I call it karma. Sometimes it can bite us hard when we forget ourselves, and sometimes it just offers a gentle - or not so gentle - reminder in unusual and unexpected ways .
That's exactly what happened to me recently on a trip to visit family in Greece.
The truth is that in this regard - as in so many others - I owe a great deal to my parents and to the example they set and the genes that they passed on to me. They both remained very fit and active until very late in their lives.
And as I’ve often stated in my blogs, Mom helped us enormously by setting us on the path to good nutrition from early childhood. It’s an established fact, after all, that our health in later years reflects to a large degree our diet during our growing years.
Which is good, because, let me tell you, I’ve been no saint when it comes to my eating choices.
First of all, I eat way more than I should.
This is even more so because, despite my image as a health food nut among my friends and the youth I mentor, I’m actually a closet junk food junkie. In fact, it's so bad that I avoid having sugary snacks and desserts in the house at all because I will eat it all in one sitting, given half the chance.
While my discipline in that regard has improved somewhat over the years, that’s not saying much, since I had zero self control when I was younger. It’s only been after (literally) decades of fighting myself on this that I’ve figured out how to deal with my own weakness when it comes to sweets and other not-so-good-for-me foods.
So what's my point in all this? I mention it to offer some background and to illustrate how much I owe to happy chance when it comes to my own good fortune in health and fitness.
And I am keenly aware of that. And humbly grateful for it.
At least I am most of the time.
There was just such an episode on this trip. For a brief moment I let complacency - and even contempt - slip into my attitude, and karma quickly stepped in to slap me back to reality.
It happened on a ferry crossing from the island of Evia (Euboea) to the mainland.
There we enjoyed a walk among the quiet back lanes and olive orchards of the village before boarding the ferry for Glyfa.
The crossing lasts about a half hour. Passengers enjoy the short journey and the views from the lounge and open decks on two levels, accessible by narrow metal stairways from the car deck.
It was a pleasant, uneventful crossing that offered beautiful vistas on both sides as we traversed the narrow strait between the island and the mainland. As we approached the harbor of Glyfa, my husband went ahead to the car, and we followed behind.
I was stuck in the middle, and for a while the line did not move at all.
As is my unlovely tendency in situations like this, I became impatient. Worse, though, unkind thoughts crossed my mind about these old people and their cautious and slow behavior. Rude thoughts that would have made my mother very unhappy with me, indeed.
I’m not sure what my all-fired hurry was, mind you. Even if we had missed getting into the car before my husband drove it off the boat, the port was tiny, so it would not have been a problem to walk off and join him on land.
But there I was, rolling my eyes at the people taking their time on the stairs and being extra careful around the big trucks and buses parked at the bottom. All I could think of was how out of shape and timid they were being.
Generous and thoughtful, I was not. At.All. But that's okay, because I was soon to pay for my arrogance.
People yielded graciously to my requests to pass, and I reached the bottom of the stairs in no time. I then turned sharply and purposefully to go to our car that was parked in the middle, some way behind the larger vehicles.
But what I did not notice in my snotty haste were some raised manhole-type structures on the floor of the boat. As a result of this oversight - undoubtedly caused by my nose being so far in the air that I couldn't see them - I failed to pick up my feet properly.
And I tripped.
I hit the floor with great force, only saving my face and head from catastrophic contact with the steel surface by reaching out with my free right hand at the very last moment to catch myself.
I felt my wrist rotate sharply and my fingers bend straight back and way beyond the point of pain as they took the full brunt of my not insignificant weight.
They cracked as they twisted underneath me and broke my fall, so that instead of landing flat on my face I ended up rolling onto my side and shoulder and performing a very clumsy and graceless half-somersault onto my back.
And there I sprawled for a stunned, brief moment, in full view of a dozen truck drivers and two upper decks of exiting passengers, who now were staring down at me, gasping and exclaiming in horror.
The first thought to cross my mind was that I had just given a very literal and very public demonstration of the expression “hit the deck” and of the old adage “pride goeth before a fall”. A two in one, so to speak.
I immediately looked down at my hand. It hurt. Quite a lot.
Carefully, I tried to rotate my wrist and wiggle my fingers. They worked, albeit very stiffly and painfully. Miraculously, it did not appear that anything was broken. Sprained or wrenched, yes, but not broken.
Except my pride, that is. That was in tatters.
By this time, I was surrounded by several alarmed older ladies and men, and people from above were calling out advice and questions. I heard my sister-in-law's panic-stricken voice in the mix.
My embarrassment at the scene I had created was complete.
In hindsight, I can laugh about the situation, but in the moment I was just utterly mortified. And I deserved every bit of discomfort I felt.
I gently clasped her hand and mouthed the words “I’m okay” to be understood despite the din of the truck and van motors. ‘Okay’ is a universal word that just about everyone understands in most parts of the world, I’ve discovered, even if you cannot communicate much beyond that.
She looked at me, unconvinced, until I repeated the words. She then reluctantly let me go, and I thanked her before turning to make my way – gingerly, this time - to my car. Past amused looking truck drivers who had clearly enjoyed the spectacle I had made and under the anxious gaze of what seemed to be the entire passenger roster of the boat.
My husband met me halfway to the car. He had also seen the whole thing and was terrified that I was seriously hurt, given the impact of the fall.
But I was almost completely uninjured, suffering only some swelling, stiffness, and pain in my wrist and hand that mostly worked itself out by the end of our trip. Apparently, because of those genes I was talking about earlier, I have good health and good bones that enable me to bounce and flex when I fall.
I’m lucky that way. The same way I'm extremely lucky in my overall genetic make-up, the health-minded mothering of my childhood, and my overall good mobility. In other words, they're all things I should be eternally and humbly thankful for instead of arrogantly assuming it's my due, that I had anything to do with it, or that I have the right to be impatient or contemptuous of others who are not so fortunate.
Karma can be a bitch, for sure, but she went easy on me this time. It could have been so much worse.
Here's hoping I've registered the message and won't need any more such reminders again any time soon.