On Falling, Part III: Triumph Narratives and Feeling my Feelings

I am resurrecting this long-dormant blog to write about my ongoing process of healing after falling off a 30-40′ cliff in June 2015.  I’m still sorting through trauma, pain, frustration, and gratitude to be alive. I think these kinds of experiences change you; at least, I think it changed me, somehow. This is part of a series – check out Part I and Part II, and keep an eye out for more posts over the next few months.

Recently, when people have asked me how I broke my leg, I have been telling them, “well, uh, actually, I fell off a cliff,” and then I’ll chuckle awkwardly (and inappropriately) not because it’s funny, but because I don’t want to think or talk about how horrible it was. Maybe I’ll crack a joke: “after having my jaw wired shut for six weeks, I have a whole new appreciation for solid food! Ha!” or, “with all this titanium, now I’ll always set off TSA metal detectors! Ha!” If I tell you the story like it was no big deal, then maybe it won’t be a big deal, right? Maybe if I spend enough time acting brave, then I’ll actually feel brave.

Triumph narratives have been bothering me. I feel a certain pressure to be “courageous” and to “beat the odds” or whatever, especially because I already survived something that could have easily killed me. It seems like the only culturally-correct way to be injured or infirm is to be a “warrior” about it–there’s no room in our lexicon for vulnerability, frustration, and the banal pains of healing.

Continue reading “On Falling, Part III: Triumph Narratives and Feeling my Feelings”

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Awe.

As DFW said, sometimes a piece of writing will pierce you right through the heart. This is such writing for me at this moment:

And all the names of the tribes, the nomads of faith who walked in the monotone of the desert and saw brightness and faith and colour. The way a stone or found metal box or bone can become loved and turn eternal in a prayer. Such glory of this country she enters now and becomes part of. We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography– to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.

-Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, 261

Timely, I think.