I’ll tumble for ya

By Kris Ferrazzza | Sep 27, 2019

"Klutz" has never been a word I’d use to describe myself, but lately I’ve had to reconsider.

Don’t ask me why, but over the last year or so, I’ve become a little bit Weeble-like. It started a while back, as 50 was appearing on the horizon. I’d do something too fast, like tie my shoe and stand up quick. While in the past that would have been no problem, now I'd stagger back at least two giant steps before regaining my footing.

Sober as a judge, my head would be spinning. But just like those Weebles I loved as a child, I’d wobble but I wouldn’t fall down.

All that changed this summer. More on that in a bit.

Now I’m not saying I’m the most graceful person on the planet. Over the years I’ve fallen off a horse or two, slipped on icy driveways, and even launched myself headlong down a flight of stairs. But those incidents were far and few between, usually happening only about once per decade.

In about a month’s time, I’ve tripped over thin air in the school hallways, juggled a giant pumpkin while trying to regain my footing in a supermarket display and gone completely heels up in a topiary garden.

What gives?

I’m off balance all of a sudden, but why? Like any smart person with an even smarter phone, I turned to the internet for guidance. I steeled myself for a Web MD diagnosis that surely would give me just hours to live, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that “increased body sway” is a common condition as one ages.

But why? Well, the reasons are many. And they range from the dumb to the dire.

The dire, which I found unlikely, included everything from diabetes and dementia to stroke and Parkinson’s disease. There were inner ear disorders and traumas, as well as vertigo and multiple sclerosis diagnoses.

Moving those horrific thoughts to the back burner, I forged on to the dumb category. First on the list of possibilities was failing eyesight. Now we’re getting somewhere. Thinking back on the times I have taken a little tumble, or almost fallen down, I often was wearing reading glasses.

I have many pairs of drug store magnifiers, in addition to my “real” glasses, and often peer over the top of them, as only school librarians can. Trust me, when I’m on the move with my specs halfway down my nose, it’s easy to overlook an abandoned water bottle in the stacks or a glossy magazine in the teen area. Hazards at home range from our lazy collie dog to the acro-cat, who appears from thin air to scramble underfoot.

Next on the dumb list was low blood pressure. This, too, had the ring of truth to it. I’ve always considered low blood pressure to be one of my superpowers. While both of my parents have high blood pressure (likely associated with my many siblings and myself), I’ve been blessed with the opposite. So each time the doctor takes the blood pressure cuff off my arm and says, “Nice and low, just the way we like it,” I grin from ear to ear.

Unfortunately, low blood pressure apparently giveth but also can taketh away in the balance department. It can lead to dizziness, light-headedness and fainting, which also may explain my Weeble ways.

Another dumb possibility? Lack of core conditioning. One article said people with desk jobs can suffer deteriorating physical fitness which over time turns them into human Weebles. So I guess even though my Apple watch assures me I take nearly 10,000 steps daily, it may not be enough. Cue the planks!

One last possibility I could not easily dismiss was anxiety. To be truthful, I don’t know a person alive today who doesn’t seem to be suffering from some sort of low-level anxiety, at the very least. It’s a word I personally shy away from, because I don’t truly think the nerves I occasionally feel compare to those with serious anxiety. But I cannot eliminate it as a possibility.

Now that I have diagnosed myself successfully, using only the internet, let’s get right to the nitty-gritty. I was advised to take a balance test. Could I walk a straight line? Yes. Do I often bump into things at random? No. Can I stand with my feet together, eyes closed, without falling? Yes. So what was I so worried about?

Toward the end of summer vacation, my daughter and I visited a beautiful topiary garden with family. While my sister and I argued over who was going to take the other one’s photograph in front of a beautiful garden display, I took a step backward and my heel struck the metal edging of a flower bed.

Now in the past, I would have simply stepped forward with my other foot, or stepped back a bit into the garden, and then forward again. But not anymore. The simple act of touching that edging with my heel sent me reeling, Instead of leaning forward, I leaned back, completely lost in space.

My brother-in-law realized what was about to happen and reached forward, trying to save me. But once this chain of events begins, there’s no changing the course of history. I was going down, and I knew it.

In the split second it took for me to fall, I remembered the many signs I had seen in the park asking visitors not to touch any of the carefully manicured plants and displays. This wasn’t good.

I resigned myself to the fact that I was falling, and simply landed with a plop in the middle of a big, beautiful red coreopsis. Suffice it to say, I was really down in there, too. Clearly it had been freshly watered, as I could feel it seeping through my pants.

I got a hand up from my brother-in-law, who was stunned speechless. Once I was back on my feet, I looked at the flower bed and saw a depression in the huge plant that was just the size of my bottom. I couldn’t resist the urge to try to fluff it back up, but to no avail.

“Just leave it,” my brother-in-law hissed. “Leave it!”

My daughter, Elizabeth, had casually strolled away and pretended not to know me, as only a 13-year-old can. Then I saw my sister, who had tears streaming down her cheeks from under her sunglasses.

“If my camera had been ready, I would have gotten the photo of the century,” she wept. Thank goodness for small miracles.

Last weekend at the grocery store I stopped my cart next to the outdoor pumpkin display and chose the biggest pumpkin in the bunch. As I stepped back and turned to put it in my shopping cart, my heel touched a pumpkin behind me. It felt exactly like the edging in the topiary garden.

Oddly, my first instinct was simple resignation, as I thought, “Oh well, here we go again…” Then I came to my senses. Learning from my mistake with the coreopsis, I immediately leaned forward and thrust the pumpkin into my cart, then hung on for dear life. There was no way I was taking a tumble into the pumpkin display at my hometown Hannaford on a busy Sunday afternoon.

And the beat goes on.

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