I had a fall at work the other day. It was one of those falls in which, at first, you think that there’s a chance at salvation. Things went downhill quickly.
I had just finished working on four parcels, and I turned to my right to deposit said parcels on an empty piece of table. My right foot became hooked under the door of a metal cabinet beneath the mail machine mid-turn, and at first I thought that I could return to my prior harmonious relationship with the gravitational force by unhooking my foot and returning it to the ground. In my effort to dislodge the foot, I succeeded, but subsequently unlatched the cabinet door, which then swung open, causing that same foot to be trapped under it again.
This turn of events caused me to actually roll my eyes in resignation to my fate. My body tried to complete the turn that it had began, and with my right foot still trapped and my legs crossed at the ankle, I toppled sideways. Since I would only have been visible to onlookers from the waist up, due to a window from the mailroom that looked out onto the remaining space of the office, I like to think that I resembled the world’s most sarcastic whale, breaching and then falling grandly to one side; the truth is probably that I looked more like I was suffering from some kind of stroke.
Now, I’m glad that none of my office mates witnessed the tumble, not because of the potential for embarrassment, but rather because, in my experience, men overreact when women take a tumble. They rush to help and ask “are you okay?” even when one has just fallen a short distance. I find that this effect is exaggerated in the case of overweight women such as myself, as though our bones, brittle from a strict diet of cheez-its and cake, would have crumbled to dust under the force of the impact; or perhaps that, like whales, we were at risk of crushing our own internal organs with our majestic bulk. Or maybe the concern is that our muscles, atrophied from months of television-watching, would be insufficient to conquer the earth-binding efforts of gravity and get us back on our feet.
Whatever the reason, I would not have wanted to be the subject of such well-intentioned but misguided concern. However, part of me kind of wishes someone had been there to see it.
The fall itself seemed impossibly long. It felt as though I were drifting to the floor like an autumn leaf, and in that time I thought about the fact that this must look hilarious. It was one of those falls that you might see unexpectedly in a sitcom, and it would make you laugh every time, even in reruns. It was a fall that had the potential to be the only good thing that ever happened on Friends. At least, that’s what I thought as I fell.
But it’s more than that… there was a kind of beautiful perfection to it. It was born out of a circumstance that transcended ordinary clumsiness and strayed into a kind of anti-grace; a state that was both the opposite of and yet equal to grace itself. It was a colossal fuck-up that would have been incredible to watch… as beautiful as an act of grace, but the other side of that coin.
I hit the floor. I was unable to even break my fall, with an armful of parcels. I don’t know why we cling to things that we are holding when we fall, but I find that things either happen too fast or my mind is so deeply occupied with other thoughts that I never seem to release items, even when it would give me the opportunity to perhaps save myself a small amount of injury. When I hit there was an impact and a grunt, and the parcels scattered. It didn’t hurt, which seemed strange at the time.
And then I gathered up the parcels, moved them to the counter, nudged the cabinet door closed with my foot and returned to my day.
The takeaway, I think, is this: not a single one of us is perfect. We all have fuck ups of varying degrees of severity. But in those fuck ups, there is a kind of wonder, and a kind of amazingness, and a kind of youness. While we may regret the results of our fuck ups, especially if they harm us, harm others, or just make things more complicated, there’s no reason to not embrace the fuck ups and own them as a part of your personal story. I know that the temptation is to edit our lives and our memories to make ourselves seem more perfect, but all great and engaging characters have fuck ups as a part of their story, and the same is true with people.
I have already known this; I am very lucky to have a lot of wonderful friends who not only fail to ignore my fuck ups, but even celebrate them. Instead of making me feel bad, it makes me feel really loved. We all want to be accepted, but I would rather not have to pretend that I am perfect, or have friends that pretend that I’m perfect… that implies a requirement to maintain an exhausting pretense, and I’d always rather be loved for who I am, for all of who I am, rather than just for the good parts.
After all, anyone can love you for the good parts. The people that love all of who you are, the good, the bad, and the clumsy, are the people that are really worth keeping.