and gave herself the Heimlich maneuver. Fortunately, it worked. She was relieved she didn't have to embarrass herself in front of everyone.

Late last evening, I was reminded that there is something worse than falling in a parking lot. A dear friend just received a cancer diagnosis. With that dose of perspective, I started thinking about what I could do to help her. Because I'd always rather be on the giving end of the equation.

This morning, I'm sore, like I was in a little car accident or something. My knee stings but is fine. And I'm wearing flat shoes.




2 thoughts on “Falling Down

  1. Oh, Meg. I’m glad your okay. And, had I been in the WF parking lot, I hope I would have checked on you (and not have been totally absorbed in my phone). Let’s me honest: It’s 50/50.
    A week after I stared my new job earlier this year, I fell down the steps to my cellar. My cellar door is in the floor of my office (My office is an addition; this door used to be accessed from the outside.). The door was open as I had been up/down it all morning. I actually wasn’t trying to go down to the cellar; I was hopping over the hole…and missed. I was full on falling. Lie, I wasn’t touching anything. All I kept thinking is “This is bad. This is really bad.” My head was on a trajectory to break my fall on the concrete floor at the step’s end. Luckily, my grasping hands were able to grab the springs that close the door. It came crashing down but saved me from crashing. I was shaken up. The wind had been knocked out of me. And I was hurting…bleeding and bruised (BUT, nothing was broken!). BTW, six months later, I still have bruises and an indentations in my legs from where they bore the impact of my weight. Once I realized I hadn’t doesn’t and wasn’t going to, I began to sob. I thought about what would have happened if I had hit my head, been knocked unconscious. I live alone. I work from home. Who would find me? And when?! I envisioned animals eating my rotting body in my cellar. This led to the realization that I have certainly had before: I’m probably going to die alone. I’m never going to find anyone. The spiraling continued: Why did Takeda hire me? I’m a fraud. I mean, I can’t even walk around my house without falling down a hole in the floor. I began to try to call friends for reassurance, but this was the weekend that AT&T customers around the country had periods of no service. I kept getting: CALL FAILED . This only made me cry harder.
    Some believe that things like falls happen when we’re pre-occupied, not focused, out of sorts – literally and, well, in life (I’m not suggesting this about you, but all of these things were certainly true when I fell.). My made me feel vulnerable. It reminded me of my mortality. As it was happening, I absolutely felt out-of-control. I am aware that, while physically tumbling down a hole is not a likely to happen regularly, there are certainly other areas of/in my life where I’m on the edge.
    I’m glad you didn’t get rid of the Danskos.

  2. Amy! How scary! It is funny how something like that makes you beat yourself up, isn’t it?
    As for my state of mind yesterday, I don’t know that I was more preoccupied than normal, but I was certainly taking for granted the process of walking. As one does. I have been stepping very carefully since then, and also more aware of my age. I don’t take it for granted that all the pieces will stay in place all the time from now on.
    I know you – I know you would have checked on me, if only due to your medical training. And you were hired because you’re awesome, so banish that nonsense from your head.
    Time to go shoe shopping, I guess.

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