I have a bad habit of embarrassing myself, especially in very public places. Recently I was shuffling across the floor in my Friday aerobics class at the YMCA when I shuffled right over my two left feet, crashing to my knees, pride and all. A couple of snickers erupted from the back of the room. The woman next to me looked at me in horror and asked, “Are you all right?” Our intrepid instructor pretended to fall on the floor and said something like, “That’s part of today’s routine!” She’s funny like that.
Through it all, I laughed. It was very funny, even though I was the unfortunate victim of my own clumsiness. Years ago, my reaction would have been quite different. I probably would have cried from sheer humiliation, slunk from the room, and avoided eye contact with every living thing for at least a week. But the older you get, the more you realize that stuff like this happens to everyone, not just you. And we all get over it.
Several years ago, my son’s first-grade teacher fell in front of two classrooms full of six-year-olds as well as dozens of parents. I happened to catch the look on her face as she tripped. Her eyes got really wide, and her body bent in an impossibly awkward way as she tried to figure out how to break her fall without losing her grip on her water bottle. I burst out laughing, along with a few others. It still makes me chuckle every time I think of it. Of course, she was fine and, being the easygoing person she was, collected herself quickly and even laughed at herself.
There’s a good reason my name isn’t Grace. I recently fell off my younger son’s bike, scraping my wrist and sending the beads of my bracelet scattering across the driveway. I hope none of my neighbors saw me. The other day, as I was dutifully cleaning the kitchen counter, I pushed a glass jar full of dog treats over the edge, sending it crashing to the floor. I managed to salvage the treats among the shards, my dog watching with great interest nearby, probably thinking in his little doggy head, Oh, boy! Treats at floor level! Is this my lucky day or what?
See a pattern here? Since I was a kid, I’ve been clumsy and uncoordinated. I still have scars on my knees from the myriad times I fell on the playground in grade school. In Zumba classes at the Y, I’m often two or three steps behind everyone else. And I manage to smash my elbows and/or knees into doorframes, walls, and furniture at least once a week.
I’ve always found physical humor exceedingly funny. Think The Three Stooges, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and America’s Funniest Videos. Peruse YouTube and you can find all manner of living things falling flat on their faces and rear ends: adults, kids, babies, dogs, cats, hedgehogs, normally sure-footed mountain goats, etc. There are even videos devoted to dogs failing at being dogs, which will make you laugh out loud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMhw5MFYU0s
We’re all human. We all trip and fall, literally and figuratively. If we’re big girls and boys, we get up, dust ourselves off, and try not to do it again. And when we invariably do it again, we laugh at our own clumsiness and ineptitude and humanness, never forgetting that we’re all works in progress, not perfection.