Taking a Tumble (by Billy Coffey)


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I want it known before I begin this post that but for a small handful of people, I do not grumble. Ever. It is a Coffey tradition steeped in Southern Redneckness—you do not whine. The reasoning behind this is both simple and teeming with most of the truth you need to get by in this world—life is tough on all of us. We all have our own stories and our own problems, and we’re all trying to get by the best we can. Therefore, complaining helps no one.

That said, my shoulder hurts.

A few weeks ago I was ambushed by a slab of ice that was cleverly disguised as snow, bruising my knee and spraining my shoulder in the process. The sprain further aggravated an ancient yet lingering rotator cuff problem from my baseball days, which basically rendered the entire right side of my body useless. I was pathetic for a week. Ask anyone.

Both my doctor and the nice folks in the local hospital’s radiology department concluded it was nothing truly serious. A good thing. In fact, I’ve been promised that I’ll soon be back to my normal self. Assuming that I do two things:

Wait and move.

The waiting is simply that. Waiting. Time heals all wounds, and apparently this holds true for busted shoulders as well. Which means full contact sports are not an option, which is bad, but they’re not an option for now, which is good.

And as far as the moving goes, I have exercises to do. Stupid ones. Things like moving my fingers up the wall and swinging my arm in front of my like I’m pretending to be an elephant. Things designed to make me look as ridiculous as possible and thus be a fount of endless entertainment for my children.

But I’m following orders, if only because I know that by doing so I’ll get better. My wound will be gone.

Since I’m the type of guy who tends to philosophize about everything (and since I couldn’t really do anything else except watch reruns of The Dukes of Hazard), I spent a lot of time those seven days pondering my condition. I’ve come to realize there is a spiritual component to all of this. You can take a tumble on the inside just as easily as you can take one on the outside. Both hurt much the same, and both sorts of falls can be cured in the same way.

For instance.

It hurts more when you fall at thirty-seven than when you fell at seventeen. At least that was true for me. Either my body has gotten softer or the ground harder in the last twenty years, and neither case is appealing. Such are the ravages of time. The body adds weight over the years, and not all of it is cushion.

The soul tends to add weight, too. A tumble there hurts more at thirty-seven than at seventeen too, and for the same reasons—either the heart has gotten softer or the world harder. The more you live the more you feel, and the more you feel the more likely you’ll get hurt. It’s unfortunate, yes. But the alternative to feeling too much is to feel too little. Ironically, that ends up hurting even more.

Most people think stumbles happen when you’re not paying attention. While that’s true sometimes, it isn’t always. I was paying attention (promise). But the problem was disguised. A thin layer of fallen snow had covered the ice, rendering it invisible until it was too late.

Which is why I do my best not to stand in judgment of whomever is unlucky enough to find themselves on the cover of the latest tabloids in the supermarket checkout lines. No matter how well we pay attention to our hearts or our heads, sooner or later life sneaks up on us all. Legend has it that when Jesus stooped down to write in the sand between the adulteress and those who wished to stone her, what He scribbled were the secret sins of everyone who held a rock in their hand.

I really like that.

We all need to wait and move. We all need to have patience, both with others and ourselves, and we all need to exercise our wounds to make them better.

We can think or act however we want, but the truth is that we’re all clumsy. The truth is that grace is given to us because we do not possess it ourselves.

(Thanks to Sarah Salter for putting this idea into my head.)

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To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

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