I am an extraordinarily klutzy individual. It started when I was a tiny child. I expect that I fell on my head a lot as a toddler. I have a report card from the end of my year in kindergarten that says, “Dorothea should work on her fine muscle coordination over the summer.” I think that is teacher-speak for “Teach this hot mess of a child how to walk without injuring herself or any other unfortunate child who happens to be in her wake.”
I also took dance lessons when I was in kindergarten. After kindergarten, we moved from New York to California. Although I begged to continue dance lessons in California, my parents refused. I was very disappointed, but I think my parents just saw the writing on the wall.
When I was about seven, I broke my right arm, in another predictable demonstration of my clumsiness. I was trying to swing from one jungle gym bar to another. I apparently did not understand that there should never be a time when both one’s hands are off both bars. As far as anyone knew up to that time, I was right-handed. The broken right arm required a cast and I could not use my supposedly preferred hand for some six weeks. I managed pretty well. As uncoordinated as I was when I had the use of both arms, the bar was set pretty low. I don’t think it surprised anyone that I struggled doing tasks with my left hand as much as I did with my right.
It was when the cast came off that we were all in for a surprise. I was actually less adept at tasks using my right hand than I had been when I was forced to use my left. My mother was very alarmed. Let’s face it; there wasn’t much wiggle room in my manual dexterity to begin with. Several visits to various medical specialists later, the consensus of opinion was that I had probably been born left-handed. I had just adapted to a right-handed world because no one knew any better. I guess this is a more common phenomenon than most people realize. Many people become ambidextrous as a result. In my case, I became ambiklutzious. I could find a way to fall, drop things, twist myself into awkward angles, tangle my legs together, and sprain my own wrists equally well using either hemisphere of my brain.
I never grew out of my dexterity challenges. In junior high school, I actually had a pair of tennis shoes embroidered with the words “right” and “left” on them so I could keep my feet straight. The only class I ever came close to failing in my life was Home Ec. Sewing was completely beyond my confused and uncoordinated central nervous system. The art of positioning fabric, laying out a pattern, cutting material, and assembling pieces of cloth was way beyond my ability to cope. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say my problem bordered on a learning disability. When the teacher told us to make a gathered skirt, I was as horrified as if she asked me to construct a nuclear bomb.
When I was training to be a midlevel manager, I had to attend a class that involved spending a day at a ropes course. I am not particularly afraid of heights. However, as a person who regularly trips over lint, I was a little apprehensive about making a fool of myself due to my tendency to pratfall. I managed to get through the first couple of exercises without hurting anyone. Just as I was beginning to think I might make it through the day without incident, my group headed over to the zipline. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of trying a zipline. I was kind of excited to give it a whirl. Since the point of the whole thing is to fall off a little tower and plummet towards the ground, I thought I might be pretty good at it. I wasn’t afraid.
I should have been. I ended up being the class injury. I screamed as I stepped off the platform. The instructors thought I was screaming from excitement or fear or just because people tend to scream automatically when shooting through the sky. Actually, I was screaming because I was in pain. Somehow, I had managed to come close to dislocating my shoulder. The good news is that the ropes course was right across the street from a hospital. Somebody knew I was coming. I ended up on painkillers, with a huge, nasty, multi-colored bruise that covered most of my back for the next several weeks.
I met Max at a dance. All I can say is that it is a good thing he was drinking at the time. We might not have made a life together otherwise. If he had been completely sober, I am sure he would have taken one look at my graceless dance moves and decided that dating me would be hazardous to his health.
I may be the only woman in Florida who does not wear flip-flops. I gave them up years ago. Max calls them my “fall down” shoes because…. you guessed…. I fall down when I wear them. I love the look of flip-flops, but I have tripped over the front of them and fallen off the back of them more times than I care to admit. I am not talking about stumbling, either. I am talking about full-on, hazardous, land-in-a-prone-position kind of falling down.
Recently, I hit a new nadir in my clumsiness. I was blow-drying my hair and walloped myself in the head with the hairdryer. I actually saw stars and raised a lump the size of a sugar cube on the back of my head. I thought my hair and I had come to an understanding, but I guess it was just lying in wait before forming an alliance with the hairdryer to try to take me out. It almost worked. I did not straighten my hair that day.
As I sat at the kitchen table holding a bag of frozen peas to my scalp, I felt a bit woebegone and sorry for myself. Why do I have to be so klutzy and graceless? Don’t I have enough unattractive qualities without being an accident constantly waiting to happen?
Then, I looked out the window at the view in my backyard. The sun dappled through the large oak trees. Two squirrels were chasing each other along a branch. I could hear sandhill cranes yodeling. I saw the blooms on the bushes out in the wetlands behind the house. I noticed there was a sound roof over my head and a refrigerator filled with food. As I looked around the living room, I saw the beautiful picture of my book cover signed by my wonderful, supportive friends. Max wandered in and kissed the sugar cube on my head to make it well. When I looked up at him, I noticed a Bible verse I have on the wall from Psalm 84:1- How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord almighty!
Never mind about the clumsiness. It doesn’t matter. I have a more excellent kind of grace!
Are you graceful? How can you tell? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you find some grace today!
REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076