I fell down the stairs today.
I am not old. My bones are not yet brittle. I found myself, tumbling the entire length of our long staircase, landing in an undignified thud at the bottom. I couldn’t stop it from happening, even as I watched the walls fly by, my shoulder banging into the wainscoting, and my tailbone hitting the landing. I think I made a frightening noise, because within seconds, all four kids and the dog ran to me.
I was dazed and confused for a few moments, feeling my body, trying to discern if I was actually hurt, or just rattled. I think, were I a couple of decades older, it would have been a potentially catastrophic fall. Now, hours later, my shoulder is sore, my lower back is tender, and three fingers on my left hand hurt quite a bit—though I don’t recall how that happened, I must have jammed them. I also skinned my elbow. I am otherwise sound.
It’s got me thinking though—or as Carrie would muse, “I couldn’t help but wonder…” how much we depend on each other to make it through this fraught mortal journey. When we are young, we are supple and flexible, and usually surrounded by people who love us and are watching out for harmful things we do not yet understand. As we get older, we are full of the hubris of young adulthood, stronger still, flexible, and brave. I’ve come to believe this belief is necessary to function when we starting out, otherwise the perils of what might come would paralyze us.
As we get older, we can start to see what all the fuss is about, all the things from which we were protected when we were younger—and even the dumb luck that may have graced us over and over. We look at our parents with new eyes when we ourselves become parents. “Oooooh, I get it now, mom…” as we watch our own hearts walking around outside our bodies for the first time. How does one even live this way? I don’t know, but the locus our bravery is forever permanently moved outside of us.
It’s like the ever-opening lotus. For the first time today, I felt my own fragility, and my children felt the unfamiliar rising of their own strength and bravery in the possibility—even in the inevitability—that mom was breakable.
We’re like waves at the sea. We each have our out path to the shore, swelling, growing, cresting, crashing, rushing up the beach, and gradually ebbing back into the eternal sea. I notice my own mother’s hands looking more like my grandmother’s hands each time I see her. I notice my own hands staring to bear the gentle signs of years of caring for others, knitting, cooking, writing, and living creative life. There are veins that once were deeper, skin that is more translucent, rings that spin under my knuckles.
And life goes on.
I hope I don’t fall down the stairs again any time soon. Or maybe ever.