First thing Monday morning, I lost my footing on a solid oak step, fell hard to my backside, slid down five painful stairs on my left side and landed in a puddle of coffee on the basement floor.
I managed to hold onto my full, red coffee mug all the way down, though hot liquid flew against the walls and the scooters piled at the bottom of the steps, down my pajama pants and all over my most cozy around-the-house sweater.
Such a rude welcome to the week.
Unlike other times I’ve fallen down the stairs, I wasn’t moving too quickly, carrying too much or wearing too long pants that caught under my feet. And though I may have been more groggy than normal with the irksome time change, mine was just an ordinary trip down the stairs, until I reached that one, fifth from the bottom.
All week since, I’ve felt fragile.
And something about not being able to blame it on some measurable mistake has made it worse.
Instead of shaking my head at my foolishness, I just feel sore and creaky.
Deep, deep achy.
I still haven’t been able to shake the feeling.
A number of years ago, after a series of car accidents, I began to experience numbness on the left side of my body, from my face to my foot.
The pain was troubling, strange, at times sharp and stinging, plenty of moments just so darned irritating. I visited physical therapists and massage therapists, had an MRI, did exercises, prayed.
I hated that struggle, and I struggled against my inability to name it and move beyond it.
That numbness lasted for a year and a half, gradually fading until it was a mostly distant memory.
I’ve dealt with bouts of chronic pain in my life, though nothing like many brave ones I know who endure on a daily, yearly basis.
But my fall this week brought back to my frame that place of the unexplained hard.
And when the ground under my feet shifted, I realized again what I know, what I keep learning as a human on this planet:
I am indeed fragile, vulnerable.
I take one step in front of another. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
Little toddlers scale walls proud, until feet catch, and the tumble is hard to concrete.
Little girls dance free on kitchen rugs until the rug slips out from under, and then the crash and the cries.
Bigger girls stand in front of a room, and a boy gives away the punch line, and the girl shrinks inside and keeps going, holding head high.
You, with your shaken dreams and broken places, sometimes you feel the fragile, and you struggle for answers and you just don’t know, so you push against what you can and get back up.
Sometimes you feel the vulnerable, and then you change into some dry clothes, pour another cup of coffee, and climb down those stairs again.