Last night, carrying a large laundry basket downstairs, I tripped over my cat and fell face first into the air. The basket flew from my hands as I tried to grab the handrail but got air instead. I thought about how to minimize landing impact right before my chin and mouth hit a bar stool just to the right of the stairs. That was enough to slow my body’s descent and I landed seconds later on my right knee with my right hand spread out to take the brunt of the fall.
I collapsed onto my side, wimpering in fear. Nothing hurt. Nothing felt broken. Maybe I was okay. Meanwhile my cat was nowhere in sight. Neither was my husband. Surely he’d heard me fall? I started to cry, laying there. I’m not sure why. Adrenalin, fear, hope of being rescued. My sobs were increasing; I decided to try to stand. Carefully I pulled my body from the floor and stood with my back to a wall while I tried out various fingers, toes, elbows. Everything worked as it should. Except the crying thing. By now I was sobbing uncontrollably, and badly in need of a Kleenex.
I went upstairs to let Al know that even though I was crying so hard, my body heaving with each deep hiccup of breath, I was fine. I just needed tissue. But even after I found the tissue, even after I looked in the mirror and found only mild redness on my chin and lip, only a skinned knee, I continued to cry. “I don’t know why I can’t stop crying,” I said. “I’m fine. Really. I’m fine.” When I had looked in the mirror, I’d seen the twisted grimace of heavy sobbing. Not pretty. Oprah calls it the ugly cry.
Finally, I quieted. But I was puzzled. Why cry after the fact? When I knew I was fine? Maybe adrenaline release forced me to burst into those spasms of deep gutted sobs. But they were over, so I went to look for my cat. He was fine. I finished putting away the laundry, but a dark disquiet still rattled me. I could have broken my neck, bashed in my face, really hurt myself. I didn’t, and I was grateful but unable to settle down.
I spied my journal open on my writing room table and sat down to see if my right hand, which is what hurt the most, would work. Yes! I could write. And so, like millions of other times in my life when something scares me or hurts me or upsets me, I wrote away the worry. I let writing rescue me.