Workplace Wisdom

Self Awareness Can Be Protective

I left the optician with several new cleaning cloths in hand, remembering the pleasure I felt as a child whenever I got a new pair of glasses (yes, I was an early four-eyes, from second grade on). If you’ve never needed glasses you can’t imagine what it’s like, after looking through clouds and haze and fuzz, to see the very dust in the air and the veins on the leaves and almost believe you can see the individual rays of sunlight.

So there I was, strolling across the parking lot on the way back to my office, musing about the optician’s upbeat, sweetie pie assistant who greets you with such a big smile and how rare it is to see that sort of thing and what a good subject she would make for a blog entry — and at the same time, just sweeping my view all around to enjoy the pleasure of corrected vision, when BOOM! I felt my ankle give way and the rest of me follow and suddenly I was on the ground.

In my head-in-the-clouds moment I forgot to watch my feet, and hit a strip of concrete that ran about half-an-inch higher than the rest of the lot. The truth is that I fall with some frequency, mostly because I don’t pay enough attention, or I move faster than I can manage, or on ice — often enough, in fact, that I’m usually ready to explain, if asked, that nothing is hurt but my pride.

A total pratfall on 2nd Ave.; a tumble over a parking barricade when I was seven months pregnant and terrified the client I was with; off a platform at a conference session (it was only 6 inches high); and down half a flight of stairs hustling between meeting rooms in a fancy hotel. I’m thinking right now with immense fondness of the two kind (and discreet) fellows who picked me up in the middle of that staircase.

Often bystanders move quickly to help. Sometimes, though, out of their own embarrassment and fear of intruding, they wait in the background, and if you can right yourself, they hurry off, faces averted. It’s hard to know who is more mortified.

The tally this time was one slightly abraded knee and a sense of supreme gratitude. That the damage wasn’t any worse, that we’re so easily reminded of our vulnerabilities. We lucky ones get value out of even unfortunate events, sort of like the days when every unrequited love was the source of poetry and song, and sufficient recompense for the fleeting pain.

I just told this story on the phone to my husband, who chuckled so much that my daughter wanted to hear what was so funny, and when I told her she howled with laughter. I don’t know why the idea of your mom sprawled on the ground is so hilarious, and my knee still aches a bit, but I have to say I’m feeling both loving and loved. It’s a gift to have enough self-awareness to be able to enjoy a laugh at your own expense — even if your proprioception is a little off — and to be reminded of the beauty in the world and that it doesn’t matter how flawed we are in vision or balance if we have people to help us and to tell our stories to …

Onward and upward,

LK

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