What's the best use of time to think?

By Carol / March 18, 2014 /

Thoughts while, and about, falling down.

fallingSeveral years ago, I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and fell, landing more embarrassed than scathed. As I lay on the ground assessing myself for damage, I realized that I’d had several remarkably clear thoughts between tripping and landing.

At the time, I thought, How interesting. There’s actually time to think even in such a short time.

I tucked the realization away – something to use someday in my writing. I wonder if I might have put that realization to better use than just writing.

When I fell on the ice last month, once again thoughts raced through my mind. Realization that my foot had landed in a slippery spot and I was going down. Noting the hill I would land on. Thinking I was careless to have let that happen. Again, several clear thoughts during an event that lasted not much more than a second.

The result was worse this time. I wound up in the emergency room with a broken wrist.

When I posted on Facebook about my fall, someone suggested next time I should remember to “tuck and roll.” What a joke, others laughed. It happens so fast, how could you ever do anything but act out of reflex? But I wonder.

My aunt who’d broken her ankle as a teenager, suffered from ever more frequent falls as she aged.  Once as she crossed a street, she fell. Later she told me that her thought as the ground raced up at her was, “Well, I’ve done it now!”  Indeed she had. She broke her wrist.

Another time, my aunt tripped in her living room and had the presence of mind to fling herself forward so that she landed on the couch. That gave us all a good laugh. Particularly since she managed not to hurt herself.

Because my mother lived alone in her home, I convinced her to get a Life Line button. One day she fell. It took considerable time and effort before she was able to drag herself to the basement stairs, get her feet under her and get up. I asked why she didn’t just press the button hanging on a cord around her neck so someone could come and help her. She looked momentarily puzzled and then responded, “I guess you’d have to remember you even had the button to do that.”

Doing things automatically is often a matter of practicing enough. Since my fall, I’ve worked to implant the idea of “tuck and roll” in my brain. To that end, I’ve been thinking about it, talking to others about it, writing about it. I hope never to fall again, but if I do, I hope “tuck and roll” is the first thought in my head.

What do you think, my friends? Have you had experiences with split second thoughts? Do you think I can be successful at retaining tuck and roll? Have you done something like this? Or should I just resign myself to using this learning in my writing?

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  1. Shirley Hershey Showalter on March 18, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I just heard this interview with Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Purpose. He describes his Certain Death experience while onboard the Semester at Sea ship being tossed by 60-foot waves and how clear his mind got in split seconds:

    You have good company. 🙂

    He immediately applied that experience to his dream for his future. I’m hoping some new insight arises for you also.

    Stay upright! Or else tuck and roll!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 18, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      What a powerful experience, Braun had. Thanks for sharing the link, Shirley. My slip and fall is not of such impact, but I, too, hope for insight – in my writing, in my life. While that insight forms, I’ll do my best to stay upright!

  2. Audra Trosper on March 18, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    My brother, who was always involved in football and such when he was younger and always very active was once running across a parking lot. He tripped and should have face planted on the concrete. However, thanks to sports teaching him to tuck and roll, that is just what he did. He tucked, he rolled, he sprang back up and kept right on running. So yes, there is plenty of time.

    Just like learning to do an emergency dismount from a horse. When I was younger and spent the bulk of my time around my horse and off trail riding, I had that mastered. While some people never learned it were tossed off and injured, the few times things got crazy and when other people were rag dolling through the air, I was safely landing on my feet far enough away from my horse to keep from being accidentally injured yet close enough to still have hold of the reins so my horse didn’t get loose from me.

    In times like that, there is a certain amount of reflex reaction yes, the key is training your reflexes to do the right thing to prevent injury.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      Great examples, Audra. And very encouraging. Since I don’t plan (who does?) to fall again anytime soon, I wonder how often I have to remind myself of ‘tuck and roll’ to keep the thought #1 on my list of things to think about should it happen? Or will this one painful experience do it for me? I guess time will tell.

  3. Hans Maerker on March 19, 2014 at 2:51 am

    During my most active years in sports, I did judo and dressage. Since you get ‘tuck and roll’ practically drilled in your head, it becomes second nature. You don’t think about it but just do it.
    Several winters ago, I came out of a small convenience store, carrying a large bottle with carbonated mineral water in my hands. The street had icy patches, I stepped on one of those and slipped. You know how fast everything else happens. 🙂 The only thought that came to my mind was the [glass] bottle and what the consequences would be landing on top of crushed glass. Next thing I know is that I was in a judo roll, and came to rest on my back with the bottle still in my hand. The bottle was still intact.
    I got up and walked away. Limping a little bit because my hips didn’t like the impact, but that was all. I guess, that ‘someone’ up there sent his guardian angle to help me to act subconsciously. It wasn’t the ‘tuck and roll’ that had come to my mind but the glass bottle. Everything else was an automatic reaction due to earlier years of practice.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 20, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Thanks for sharing your story, Hans. Interesting that having something to protect triggered the reaction to tuck and roll. So many times in my life I’ve wished I had a video camera running to record some event that happened. I think of that now with your experience falling with the bottle of mineral water. I’m glad you both came upright intact!

  4. paulette mahurin on March 19, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I think everyone has them, some become aware of them. It’s interesting though in the midst of an accident or something very present happening how these thoughts just pop up. I witnessed that a lot while working in the ER. Very interesting. All that aside, I hope your wrist has healed well and you’re typing away with ease.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 19, 2014 at 9:32 am

      Traumatic events have a way of focusing attention. I bet you did see that a lot working in the ER. Heightened awareness is so important to us as writers. I don’t know that I “needed” to break my wrist to be aware of this falling phenomenon, but it sure has given me a lot of material to work with!

      My wrist is healing well, thanks for asking Paulette. The bulky splint came off on Monday. Replaced by a sleek, removable brace. Now I’m doing exercises to regain flexibility in my wrist. It’s all good.

  5. Elfrieda Schroeder on March 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Several years ago, while staying overnight at my daughter’s place in an upstairs rental apartment I went to the kitchen before bedtime to get a drink of water. I had to walk through the living room and didn’t want to turn the light on. I opened the door to what I thought was the kitchen. It was actually a door leading to the main floor via a steep stairwell. I remember frantically wondering “where’s the floor” as my foot hit nothing but air. Because I took such a big step, I didn’t hit the stairs going down. I just landed at the bottom, my right shoulder hitting one wall and my left foot hitting the other wall. I ended up with a sprained ankle and a broken humoros bone (upper arm). I could have been killed. Later on I thought that if I had been killed it actually would have been a quick death! No time to tuck and roll!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 19, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Wow, Elfrieda, what a story! In the dark, half asleep, and the floor drops out from under you – It’s hard to imagine thoughts other than trying to orient yourself to this new reality. I’m glad you survived that fall. You were lucky, indeed.

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