Note: this was originally posted several years ago and I recently found an old backup of those classic posts. Some of these I’ll repost and some have (mercifully) found their way to the great garbage can in the ether.
I’d like to share a personal story with you.
I was rushing down our steep basement stairs, my work boots were muddy and my heel slipped on the third stair from the top. I grabbed the handrail for support but both feet shot into the air. I crashed uncontrollably down the remaining 15-steps.
The death grip I took on the railing twisted my shoulder in an unusual direction but it was the only thing slowing my fall.
I didn’t let go. Still trying to stop myself with the hand rail, the fall stopped when my boots hit and slid across the basement floor leaving me stretched out, half on the basement floor and half remaining on the steps.
I released my death grip on the handrail. Tried to sit up. Celebrated that I could still move. Wiggled every toe, flexed my legs, shoulders, back and arms. Twisted my head back and forth.
Celebrated inside. Nothing seemed broken.
But then the pain started. It didn’t try to focus on a specific part of my body, it didn’t play favourites. It screamed everywhere. I struggled to stand. Did so. Did another check for anything broken or not functioning. Hobbled back up the stairs. The urge to get a tool had completely disappeared.
My legs, rear end and back were a brilliant shade of blue/purple bruise within a few seconds of me getting back upstairs. (and yes, I did get the ice/heat rotation on right away). I did stretching exercises, or rather I tried to do stretching exercises, to minimize the eventual damage but the real problem wasn’t physical.
Sore as I was, and I was very sore, the real problem was my confidence. Did I really fall down the stairs because of a muddy boot or was I “losing it”due to aging.
My head said, “muddy boot” but there was a quiet, sly voice saying, “Really, it wasn’t that muddy boot. Was it?”
It Was A Cheap Lesson
In retrospect, it was a cheap lesson. I didn’t break anything and now I walk down stairs instead of running. I hold onto handrails whenever possible.
But that fall marked a moment when I turned from a mentality of not considering the consequences of a physical action to a much greater awareness of how I pushed my behaviour.
It installed fear as part of my physical operating system.
I’m able to hold that fear at bay but I know it’s there now. It sits watching me as I work. It asks questions when I fire up the chainsaw, slip beneath the water with a scuba tank or yes, particularly when using stairs.
That fear speaks with the same voice as the one whispering about forgetting where we’ve left our glasses or keys. It’s the same one that drives us to make copious shopping notes and joke about, “If it’s not written down, it’s not going to happen.”
It’s why we carry our pseudo-memory phones, keeping calendars and to-do lists right at hand. It’s why we panic when we misplace our phones.
That voice is quiet but insistent. It wriggles into the cracks of our lives to paralyze some and caution others.
Three Things Worth Mentioning About Aging
The first is that while you don’t get to decide if the voice appears, you do get to decide whether you’ll listen to it. And more importantly, you get to decide if and when you’ll take its advice.
The second is that aging isn’t an easy thing to acknowledge or accept. Some do it much better than others.
And the third is we need to remember this is a blessing and not a problem. We all know those who didn’t get to share our journey, those who died far too young. They’re the ones we might try to remember as we focus on our own problems.
“Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
p.s. Several years later, I remain cautious on stairs and I’m much better – but not perfect – at this “aging thing.” 🙂
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