“She’s so fragile,” the basketball coach at St. Ignatius parish in Brooklyn, New York, said to my mom, giving her the best reason she could find as to why the skinny 10-year-old girl who could swish basket after basket from the free throw line and score on layup after layup with the best of them had not made the team.
Apparently, the coach didn’t think I had the cojones to play tough with others. Scoring points was useless if you didn’t have what it took to take the hits that came with playing on a court with other people.
At that moment, the definition of fragile was born in my mind. Basketball became a metaphor for life’s bigger picture.
Fragile was when you wanted something badly, but you couldn’t have it. Fragile was when your gentleness and inability to knock other people down was used against you. Fragile was when the lessons your parents had taught you about kindness and turning the other cheek collided with a world that didn’t care much for those lessons.
It’s a definition I buried, but one that has influenced every fiber of my being since then.
Fragile was bad, really bad.
Fast forward 50 years later.
In the last six months, this has happened:
I took a nasty fall off my bicycle and ended up with a right wrist swollen to twice its size and pain that well, at least for me, was manageable. I didn’t see a doctor until about two months later, just to make sure everything was OK. An X-ray revealed that my wrist had been broken, but thanks to icing, elevating, and immobilizing — all things my significant other kept telling me to do — the bone had somehow set itself correctly and healed on its own.
When the doctor and his Physician’s Assistant walked into the examination room after seeing the X-ray, they both looked at me as if I were some kind of freak. They were shocked that I had been able to withstand the pain that kind of injury inflicted.
I was an anomaly. A beast, the doctor called me.
A fragile beast, I thought. I kind of liked the ring that had to it.
So, I got back on my bike and continued my normal routine, conveniently ignoring the nagging pain in both my knees.
Two months ago, I tripped over my own two feet at home, broke four facial bones, and required six stitches to repair the damage. I was not a pretty sight. People would steer clear of me as I walked down the grocery store aisles while sporting a black eye and bandaged head to accessorize my outfit du jour.
I was upset. Not because of the injuries, but because they meant it would be a while before I could ride the new bike I had gotten for Christmas. I was as disappointed as that skinny 10-year-old girl who still lived inside of me had been when she didn’t make the St. Ignatius basketball team.
I’m not 10 anymore, but sometimes I forget. After all, I’m still fragile.
The facial injuries healed, but the bike was off limits for yet a little while longer.
In the meantime, I decided to get the pain in my knees diagnosed. X-rays confirmed I had two dislocated knees (Which were probably the result of overtraining on the bike, not the fall at home.) I also had a dislocated shoulder that had most likely been there for a while but had been aggravated by my slip and fall at home.
I was three for three. YAY me! Broken wrist, broken face, dislocated knees and shoulder. But that didn’t stop me. I was, after all, a fragile beast!
All this downtime from my normal exercise routine has given me a lot of time to think, to remember people in my life who have influenced me in ways that I hadn’t even realized had made such an impact.
I bet that basketball coach forgot what she said to my mom the moment she said it. So, why was I still holding on to the negativity I had attached to it?
What labels from the past are you carrying around that are hindering your way as you travel the path of life? What names did someone call you that you believed at face value and are still today, as a fully functioning adult, allowing to drag you down or keeping you from living the life you want to live?
Today, I thank that basketball coach for denying me a spot on the team and teaching me a lesson it has taken me so many years to finally understand.
Yes, I’m fragile. We all are. But I’m not weak. And neither are you.