Last night, around 10:15 pm, I fell coming down from my third floor loft.
Footing lost, my back skidded along the edge of the stairs, my fingers grappled for something to hold, to stop the sudden motion, finding nothing. Propelled forward toward the floor, disorientation clouded my mind for a few precious moments.
My teeth slammed, hard — smack — into the wood floor and a shock of sharp pain reverberated through my face.
In the minutes after I couldn’t let go of my face, I could quite feel what was broken, what was in place. Was I shattered? Did I still have all my teeth?
My alarmed husband stood over me, his face a mirror of my own fears. I let go of my cheek and asked him if it was broken. He reached out to touch, but pulled back, examining instead with his eyes. Nothing yet, not even blood. Could I move my jaw? I could. I could talk and I wanted ice and as I began to shake, shock giving way to the pain, I began to cry.
This is the second time I have fallen in my home. The first time I busted the skin on my scalp, bruising and aching for days — but the harm was minimal, superficial. At least externally. For one whole day and into the night I faced down a longterm fear of dying from something meaningless, something stupidly mundane, accidental. You know…you hit your head, you feel fine — it’s just a bump, nothing major. Hours later you slip away, a coma and then a death. When I went to bed that night, all rationale said I was fine.
But when fear is involved, the mind becomes an unpredictable menace. I had to close my eyes anyway and trust that I would be able to open them again.
Last night, as I lay on the couch with an ice pack pressed to my already swollen cheek, I realized with sudden elation that I was no longer afraid of that death — that accidental one. I smiled — and then I winced — to realize I had overcome that hurdle, however small or strange, however ultimately insignificant. By grace, though not so gracefully, that monster had been squashed.
Then I went to sleep and dreamed about my ladder. The one I climb almost everyday to reach my writing nook. I was balancing against the stairs like I always do, unafraid, unencumbered, and then I looked down and there standing on the stair below me was a goblin. Small and brownish gray, with dangling wrinkly ears and wide jewel-like eyes. He wasn’t yet aware that I could see him as he slipped nearer my feet. I snatched him into my hand and squeezed, holding him tight to peer in his eyes. Non-plussed, he began to smirk. I squeezed harder.
Our lives are like ladders, or stairs, we ascend, we descend, and often we stumble and slip, we get tired of climbing, we settle for whatever level we are able to reach and pat ourselves square on the back. And on these ladders, there are traps. Little monsters made by self-doubt, by expectations, creatures of malice assisting in our certain demise.
Ten days into 2015 and already I’ve stumbled, I’ve fallen.
When I began this year, I was already weary. Worn out from the weight of last year’s shackles, ready to be free but still captive in some ways. There was a little monster lurking in the early hours of the new year, waiting to trip me up, hoping to mess me up.
This is not something I take lightly, the notion that I could fall so easily and that one day, I might just stay down. I might be defeated. So when I tell you this story, I am also telling myself. I am reminding myself that I can get back up, blubbering mess that I may be, and I can climb the stairs again. I am also telling you to keep climbing, even when you fall, even when you are weary. To snatch the little monsters and hold them tight, watch them squirm.
I could have been badly wounded. As it is, I am bruised and battered, swollen and aching. But not broken, not beaten.