We all fall down sometimes

So I’m in my doctor’s office and there’s this song playing softly in the waiting room. The verse worms its way into my awareness: “We all fall down sometimes.” And I can’t help but think about why I’m here in the first place.

I fell down. Not literally, but figuratively. See, I am diabetic. And I haven’t been good about dealing with it over the past several years. Honestly, I was once quite Nazi-like about my nutrition and glucose, monitoring my levels and maneuvering myself into very tight control.

Then I fell down. And I didn’t get back up until a few days ago, when I was forced to look myself in the eyes and begin the process of rising to my feet again. Oh, I had tried on occasion, but nothing got me fully standing, much less walking. I don’t know that I can tell you what occurred or why. All I can imagine is that life got in the way, but then, that’s nothing more than an excuse, isn’t it? I’d like to think I keep my coaching clients real and honest by calling them on excuses; I can’t let myself off the hook. That’s why I’ve been sitting here for the past half hour trying to figure out just why, exactly, I fell down.

I’m trying on a few theories.

My knee-jerk answer (and the first one out the chute) is that I don’t like to be different. I want to be normal, and normal people laugh and have fun with friends over pizza, any time they want. They’re “family” at restaurants with high-calorie comfort food, they’re All-American with typical fare from fast food restaurants. They can eat what they want, when they want and suffer no problems. They can bake or get excited about ice cream like children. They’re normal, right? Advertisers and the media and our own expectations tell us so. In truth, I’d prefer to not stick out from what everyone else considers normal.

I sit with that for a while. There’s truth there, but it’s not entirely complete. So I move on to another theory.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve had to tamp down my addiction and love for spontaneity, because I am a master of spur-of-the-moment happenings. By regimenting my eating schedule to more regimented times, I’ve lost some of that “let’s go get a pizza right now” joie de vivre. I really thrive on that behavior, too. I know this about myself.

And I like that theory, too, although it still doesn’t fully resonate. I’m off to another theory.

Maybe, I think, it’s because I don’t want anyone to extend special consideration to me. I know I certainly deflect compliments. And while I do like acknowledgement, there’s also an aspect of it that I do not care for – especially if by my receiving it, someone else feels diminished. I don’t want to rock the boat just to have others look at me. I also know I don’t ever, ever, ever want pity.

I sit back. This theory has promise, but there’s more to it. It may be that I am averse to being seen as demanding. I recoil when others hijack gatherings just because they prefer a specific activity or dining experience. If they don’t get it, they opt out, and it becomes all about them rather than about the group, and that infuriates me on some deeper level. That I legitimately need something different doesn’t matter to me. I don’t want others to feel about me the way I feel about people who do this, because I think it’s rude. Surely that’s legitimate.

Yes, it is. But it’s still not quite good enough. Next theory.

There’s the issue of making others feel bad. Take my in-laws, who eat on a very relaxed schedule, at varying hours. I just can’t do that. But then, I’m a guest in their home. So, if I take myself off to breakfast because their schedule is too late for me, I worry they’ll think I’m passing a value judgment. Plus, I have to pay attention to carbohydrate-rich foods, to the protein and fat combination, to whether something’s fried or roasted. Typical sandwiches don’t work. I eat expensively, for the most part. Sure, I could bring my own, but then I worry that I make my hosts feel as though they aren’t good hosts.

The nurse calls me back and I put my theories back into my brain for the moment. Days later, and I’m still pondering. I feel such a need to keep peeling back the layers. I glance up at a plaque that hangs in my workspace. It’s colorful and vibrant and it reads, “Who were you before you put yourself last?”

And there it is.

Growing up, my father suffered from an ulcer. As kids, we always heard, “don’t upset your father, his ulcer’s bothering him.” We were always admonished to be quiet, and mom designed meals and activities around his needs. I never resented that; far from it. But I think I did internalize it. And what I internalized was to not rock the boat and put my needs behind others’ needs, especially family and close friends.

I’m frozen in place, sitting in a blossoming awareness that takes me by surprise. Who would have thought that something so simple from so long ago would form the seeds for something so vital today? Understanding floods my being. This theory resonates. This theory is real.

Now that I can lift that belief out of the shadows and place it in the light of awareness, I can see it for what it is: invalid. It was so legitimate, so necessary, so caring of my mother to tend to my father’s needs. How could she have known I would take that lesson to heart?

I’m good, now, because with that insight comes a new belief that’s firmer about me and my needs. Not to anyone’s detriment, but to my own welfare.

I’ve hunted for that song since my appointment, but I can’t remember anything other than those few words. I did find lyrics for a song by Diamond Rio. It may not be the “song of awakening” from my doctor’s office, but I like what it means:

We all fall down. It’s the getting back up that really counts. We live and we learn to help someone up when it’s their turn. In life there’s only one guarantee: your feet won’t always be on the ground ’cause we all fall down.”

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