Left Hand Brake
I woke up motivated. At 5:30am, I popped out of bed, practically bright-eyed and almost bushy-tailed. I wanted to sneak out to hot yoga while the kids, animals, and kid-animal, aka husband, were still snoring.
I pulled into the strip mall parking lot, nabbing a great parking spot, right up against a berm across from the entrance to the yoga studio. I opened my car door. Everything was going my way.
Most parking lot berms in San Diego have been recently redesigned. Grassy berms are so passe! So 90s. Berms are ‘water-wise’ now, which is a good thing, because given the choice, I’d rather drink my water than step on it. Old-fashioned water-slurping berm grass has been replaced with modern marvels such as wood chips, prehistoric-looking succulents, drought-tolerant grasses, and river rocks in varying hues and sizes. The new berms look good. I’m a fan. So when I holler things like, “Don’t step on those river rocks, they’re ankle twisters!” to my kids as we approach these new-fangled berms, it’s not because I’m a hater. It’s because the river rocks, in all their caveman-meets-future-city glory, ARE ANKLE TWISTERS. Especially when you’re a kid (or kid-like) and you think it’s fun to use any surface as a path. Or when you’re any age and you step onto the rocks wearing flip flops. Really though, any shoe holds risk. Hiking boots with over-pronounced spaceman tread? They’ll slip off the darn river rocks as if they’ve just been sprayed with Wesson oil. Take note readers: Those rocks that are calling to you like sirens? They are not part of some cool secret path. They’re desert-friendly space fillers, nothing more.
As I stepped out of my car this morning, planting my flip-flopped foot squarely on a river rock, did I think of the Ankle Twister refrain I sing to my kids every time they near a berm? I did not. I put all of my weight on that greased rock, and then stood. And, to no one’s surprise, as I leaned back to flick my car door closed, my foot slipped and I got all wonky. Before I knew it, my feet flew out from under me. I flailed my arms around for a long moment, eventually burrowing one toe into a rock and smacking a shin into the corner of the sidewalk as the rest of my body plowed into the black top. Pain lit up my entire being as I lay in the road. I might have soon been road kill had it not been sub 6am. But since cars were still few and far between, I rolled onto my back, kicked my quivering legs into the air like a dead bug, and moaned. I might have stayed there a while but for a personal trainer from the gym next door who trotted over in that way that only super fit people trot and said, “Let me give you a hand.” I wanted to say, “Stuff it, you muscle bound Boy Scout,” but instead I said, “I appreciate that. Thank you,” and stood with his considerable help.
Hot yoga was suddenly the worst idea I’d ever had. I retrieved my car keys from whence they had flown mid-fall and hobbled back in the direction of Oil Slick Rock, ready to drive home, dive back under my covers, and pretend this was all some jacked-up dream. Then I thought, Oh screw it, I’m already here and I want to lie down, and that’s when yoga became less about a burst of morning motivation and more about the fastest way to get horizontal.
I walked inside the studio. There sat the instructor — a physically perfect specimen, glowing with health, and half my age. I noticed that none of her toes were bleeding. “How are you?” she asked, smiling serenely. I thought of how to answer as I lurched her way, dragging my right leg.
I’ll be honest. Sometimes this question, “How are you?”, it stops me. Does this person really want to know how I am, I have been known to wonder. “Fine, thank you,” I almost always respond because I have finally figured out that most people who ask this question are looking for a simple, non-grumpy answer. I get it, I might ask you this same question without wishing for you to unload your baggage either. We can’t all be each other’s therapists. Plus, every language I’ve been introduced to has a greeting where people ask a question without wanting the real answer, just that culture’s equivalent of “Fine, thank you”. It’s not just an American thing is what I’m saying. I know this and thus, I submit that she was probably looking for the quick, easy answer. However, at that moment, I was only capable of the more honest, awkward answer. “Well, I just had a helluva yard sale in the middle of the parking lot, and now I think my downward dog may look more like a one-legged half-dog with a side of wince”.
“Oh no, how did you fall?” she asked, her brows furrowed in compassion.
“I stepped on the river rocks. Totally my fault. I tell my kids not to do what I did 100 times a day.”
She sighed and nodded her head. “Yesterday, I was going to my other job at the bike rental place down the street. I can’t tell you how many times a day I tell people, Always pull both hand brakes! If you only pull the left brake, you will fly ass over nose straight over your handlebars. Well, I was riding while holding a coffee in my right hand. So when I had to stop suddenly, I braked with only my left hand, and there I flew, ass over nose.”
And just like that, in a very Grinch-like way, my heart grew three times its normal size. She falls too! I smiled. Her left hand brake is my river rock. We’re wipe-out twins, probably separated at birth, except twenty years apart.
The larger message attached to this story could be any one of the morals listed below:
1) We fall, we get back up, we’ll probably fall again
2) Always go to yoga when you’re already there
3) Carry band-aids in your car
4) Only say fine, thank you, most of the time
5) Embrace your inner left hand brake