On Saturday night, I was rushing around the apartment tidying up when I tripped on the edge of our dining room rug and ran my face into the wall. The blunt force of the wall radiated through my skull; I fell to the ground. I knew something was very, very wrong. The sound, the pain. I felt liquid pooling on my forehead and immediately thought I had broken my nose. I called to Landon. He is calm in these situations, but my stomach knotted when I noted his furrowed brow and his hastiness to find not just a wad but a roll of paper towels.
“Do I need stitches?” I asked in my calmest voice. He didn’t answer for a minute, just continued to apply pressure to my face, swapping out wads of bloodied paper towel every minute or so.
“What hurts most? Can you see OK? How do you feel? Are you dizzy?” He went through a battery of questions, and I continued to hastily ask whether I needed stitches. My mind was immediately going to who we could call to look after mini, who was an hour or so into her nightly sleep, if we needed to go to the hospital. Finally, he said: “I don’t think you need stitches. But I’m not going to lie: it’s a pretty big cut, Jennie.”
At that point, I lost the tenuous grip I had on serenity. Once the pragmatics of what we might do with mini should we need to make a trip to the ER were off the table, I had space to take in the horror of what had just happened. I kept replaying the fall, which had felt as though it was in slow motion. I’d been scrambling to get my balance, to get a purchase on my slipping feet, and I remember having the time to think: “Oh God, that wall!” And then the dull thud. I replayed it over and over. How had it happened? My fingers started tingling; I felt dizzy. I started to cry.
“You’re going to be fine,” Mr. Magpie said over and over. He sat with me on the floor until I felt stable enough to sit. He gave me water from a straw. He applied a bandage the size of Montana on my head — proof that it’s important to have a well-stocked first aid kit. (#thankyoumom.) He squeezed my hand and then said:
“You’re going to need to take another shower.” Tenderly, because he knows how skittish I am about such things. “You have…pink tips.” He smiled and put his fingers in my hair, which, I could tell, was matted with blood.
He helped me to the couch. We ate a slow dinner as I continued to discover new abrasions and forming bruises — the inside of my lip was lined with blood. It hurt to chew. I accidentally brushed my nose with my hand and it was tender to the touch. I called my mom and cried to her and then cried again after I got off the phone because — my God, Jen, you are thirty four and you still need your mom at nine-forty-seven p.m. at night and she won’t be here forever to calm you in the face of such modest tragedies. What will I do without her?! These maudlin thoughts crowded my mind and I wept.
I was a basket case.
I willfully avoided the mirror while getting ready for bed. I made Mr. Magpie sit next to the shower while I washed the blood out of my hair, arduously avoiding glances at the rivulet of bloody water pooling around my feet, cringing at the coppery smell wafting up from the floor.
Just the night before, we had been at the Metropolitan Opera, taking in Puccini’s Trittica, a trio of short operas. The final — and most famous — is the cheeky, comedic Gianni Schicchi, and if you haven’t heard its chief aria, “O Mio Babbino Caro,” you must. It will stir you to tears on the right day — say, when you’ve split your forehead open and busted your lip so badly it looks like you’ve had too many injections. But on that Friday night before my fall, one of the performers tripped on the edge of a rug on the set midway through the performance. I had noted it and wondered whether it was intentional; he played it off with aplomb. But the stumble hadn’t made sense within the context of the play. It was unremarked; it didn’t suit the character, who was not otherwise bumbling. I presumed it had been a fluke accident. He’d recovered with grace, and the show went on.
I seized on this detail late Sunday evening, marveling at the symmetry. When I’d observed the performer, I had thought: “Oh, he should slow down.” He was walking too quickly across the set; he was preoccupied with his performance, I prescribed. I had just written a post on unexpected signs and sat back in wonderment at the foreshadowing. I am convinced, now, that God has been telling me to slow down. I recently shared that I live my life under a kind of vague pressure, the source of which is dubious. The tripping opera performer, my own fall: God’s way of telling me to take my own medicine. Dial it back. Take a breath. Slow your roll.
But there were other lessons waiting for me, too. The day after my injury, I began wondering whether I should have gotten stitches after all. The mirror told a grotesque story and left a pit the size of Saturn in my stomach. Doctors in New York are notoriously difficult to get in to see; mine said the first availability he had was December 20th. I panicked as I wondered whether I should go to the local urgent care or head to the ER now, 36 hours after the incident. Finally, I hesitantly texted my neighbor, an ER doctor, hating myself for encroaching on her privacy but feeling the panic mount — “What should I do?!” She told me to come by so she could take a look. After a quick peek she looked me squarely in the eye and said: “Yes, you need stitches. The ER will be a five hour wait because there will be higher priority cases for you. Let me do it for you.” And so she gathered materials from the hospital and stitched me up on my own couch at home. Can you even imagine?! The unbelievable kindness of this woman! Her generosity in affording me some of her rare, precious spare time — which should be reserved for sleep and distraction. I am even now moved to tears by her neighborliness, her solicitude. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Quite literally in this case.
And there is this, too: recently, I have been agonizing over the wrinkles in my forehead, my dulling skin, the symptoms of my thirty-something age. When my mother called to check in on me a day after the fall, I burst into tears: “I’m going to have a huge scar on my face for the rest of my life,” I sobbed.
“Well, Jennifer,” she said, in that practical voice she uses to cut through the melodrama to which I am prone: “This isn’t a life-changing injury. This isn’t a disfigurement. This is a cut that will heal. You’ll put lots of Vitamin E on it. You might wear bangs for awhile. This is what makeup is for. But think about all of the cuts you’ve gotten over the course of your life: they heal. You will have a scar but what can you do? What’s done is done. Let’s move on.”
I needed to hear it. And I needed the reminder to be more grateful toward my body, anyhow. I’d gladly take the wrinkled but scar-free forehead I had last week over my current situation; why hadn’t I enjoyed what I had? I look down today and think: thank God for this working, pain-free body. For my able hands, for my clear eyes, for my long lashes. Even though my face is still tender and my lips look — in the words of Mr. Magpie — “like what a lot of misguided women pay a lot of money for” — and I cannot bear to be without an enormous bandage over my forehead, I thank God for it all. It is working, it will heal, and life moves on.
So take it from this modestly wounded little birdie: time to slow down and give thanks. As for me? I’ll be paying that act of neighborly generosity forward tenfold in the coming weeks — with French girl bangs to boot.
+Everyone in my family (dad, mom, sisters, brothers-in-law, Mr. Magpie, etc) owns this windbreaker from Marmot, now on sale in select sizes. It’s breathable, lightweight, ultra-packable — but wind-and-rain-repellent. It’s a perfect outdoor activity jacket when you’re iffy on the weather; it will stand you well in rain, cool, wind, sleet, etc. I love it so much I included it in my gift guide for men. Would be a great buy now that it’s marked way down in select colors! (I love the mallard green.)
+I usually let my SPF-packed tinted moisturizer do sunscreen duty, but, thanks to my little incident, I’m now committed to wearing a separate layer of SPF every day to assist in scar appearance reduction. I ordered this lightweight formula, which earns rave reviews. I’ll also be dousing my face in vitamin E oil — apparently also very good for scar healing and skincare in general (it purports to fade spots and prevent wrinkles; we shall see).
+This game has over 2,000 five star reviews. Thinking of ordering it to play with my siblings over Christmas.
+If I slept on the other side of the bed, I’d tuck this in at my bedside. Mr. Magpie and I usually fall asleep with the TV on and then grumble when the remotes wind up under the mattress or on the floor or digging into our backs. I’d love to have this as a permanent remotekeeper. I’m worried, though, that it would disturb the lovely lines of our fluffy white bed when you walk into our bedroom, as my side faces the door…tradeoffs. Does anyone else spend too much time thinking about such things? (In hunting for this solution, I also came across this shelf contraption, which would have been genius for me in college, when I didn’t have a bedside table and would just keep my phone in bed with me. Might be a clever gift for a dorm-bound sibling/child/neice.)
+Love this Gucci-esque sweater (on sale for $111!).
+I really want one of these lighted magnifying mirrors from SimpleHuman. I find the lighting in our bathroom difficult to work with and wish I could apply makeup at my desk from time to time. This $54 lookalike gets solid reviews.
+Love this sherpa jacket for mini.
+This petite wreath with its burlap hanger are just darling for a New York-sized apartment.
+These new OXO fliplock glass containers are my dream for a super organized pantry. I currently have a few of these for storage loose snacks like goldfish, mixed nuts, etc. Why do these little storage vessicles bring me pleasure? We will never know.
+Have you ever had to break up with a friend? Any advice?