I’m not what you would call athletic. I was a round little girl and I grew up into a round woman. Instead of running the mile in ninth grade gym class, I walked it and gladly took a hit to my GPA. It’s also notable that while I lettered in high school, it was not for running, jumping or playing a sport well. It was for grades and my teenage version of stand-up comedy (humorous interpretation coupled with poetry recitation). So it should come as no surprise that the three times I’ve seriously injured myself, were not doing any great feats of athletic amaze-balls. No they were attempting some basic acts of human movement.
The most memorable involved my sister’s new roller skates on Christmas Day 1980. I was 7 years old and on winter break from Alameda Elementary School. I had strapped those bad boys on and was inching my way down the long hallway in my parents house, all the way gripping the ledge of a large old schoolhouse chalkboard to steady myself and stay up on the wheels.
A few feet down the hall, my younger brother gave me a two-handed push to help me “go fast.” I slapped down on the linoleum floor and in the few seconds after the fall, I twisted my body to give him a good whack for pushing me. In that twist and extension, a bone in my left leg said “hell no” and delivered a hairline fracture and an end to the festivities for the day. I spent Christmas night in the hospital and had to learn how to walk on crutches and take a bath without taking a bath, if you know what I mean.
Besides being glorious examples of my lack of athleticism, my injuries all had one mental habit in common. Each time I was not present for the here and now. I was thinking about what might happen or in the case of the skating fall, what I was going to do to my brother when I was able to get up and put a good slap on him.
In the final weeks of wrapping up our Hawaii home and saying goodbye to friends and places I have loved for many years, there was a constant pull to look to the past and dwell there in happiness or sadness depending on the memory that was produced. And as I prepared for our move to Manila, there was an equal and more worrisome pull to look ahead to the future and try to see around corners and figure things out or in some instances, to worry about what I didn’t know and I couldn’t yet know. As often as I could remember, I tried to snap myself back and remind myself to…Be. Here. Now.
I was present for the intoxicating smell of a pikake lei given to me by a friend and for the bright green foliage that covered Koko Head Crater on our last morning in Hawaii Kai. I was present for a deep and heartfelt conversation with friends as we shared our experiences of being immigrants and foreigners at various points in our lives. I was present for the last faint smells of plumeria in the air as we made our way to the Philippine Airlines gate at the airport. And I was present for the nervousness and excitement of myself and my family as the plane took off for Manila.
All of this and none of this is available to me depending on what I choose to be present for in each of my days.
So much is missed by living only in the past and the future.
Pop Culture Note: It would be many years later, fifteen to be exact, when I’d realize that when I broke my leg on Christmas day I had succumbed to one of the seven deadly sins. It was watching the 1995 David Fincher thriller Seven starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey that finally clued me in. Nope it wasn’t lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy or pride. It was wrath.