As a general rule, I do not endorse the act of falling off things as a method of personal growth. But I have to admit – sometimes, it does kinda work.
You see, I’ve always taken my body a bit for granted. I’m a busy guy, forever running to and fro as if in some alternate universe I’m actually important. And it is my nature to just assume that my body is along for the ride, a total team player when it comes to being tortured in ways that defy the Geneva convention. Like Super Dave Osborne or the I-have-no-other-talent stars of a Jackass movie , I think I’m invincible.
To my dismay, however, I just discovered that, apparently, I am not.
The weekend before last, I was in Palm Springs celebrating the birthday of a friend. When my best friend Kirk and I returned to the condo complex where my partner and I have a unit (which we rent out, since it’s worth roughly 7% of what we paid for it), I realized that I had forgotten the gate opener and could not get in.
This was not, unfortunately, the first time this had happened. My friend Kirk sighed with the exasperation of a vegan at Jimmy Dean’s house and said something to the effect of, “You are dumb as a stump.” We waited a couple of minutes for someone to drive through so I could jump out and whisk through the gate; but no one came. And in my embarrassment at having forgotten the opener yet again, I said, “Ahh, I’ll just jump over the gate.”
After all, I’d done it before.
I used to have an actor acquaintaince who fell off his roof and was paralyzed – and in the sloooow process of recovery, became a much better person. And since that incident I’ve always said, “God, please don’t make me fall off a house to ‘get it’.”
But apparently, that is more or less what I needed to do.
As I climbed onto the massive gate opener arm and hoisted myself to the top of the 8-foot gate, I reminded myself not to let my legs swing too wildly, since I still had a big, fat bruise from the last time I’d tried this. Then, I threw my legs over the top of the fence. And that’s when everything began to go horribly wrong.
It was raining this night, and the iron was slippery, and when I swung my legs over the top, I lost my grip. My foot got caught in the bars of the gate. And suddenly, I felt myself falling backwards, eight feet, and slamming onto the asphalt. On my back.
The wind was knocked out of me so badly that, for about 30 seconds, I couldn’t inhale. Kirk stood on the other side of the fence, unsure what to do. Scream? Call 911? Check with my lawyer to see what his share was?
I laid there on the pavement, gasping, as the gate slowly swung open and a car sailed through, turning sharply to avoid the body on the pavement (which was clearly an inconvenience for the driver, who couldn’t be bothered to wave).
Kirk ran through the open gate.
“Are you okay?”
I laid there, wiggling my hands and feet, pleased to note that I had not performed a full Christopher Reeve.
“I can’t breathe.”
Several hours later, following a full-body MRI and x-rays at the emergency room of Desert Regional Medical Center, I was given some terribly unearned good news: I had not broken anything or hemorrhaged. I did not have a brain injury (Kirk would argue this). What I did have was a lot of blunt force trauma on the tendons and muscles of my side and back that would require 3-4 weeks and a few fistfuls of Vicodin to heal.
And this healing time has, curiously, been a good thing. Because I now find myself being more aware of my surroundings and more careful within them. I’ve realized that I am not indestructible. And I find myself totally, incredibly grateful for this body I have. It may be long and gawky and not exactly a 10 on the Calvin Klein Underwear Model scale, but it works. And I’m happy to be inside it, like an astronaut with a sparkly new spacesuit.
Of the many blessings I’m counting this holiday season, one of them is that – although I did have to fall off a roof, so to speak – I didn’t have to suffer the worst outcome to “get it”.
But just in case – remind me not to climb any ladders.