Two weeks before Christmas, on a Monday morning, I had a nasty fall in my kitchen.
Why am I telling you? Because there was something about it that foreshadowed for me what it may be like to be old and frail. And that got me thinking about vulnerability.
But first, the fall. It was, perhaps, down to vanity. I had bought a new pair of shoes (see pic). They are gorgeous: metallic pewter leather lace-ups which give a real edge of drama to a pair of plain grey flannel trousers, or jeans. Wearing them for the first time that morning, I checked myself out in the mirror: looking spiffy! But what I had not reckoned with was their virgin, smooth, slippery soles.
I reached up to take a breakfast dish from a cupboard in my kitchen and slipped on something on the floor – a tiny patch of oil perhaps. My feet simply went from under me and I fell backwards. You know how these things seem to happen in slow motion? As I fell, I somehow had time to be thankful I had moments before closed up the dishwasher so I wouldn’t bash into it on the way down. And then I connected with the floor and banged the back of my head, hard.
After a stunned second or two, I realised I hadn’t lost consciousness, and that this was probably good! I felt the back of my head and there was no blood or anything else sinister. Shakily, I got to my feet and took stock. No broken bones. Bizarrely, one of the first things I did was jump onto Google and look for symptoms of concussion and head injury. Well trained in the digital world, me! I had no nasty symptoms then, nor in the following days, just a painful lump on my head and, when I awoke the next morning, a lot of aches and pains and bruises on various body parts.
But I couldn’t get the fall out of my mind. I kept obsessing on “what ifs?” What if I had cracked my head open? What if I’d broken a bone? What if I’d been incapacitated? The next day I also managed to catch a nasty cold, and began wondering if the normal muggy-headedness of a cold was something worse. It’s actually taken me until now, two and a bit weeks later, to feel back to normal. I realise I was profoundly shocked by what happened.
Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe we all need to feel vulnerable at times and realise how close we come to the edge. How important it is to keep physically strong but at the same time how the unexpected can still happen. I’m being a little more careful around the house now, but don’t want to be afraid of what might happen, to be too cautious. People of all ages have accidents, some of them fatal. People of all ages get episodes of illness, some sudden and disabling.
Time to get the shoes out again, but this time I’m going to sandpaper the soles first before wearing them. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere!