Falling Up

A few hours ago I fell up the stairs.

Yes, you read that right. I fell up the stairs. I made the mistake of thinking that, like a normal functioning human being, I didn’t need to count the stairs as I walked them. So, thinking I was already at the top of the stairs, I tried to step forward and my foot got caught, sending me sprawling onto the landing.

And it wasn’t like these were new stairs to me. They are the stairs in my house. There are eight of them, then a small landing, then eight more to the second floor. I know because I count stairs. I’ve done it since I was a kid because it significantly decreases the odds that I will hurt myself.

The dull ache in my left leg has caused me to reflect on some of the other “injuries” that I’ve obtained throughout my life. I’ve been lucky to avoid any serious breaks but I’ve had my share of bumps and bruises. Most of them are pretty boring as far as the stories go; I wasn’t looking and stepped off the curb and rolled my ankle, I fell over from laughing too hard and pulled a muscle in my neck, I was swimming with my eyes closed and jammed my finger full force into the edge of the pool. Things like that.

My proclivity to accidentally injure myself is one of the reasons I avoid major competitive sports (that and my giant bleeding heart, maybe more on that later). But sometimes my aforementioned competitive streak yields painful results.

Such was the case a few years ago when I was shopping with Mom. The excursion had started out normal enough. We had mentally prepared ourselves for the draining experience of back to school shopping and I was in desperate need of new jeans. Neither of us particularly enjoy clothes shopping and by the time we had finally made it to the dressing room, we were both dragging.

In an effort to make the experience more enjoyable, I decided to suggest a little friendly competition.

“Hey Mom, I bet I can try on all these jeans before you try on all your clothes,” I taunted. She smiled slyly and said “You’re on!”

Now it is worth pointing out that my stack of jeans was significantly larger than the few things she had ty try on. Still, my stubborn streak was in full force and I was determined to win – both for pride issues and the desire to get out of the dressing room.

We started out fairly rational in our race. We would try on a piece of clothing, keep it on long enough to glance in the mirror, and then move on. However it wasn’t long before my odds of winning looked slim. So, I started changing faster and faster. Pants were flying around the dressing room as I raced through my pile. Soon Mom and I were neck and neck. I grabbed my last pair of jeans the same time Mom did.

Triumphantly and carelessly, I pulled one leg and then the other through the jeans. Then, as I was bringing my right leg down, tragedy struck.

My littlest toe caught on the little bench in the corner of our dressing room and bent completely sideways.

The adrenaline caused by my prospective victory was potent enough that at first I didn’t feel the pain. It was a surreal experience as I looked down at my pinky toe bent at almost a right angle to the rest of my foot. I noticed that already it was starting to change colors. My only conscious thought was “huh, that’s a bit weird.”

In reality, that comfortable detachment probably lasted for approximately .7 seconds before I started yelling. It wasn’t full on yelling, but like that grimace yell everyone does when they stub their toe. The kind where you are trying really hard not to swear so you just kind of silently scream to the cosmos and curse the day dressing rooms were even invented.

Conveniently we were in one of those stores that has everything so after I changed back into my own clothes, I limped over to the pharmacy department and mom bought everything we needed to make a toe splint (because who goes to the hospital for a broken toe?) Mom employed her nursing skills and bandaged my toe in the parking lot.

The pain of the broken toe was bad but I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking “but wasn’t the real injury to your pride? After all, who breaks their toe while having a race to try on clothes fastest? Isn’t that a bit embarrassing?”

While that may seem like a rational conclusion, in reality my pride was intact. Because during all the commotion my broken toe caused, I’m pretty sure Mom never tried on her last pair of pants.

And if that broken toe was the price I had to pay to win a completely made up competition with absolutely no prize besides bragging rights, then that break was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

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