Falling, but Getting Up Wiser

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Falling and cerebral palsy (CP) go together like sweat and the summer sun. Sweating proving an unavoidable annoyance for you to enjoy the sunny weather. Meanwhile living with cerebral palsy will unquestionably leave you dealing with a fall or two, at least. Upon falling, temptation to feel embarrassed or frustrated creeps in. Time to put a stop to temptation’s woeful whispers!

Instead, know you can get up from falls wiser. Wisdom that when applied helps prevent future falls. Plus, just makes life overall more enjoyable. To demonstrate, I will share memorable falls I endured living with spastic hemiplegic CP. Through recounting my experiences, I hope to lessen the stigma associated with falling.   

Mirror, Mirror!

Adapting a line from Snow White, let me ask, “Mirror, mirror on the wall. How do I react to a fall?” In a falling situation, the faller becomes the mirror. Those around you tend to mirror your reaction. For example, flashback with me to 2015 and The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio’s 13th annual Walk Rock & Run event.

As a belated birthday celebration, I invited friends to join me and participate in the event’s untimed three-mile walk. Around the course’s midpoint, lost in conversation, I failed to notice a step down onto the street. My friend attempted to warn me, “Ste-.“ However, the attempt came too late. I fell into the street.

Initially, everyone reacted with shock and concern. “Oh my!” someone behind me gasped. Another asked, “Are you okay?” Once back up and moving, my friends took turns cautioning me.

“Step.”

“Step.”

After the second or third time, I jokingly replied, “What next? Are you going to start shouting pole?”

Picking up on my humorous tone, one of my friends called out, “Pole!” as we passed a utility pole. Just like that my fall went from cause for concern to a comedic memory. One I still cherish today.

Now I could go on and cite additional examples. However, I have more wisdoms I wish to share. Although, if you want further examples, I recommend checking out my new memoir Slow and Cerebral. Within I discuss my fall at the Walk Rock & Run event. Plus, several more falls I experienced throughout my mission to become a marathoner.

Perspective By Starlight

No. I am not referencing Amazon Prime’s The Boys when I say “starlight.” Rather I am talking about the feeling you get when looking up at a starlite night sky. Said visual works to calm me down whenever I feel overwhelmed. Reminding me of the massiveness of our universe. Allowing me to remember I am not the universe’s center.

A fall also provided me this perspective. Let us rewind to August 2005. I am an incoming freshman at Notre Dame College, excited to participate in the campus’s Welcome Weekend festivities. Although, in addition to the excitement I felt nervous. Intimidated by meeting so many new people. Intimidation which amplified when I left my residence hall to go to the meeting spot for the off-campus shopping trip. I made my way over to the group waiting near the parking lot. Though, before I could join them, CRASH!

I fell. Unfamiliar with the terrain, I missed a slight step down from the residence hall’s walkway to the sidewalk. A GA (graduate assistant) came over to check on me. She took me to the Residence Life office to get bandaged up. Then she asked, “Were you coming with us on the shopping trip?”

As you know, yes. I intended to go on the shopping trip. However, after falling in front of peers I did not know? How embarrassing! The urge to say no and spend the afternoon sulking in my room emerged.

Instead, I resisted. Bravely confronting the potential embarrassment. Emphasize potential since no one mentioned my fall. Probably because everybody else remained pre-occupied by the impression they would leave on their new peers. Essentially leaving my fall an inconsequential occurrence to them.

Knocked Senseful

While inconsequential to my new peers, including a few who would become good friends, the Welcome Weekend fall impacted me greatly. During my four years at Notre Dame College, I approached that little step up and down hyperaware. Determined to avoid similar falls.

Basically, you could say the fall Welcome Weekend knocked sense into me. Advising me to pay attention to my surroundings. Such advice keeps coming as the years pass. In fact, last year I had some sense abruptly knocked into me.

One morning I awoke to an email that a YouTube video of mine had been flagged for violating YouTube’s terms of service. Reviewing the video, I became dumbfounded. How did this violate YouTube’s terms of service? I submitted an appeal, believing the flagging remained an error.

Afterwards, I went for a walk. Typically, when walking I maintain the following mindset. It’s me, my legs, and the path ahead. That day though, I found myself distracted. Still thinking about the flagged YouTube video. Not even half a mile into my walk and BAM!

I went down, tripping over the slight height discrepancy in sidewalk blocks Slow and Cerebral readers will know as the “invisible step.” Like usual, I peeled myself off the sidewalk and went to continue my walk. A few steps in and I knew I needed to turn around.

Adrenaline powered me home, slowly. Once I sat down though, I did not take another forward step for two days. Two more weeks passed before I could take steps without using a mobility device. Officially, I received a groin strain diagnosis.              

Frustrating, especially considering how easily I could have prevented the injury. I simply needed to concentrate better. Again, frustrating!  

Thankfully I possessed the self-awareness to not ridicule myself and say, “Stupid me!” I realized said mentality would do me no good. Rather I looked for a lesson to takeaway. A teaching which would empower me to get up wiser.

Falling, but Getting Up Wiser

For the fall that caused my groin strain, I learned to stay focused in the moment. To adopt what I call the marathon mindset. Taking one step at a time. After all, you cannot reach mile 26 until you finish mile 10, or mile 17, or mile whatever. Each step counts.

So, reflect on your falls. Decide what you could learn from them. Avoid embarrassment by remembering perspective. Then set the tone for others’ reactions through leading by example with your own reaction.

Do not feel ashamed or insecure for falling. Falls happen. Instead, just make sure to get up wiser.

Until next time, remember. Don’t blend in. Blend out!

-Zachary  

P.S.- For those wondering, I won my appeal and YouTube removed the video in question’s flagged status.

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