Avignon, palais des papes

It flows my way, genetically, I suppose.  This flight and flurry behavior that I’m periodically plagued by.  Mom was an extreme example, often leaving her body behind as she zoomed through life…resulting in more mishaps than anyone could chronicle.  Broken toes?  Yes – all of them and some multiple times.  Accidents involving stairs?  Sure, blaming a variety of culprits: “I tripped over a toy” or “My shoes were slippery”. 

Mixed in, just for fun, were the very public antics where mom brought unwitting bystanders into her swirl.  My favorite?  The time she upended an entire tray of entrees at a swanky wedding when she popped up to give a spontaneous toast to the bride and groom.  No one wants to wear chicken marsala as an accessory to their spiffed-up wedding attire, right?

Still, folks gave mom a lot of leeway for her outbursts when they were driven by palatable emotions like enthusiasm…less so when her bursts were triggered by other emotions – especially rage that ravaged, resulting in broken dishes and fiery tirades. The stuff you can never truly ‘take back’.  Underneath it all?  Her inability to emotionally regulate.

The older I get, the more I mull these scenes, not because I want to inspect the rewind reel. No, no, no.  I don’t.  So why do the memories pop to mind?  Because I’ve got some of that “inability to regulate” DNA in myself and friends, it’s not a pretty parallel when I line up some of the stupid shit I’ve done against mom’s antics.  Oy. Apple?  Tree?  Yep. 

What’s the antidote?  Like most wisdom, the simpler the better and it’s often right in front of us.  For me, slowing down and moving with intention is a good starting point.  Knowing that I’ve got klutzy traits similar to mom, I would like to avoid public…or I should say further public displays of show-stopping stupid.  I’ve fallen in public places because of exuberance and laughter but the ‘why’ doesn’t matter much when you create a scene, yearning for invisibility.

Two examples: 

  • Vicki is a Klutz #1: In beautiful Avignon when I was a teenager, I was blessed to be part of a choral group singing in the stunning Palais des Papes.  I was the tallest girl and always ended up on the top riser, dead center for any performance.  Fine…but the “stage” in Avignon was about as ancient as the venue and although I saw the gap in the floorboard when we got in position, I forgot about it once the singing commenced – you know, THAT venue and all.  I was in heaven.  Exuberance, out of body fantastic “feels” … until my right foot slid into the floorboard gap.  A I started to fall, I grabbed the voluminous sleeves, both left and right on my friend’s robes, and they toppled with me, as the choir went down like dominoes.  Good news?  No one was seriously hurt.  Not-so-good news? The choral director hated me forever after because of the scene I caused.  Mr. Schnurlenburger, wherever you are, I’m still sorry, but it wasn’t entirely my fault, funky floorboards and all…
  • Vicki is a Klutz #2: A few years ago, while trudging across campus carrying way too much and moving too fast, I inadvertently skipped the last three steps on a staircase, hurling myself toward a beloved colleague, James.  I was SO happy to see him but the pile in my arms eclipsed my view of the stairs…resulting in something akin to an actual flying leap as I exclaimed, just before falling, “Hey…I can’t believe I ran into you!” and then fell, full force into him.  More than a run-in.  It was an airborne tackle.  Again, I blame exuberance.  Good news?  We weren’t seriously hurt, because I don’t count bruises shaped like the continent of Africa as an injury.  Bad news?  My ego was jostled more than I expected because sweet James would not – for the longest time – stop giggling to others about the incident.  The first five or six times I passed a colleague on the stairs, and they moved aside, saying “Oh…it’s Vicki, we don’t want to get mowed down” it was cute.  The tenth or twelfth time?  Not so much. 

I’ve become tougher over the years, worrying more about my body more than my ego, but still.  Slowing down and trying to be mindful to ‘be in my body’ is good advice.  But it’s not my own.  My dad was famous for chiding mom to ‘slow down’ when he saw the combination of caffeination and compulsion as a prescription for chaos.  Sometimes the episodes were just household mishaps, but in public, she lacked body awareness, often bumping into other people, their grocery carts, and strollers because her mind was way ahead of her limbs.

Me?  I’m trying to do my best to stay physically strong, especially as aging occurs.  Never more in my life have I valued a ‘strong core’ and the benefits of a little cardio and beloved Pilates.  I need to stretch every day and move more than I want to because falls and out-of-body mishaps will occur.  I see the parallels to mom.  Dad often said she needed steel-toed boots and bubble wrap…and he wasn’t wrong.  I think I can stick to my wee bit of strength training as insurance, but I also know that reminders about self-regulating behavior, to keep emotions in check, continues to be sound advice.

My favorite resource?  The one I share most often with clients and friends?  It’s this – a short piece from Positive Psychology which normalizes the need to be aware of the impact emotions have on daily living, but it also packs a punch 😉 with straightforward recommendations to increase mindfulness: 

1. Breathing exercises for emotional regulation

Three main breathing exercises help in modulating emotions:

  • Breath Counting – Where we sit calmly for a few seconds and slowly start counting. For example, you can count 5 to inhale and 7 to exhale. The goal of this exercise is to focus on our breathing and follow the counting as we inhale and exhale.
  • Breath Shifting – Here we place one hand on our chest and the other hand on our abdomen and notice how they rise and fall with each inhales and exhales. By doing so, we aim to see the difference between the chest and belly movement during breathing, and it helps in regaining focus into our bodies.
  • Breath Relaxation – Breath relaxation is the most basic breathing exercise and practically works well for any stress, anxiety, or emotional disorder. The practice is to sit back and take deep breaths with eyes closed, and continue doing so until we can feel the connection between our mind and body, and realize the stress and negativity are fading away with the deep breaths.

2. Exercise for emotional catharsis

The most significant problem of emotional dysregulation disorder is the inability to let go of emotions. Even after realizing the inappropriateness of irrational thoughts, they find it hard to eliminate them from the mind (Singer et al., 2012). Through emotional catharsis, which is a way of venting out the suppressed emotions, we can achieve the mental balance that we often seek.

The practice is simple and involves five easy steps:

  • Observing emotions as they are, without trying to change them at the first instance.
  • Trying to evaluate the experience and feelings that come with a particular emotion.
  • Acknowledging the fact that we are not our emotions. For example, if we are feeling sad, it doesn’t have to mean that we are depressed individuals. Emotions are just a state of mind; they come and go.
  • Naming the emotions aloud or writing them the way you feel it.
  • Talking about them to a friend, family, or therapist, without being afraid of judgment.

3. Mindfulness for emotions

We know that mindfulness is the art of living in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness helps us gaining awareness of our mind, body, and feelings. It builds a secure connection to the present and allows us to look at our thoughts and feelings from an objective and neutral perspective.

There are two types of mindfulness exercises that help in emotional regulation:

  • The ‘Acknowledgment’ Exercises – including careful observation, naming thoughts, and labeling emotions.
  • The ‘Implementation’ Exercises – including practices of thinking non-judgmentally, active and empathetic listening, effective communication, and self-expression.

4. Self-awareness techniques

Self-awareness, for the most of it, is a counterpart of mindfulness and is tied in with recognizing one’s own emotions and the ways they affect us.

A great way to manage unhealthy emotions through self-awareness is the thought naming exercise, where we make a list of all the thoughts that are dominating our mind this very moment, the people or circumstances that we think may be causing them, and name the emotions in one or two words.

So then…from me to you, here’s to good health and humor…and for heaven’s sake, watch the stairs and don’t ‘pull a Vicki’. Take those babies one at a time.

Vicki 😉

12 thoughts on “Falling in Avignon: Vicki is a Klutz

  1. It seems like there’s some overlap between this post and my post and the comments in-between. Love it.

    You have such great actionable suggestions here – wonderful ideas. And your examples – such great fun and filled with Vicki humor. Mr. Schnurlenburger can go take a jump – of course, that wasn’t your fault. I say that as someone who knows I would have done exactly the same thing as a teenager.

    Emotional regulation – I watch my kids try to get a handle on it at their young ages and I still work on it at my age. Such a great and important topic. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you! I don’t know what to call this strange swirly-ness when posts dove-tail…I’d written about the Avignon piece and emotional regulation over the weekend and figured today was a good day to polish it off — post and then poof – I see your fabulous “I don’t give a rip” of a Care/Care-less post. Too mystically magical, I say. Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting, Wynne. Sending hugs! And yes – Mr. S can take a flying leap — off a stage, a cliff, more choral risers! LOL! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This may be my favorite post of yours yet. I was giggling and relating all at the same time. I loved the visual of you telling James you were so glad to run into him as you literally did just that. Hilarious! And then the transition into actionable suggestions on breathing and mindfulness? Just fantastic. Thank you, Vicki, for sharing a tiny snippet of your expertise with us, AND doing so in a delightful way!! 🤍

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am klutz-y too but it’s my own foible, not one my coordinated mother passed onto me. I like the idea of attending to your ability to emotionally regulate yourself, even as an adult. I had a yoga teacher who said you had to: Name it, Claim it, then Defame it. I can do the first two things, but the last bit, the part about getting over it, is more difficult for me. Yet I try

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morning, Ally! Nice to know you’re a sister in klutzy-ness. 🙂 I love your yoga teacher’s wisdom…and I agree…I’m really good at the “naming and claiming” but the defaming, the letting go and dismissing? Ohhh…much harder. Xo!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Me too, I’m so clumsy and accident-prone … usually falling upstairs, objects flying through the air -propelled towards some unsuspecting person; pens flying around class during lectures if I happen to be holding anything … best not to stand too close 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Duly warned…not to stand too close. That’s so well-said! I might need to borrow that phrase, Brenda! And yes — I’ve done the falling UPSTAIRS thing, too. Oh my. We’ll just be soul sisters in this regard. Thank you for sharing — take care! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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