(music director, cue - Hurt, sung by Johnny Cash)
"I hurt myself last night, just to see if I could feel"...
No, I'm not suffering through a severe drug addiction to which the lyrics refer, and by no means am I trying to compare my latest incident with the severity of struggling with drug addiction, but by just muddling through the semi-mundane task of changing a light bulb, I hurt myself last night.
This is no ordinary bulb mind you. It's the one, single bulb in the house that requires bravery, faith, and aplomb. It's the one in the ceiling above the open stairway from the first to second floor. I hurt myself last night by managing to fall off the ladder. The results of my fall were spectacularly slight in regard to my physical injuries. I like to think it's because, at the moment when I realized i was going to fall, I attempted to jump backwards from the ladder back to the relative safety of the stair landing, just a couple of feet below my feet. The mental damage has yet to be fully assessed.
"What have I become?"...
Aplomb - Physical requirements are relatively small; set up ladder, climb ladder, remove old bulb, install new bulb, climb down ladder, consider celebratory beer. Growing up in a construction family, this is hardly uncharted territory.
Faith - The only significant variable (myself aside) in this scenario is the ladder's strength and capability. 350 pounds? I've yet to shed my 'winter coat', but I'm well under 60% of the ladder's load rating.
Bravery - To attempt this little feat, I will need to bravely conquer my fear of falling. Not fear of heights, but falling. Getting up in the air takes a little getting used to if you don't do it regularly, but I'm far from out of the realm of my experience here.
"Beneath the stains of time, the feelings disappear"...
After returning to upright following my failed attempt, I can say my confidence was well shook. I've never recognized those feelings in my physical self before. As a boy who grew up playing all kinds of sports, I feel I am acutely aware of the level of confidence in my physical skills and body control. My brain knows I can easily do this task, yet I managed to fall and injure myself. My psyche was in sudden conflict with the pain reports flooding in from various areas of my body. I seriously cannot believe what just happened.
What was the variable, the intangible, that conspired against me? My own lack of care apparently. The ladder I used was the telescoping kind which, when extended, relies on each segment to be fully locked out to become a solid climbing platform. At the time, I even noted some uneasiness (6th sense type of warning) despite having used this ladder several times with no ill effect.
Believing in my careful set-up, I apparently managed to have one segment not fully locked out. When loading it as I climbed up to the 6th rung, it began to telescope back into the next lower segment, albeit just a slight bobble/slide down of about 2 inches, but knowing how this ladder works, I knew the next motion would be a continued collapse of the lower segments and major injuries immediately following.
Projecting imminent failure of support, I immediately bailed off the ladder, with one foot slipping on the rung I attempted to jump from, throwing me off-balance and my left arm striking the square stair landing corner post directly on the funny bone nerve. Assorted bodily contacts with said ladder, railing, wall, who knows what else later, I ultimately grounded myself on the stair landing. I had fallen only approximately 24 inches, but the the instant pain and numbness shooting up my left arm from elbow to fingertips lead me to believe that I had broken something.
As is always wise during any type of fall, I fought the instinct to 'pop up' as if nothing happened. I lay there for a moment while my kids rushed from their second floor rooms to discover me face-up and grimacing on the landing. I assessed my left arm and quickly found it to be nothing worse than a hard, hard contact of the largest unprotected nerve in the human body, with the efficiently strong and equally sharp Oak stair rail post cap.
My injuries are slight, although still felt today and likely on through the weekend. But as I lay on the floor for that 20 seconds or so. I felt like an old, old man. 'Old' like coming to the realization that I may not be totally capable of doing everything I could do 20 years ago. 10 years ago. 5 years. 2 years. In that moment I felt inescapably 'over the hill'.
"If I could start again, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way"...
Now, a full 16 hours later, I am disappointed, hurt, thankful, regretful, sorry, resigned, angry, frustrated, and enlightened, all at the same time. Is this the seminal feeling of growing older and doing the inevitable 'downhill slide'? I don't like it. Not one... single... bit. I am now fearing an aging process that I will fight rather than embrace. I don't like this feeling and I don't like aging,