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Falling (and Aging) with Grace

I took a bad spill yesterday. I was in the kitchen with my girls getting dinner ready. Both girls were free to run around and both enjoyed making a ruckus with pots and pans while I cooked and served dinner. It was an easy meal of frozen burgers cooked on a cast iron pan with broccoli and sweet potato hash. I don’t remember what I was missing from the fridge, but I stepped away from the counter for a moment and Maggie beelined it to Hazel’s plate. Maggie’s plate was there, too, but I was more concerned about her possibly grabbing some sweet potato hash from Hazel’s plate. Sweet potatoes are on the forbidden list for Maggie’s ketogenic diet. From the fridge to the counter, it’s probably 2 1/2 strides. Well, I ran and slid like a baseball player sliding into third base. As I fell, I grabbed a surprised and confused Maggie and held her tight in my arms. She didn’t reach Hazel’s plate. She stopped, befuddled, when she saw Mommy racing to her.

Replaying yesterday afternoon’s scene in the kitchen, I hear an imaginary umpire yell safe as I slide and grab my child. The reality was the run, slide, and fall happened in a literal second. As I sat on the floor, stunned by shooting pain running up my backside, I couldn’t move. It hurt! I could feel a bruise the size of Jupiter beginning to form on my butt and thighs from the impact. I never played sports so learning how to slide or fall with grace was not a skill I ever developed. I don’t have muscle memory designed to minimize impact or prevent injury from deliberate falls. I’m okay. Besides a bruised backside, I didn’t hurt anything besides my pride.

I thought about how often I watch my children play and fall. They do it all the time! I’m not talking about seizure-related falls. Those are different. I’m talking about the natural course of play for children. Children learning how to walk will constantly fall back on their bottoms. Children playing at a park will often fall off the slide when they go down before they learn how to stop themselves at the base. Children will run, trip on their own feet, then get up and continue running just for the sheer joy of doing so. Barring an actual injury, children are naturally resilient from injury of play-related falls. Even as loving adults in their presence, we encourage them when they do fall to brush themselves off and get back to play.

I thought of this as I sat on the floor. I willed myself to get up and brush myself off, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. My body demanded a pause to catch my breath. I sat, breathed, hugged Maggie, until I felt ready to step up and carry my children to their high chairs for dinner.

The ability to get up unscathed from a fall changes with time and age. I think what I recognized the most yesterday was at the age of 38, I don’t bounce back from falls with the spring and grace I would have as a child or even as a younger adult. I’m recognizing that I’m indeed growing older. I’m recognizing other evidence of aging as I look in the mirror, like fine lines on my face. I’m growing older, and that’s good.

Over the course of life, there are two choices: age or die. Youth does not last forever and frankly, that’s a good thing. I want to grow old. I want to live until I’m 100, surrounded by my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I have so many goals, hopes and dreams that I’m working towards that I have yet to accomplish. I want to look at myself in the mirror one day, see my reflection with white hair and wrinkles, and I want to say to myself “well done.”

Living that long doesn’t just happen, at least not for most people. How I treat myself now will help determine whether I age into a spritely Betty White or a withered Abraham Simpson. I exercise 5-7 days per week because I want to be strong and help my body bounce back from whatever falls I may experience in the future. I watch what I eat because I believe food is fuel and the quality of my food choices today will impact my body and health in the future. I read everyday and exercise my mind daily because I want my brain to have the wherewithal to withstand the natural biological breakdown from the aging process. I want to honor my body and recognize that the changes it’s experienced from time and life helps me grow in to the woman I am today. I want to age with grace even if my falls lack grace.


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