Fell down the stairs last night. Slipped on the top step and kept sliding ‘til I hit the bottom. E did the same thing less than two weeks ago. Over five years she’s lived in this house and up until two weeks ago nobody had ever fallen down the stairs. I’ve slipped on them before, but kept my footing, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s funny how things happen like that.
I remember how not long before E slipped, I had slipped on a wet rock crossing a river out on a nearby trail. She told me then how her Tai Chi taught her to keep her footing. Sure enough, she lost her footing. Similarly, since she slipped it has occurred to me that she wasn’t being aware. And WEEEE! down the stairs I went. And I check the stairs this morning and can’t find a slippery spot on them: there must be no need for either of us to take the fall now.
The interesting thing was our relative responses to our falls. E cried openly and bruised in a manner sympathetic to that response. I got straight up and cleaned up my mess, deliberately, without emotion. I have a red mark on my right elbow and my left forearm has a slight ache in it. I think E’s response was more honest, more open. I learned early not to bruise, not to be hurt by blows to my body. But what else was incorporated in this learning? What I really learned was not to feel. I learned how not to cry. I learned to build a wall around me and let nothing penetrate. I learned that if I abuse myself enough, then nothing else can hurt me.
The last few years have been the great unlearning. I have truly cried for the first time in over two decades; I have been becoming kinder to this one; and, with E’s support, have been opening up to another – slower than a frightened clam – but still these rusty seals are being broken.
I still don’t bruise easily, and nor do I intend to. Bruising is no fun. And I’m glad all that bareback riding taught me to take a fall. And my Australian friends would be happy to know that the fragile glass I was carrying didn’t break – didn’t even chip – in that tumble down the stairs. It did spill, but it was only carrying water, not beer! Most of my Australian friends – much to their chagrin – know that I don’t drink so much of that anymore. Being kind to this one isn’t possible if it involves abuse.