You have two choices when you fall

danger-851895_1280I fell from a great height last night – the top of a ladder to be exact.

See, I’m a do-it-yourself kind of girl, and I decided to try to repair a bedroom ceiling light. So, there I was, on top of the ladder, when the bulb blew right while I was tinkering. Well, out went the light and with it went my equilibrium. Chandelier in hand, I flew backward through the air and landed between the bed and the dresser.

I knew immediately some things were broken, but thankfully none of them were part of me. The chandelier, which I have cherished for a number of years, is toast. So is a mirrored panel from the top of my dresser and a beloved candleholder. Once I got the lights on, it looked like a glass bomb had gone off.

But before that, there I was, flat on my back in the dark. My dog’s bed saved me. Yep, you read that right. Before working on said light, I was doing some rearranging and I had folded my German shepherd’s double-stacked memory foam bed in half and tucked it between the above-mentioned bed and dresser. (And for those of you who love to count, that is four cushy layers of memory foam.) I have never been so glad to have landed in a certain spot.

As I lay there, I almost panicked. I started to should all over myself. (I should have had someone else climb up there. I should have had another light on so I could see. I should not have climbed up there when I knew I was tired.) But then, even though I knew I was hurt, I stopped everything and took a deep breath. “You’re fine, I said to myself out loud. Yes, you’re hurt, but it’s going to be fine. You’ve been hurt before. Now let’s get up from here and figure out what’s next.”

I stood and ran a hand gingerly over one arm. I apparently tried to catch myself with my arm. It’s a natural reaction we have to falling, flail and try to break the fall. I got to a huge, pointy lump on my arm and thought, “That is the bone sticking out of my arm.” Again, I started to panic. But then, I took another deep breath and said out loud, “Well, if it is, there’s no use freaking out. What is done is done.” (But I do have to confess to being thrilled to see only a hellacious goose egg once I got a light on and my sleeve up.)

I immediately headed for the freezer for an ice pack and sat with it wrapped around my arm until it got warm. Then, I went back in my room, turned on a light and cleaned up the glass. I’ll glue the candleholder back together. It’s a glass elephant, part of a pair, and even though it won’t look as good as new, I’m a misfit toy and I love other misfit toys. (In the event you don’t know what I mean, here’s an explanation.) I took a big dose of ibuprofen and went to bed earlier than I planned.

Today, I am sore, in many places, but I am fine. I feel lucky that I didn’t get hurt worse than I did (although the bruise on my arm is literally more a foot long). The point in my telling you this is that you have two choices in life when you get knocked down – you can lie there and cry and whine about falling and then you can spend an infinite amount of time doing more of that OR you can get back up, brush yourself off, take a deep breath, be thankful it wasn’t worse and move on. I hope I will again choose the latter the next chance I get.

I’m not getting older; I’m getting better!

I have a birthday this week. For some reason, recent birthdays have me feeling nostalgic and contemplative like never before. A few years ago, it became clear to me that I likely have fewer years in front of me than I do behind me. John Cougar (Mellencamp) said it perfectly in the song “The Real Life:” “It’s a lonely proposition when you realize that there’s less days in front of the horse than riding in the back of this cart.”

It makes me feel sad, because I really love my life. It also makes me push harder to do the things I want to do before I die. Life seems to get more complicated as you age, and many things become harder than they seemed years ago. I’m trying to be bolder as I get older, but in truth things scare you as you age that didn’t scare you when you were younger.

I was in a car accident a few years ago. It didn’t seem that major when it happened, but it has had long-lasting effects. After a few years in physical therapy, I am nearly back to the condition I was before it happened. Unfortunately, losing the weight I gained during the time I was off my feet has proven to be more than difficult. It took much longer to heal from this accident than more serious things that happened in my past.

And then there are simpler things. Remember when you were younger and you’d sleep on the sheets or pillow the wrong way and then you’d wake up with those lines embedded in your face? Heck, they’d be gone before you finished your Froot Loops. When you get older, those lines can stay on your face until noon, or later. Nothing like being at the office at 11 a.m. and having someone come up and say, “What did you do to your face?” (“I aged,” you mutter under your breath. My mom’s secret tip to prevent wrinkles: satin pillowcases. Try them. You’ll be surprised how much better you look in the morning.)

I don’t know if I would call it a bucket list, but each birthday after 30 I’ve tried to take a look at my life and determine whether I’m on course. Some years, I feel right on track. Other years, I feel like I don’t know who I am or what I want.

In the past year, I began downsizing my life. I recently moved into a much smaller home. I got rid of a lot of things before the move, but I still have way too much for the house I live in now. So as I unpack each box, I am taking great care to decide whether I really want to keep each item or whether it should go to another home to live.

(Instead of setting something perfectly good out with the garbage, call your local Salvation Army. They find other people who would love to have the things you cast off, if they are still in good condition. If you don’t have a Salvation Army near you, find another such organization. Many of them will even pick things up!)

I am also considering what I really want from my remaining years. You don’t think about those things when you’re younger, when you feel like you’ll live forever and nothing can harm you. But as you age, physical injuries take longer to heal. Emotional wounds last longer than when you were young and you would brush things off, knowing you had plenty of time.

Gretchen Rubin, the author of three books about happiness, said it best. “The days are long but the years are short.” Think about that for a minute or five.

We all want to be remembered. We all want to make it count. It’s never too late to start fulfilling your dreams. No one is promised forever, and you never know when your life will be over. You should make every day worthwhile. Figure out what makes you happy and go for it, no matter how old you are.