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Falling Flat: Facing the Moments When We Trip Up

Have you ever fallen flat on your face? I’m not talking about figurative times when you’ve faced a failure in life. I mean the question quite literally.

As in, have you ever been waving goodbye to the hosts of a party and their friends only to catch the toe your shoe on the crack between the street and the end of their driveway?

Have you ever tried to stop the falling, knowing there was no way to slow the momentum, and given into reality instead of catching yourself with braced wrists and spread palms?

Have you felt your glasses bend against your cheek before they flew away from your eyes?

Have you ever heard the indignant panic in your spouse’s voice as your right temple made contact with the asphalt?

Have you ever been fully conscious of your vulnerable idiocy as you lay there hoping no one saw you stumble, yet knowing everyone did?

Have you ever let someone lift you up, then asked if you still had all your teeth?

Have you ever felt all the three-year-old you were so long ago when you ran down hills and skinned your knees?

Have you ever sensed the dread that you exposed and can no longer deny the accident-prone genetics in your family line?

Have you ever watched your husband fumble with band-aids and felt sorry for him because you know this is only the beginning of what you will put him through in your golden years together?

Have you ever been glad for nothing broken except your glasses?

Have you ever feigned the smile of “fine” and been grateful for myopic vision to blind you from strangers’ pitying stares?

Have you ever compared abrasions’ weeping stings to the damage done to your image and your pride?

If you have ever fallen flat on your face–the way I did this past weekend–you probably have wondered, in that slow-motion essence of the moment, whether there was anything you could have done to prevent this painful mortification from happening.

You know there was nothing else you could do.

Because if you had, you would have done far more injury to yourself.

If you were me, you would have realized that your fruitless efforts would have resulted in broken wrists.

You wouldn’t have been able to play your viola in the church service the next day if you had fallen on the left side of your face. Aren’t you relieved you fell to the right?

You would be surprised to discover that it is possible to lead singing with a fat lip. Aren’t you grateful that you are required to wear a face mask?

You would have realized there were far worse things that could have happened.

You could have been alone, without your prescription sunglasses in your purse, without your compassionate former roommate and hostess who has seen you at your worst, without your understanding husband who asked to put up with you when he proposed, without a phone to call and order a new pair of glasses, without a spare pair in your dresser drawer at home.

I mean, lying in the middle of the street, you could have been hit by a car, for heaven’s sake. You’re a Minnesotan after all. You know it “coulda been worse,” and it’s “not so bad.”

So, if like me, you ever feel yourself falling because of an unintentional trip-up, give in to it. Accept your scrapped up your knees, blackened eye, bloodied knuckles, and bruised pride. Recover afterwards instead of trying to prevent the inevitable. For once in your life, be a slacker and take the hit. Find relief in all that coulda but didn’t happen. Be grateful for those who will be there to lift you up. You will mend.

As my maternal grandmother–who literally tripped and fell more times than I can remember yet lived her life with contagious laughter and unflappable grace–used to say, “This too shall pass.”

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