Once, there was a child born to be clumsy. In the womb, she was twisted and tried to birth backwards. Once free, she could barely find the rhythm to start her own lungs. So, she spent the first day of her life confined in a box, her movements sluggish and awkward for all to see. Eventually she was allowed to be taken home, where, under the watchful eyes of her parents, she learned to crawl, though later than most. Her halfhearted explorations taught her to fear sharp edges and sudden drops. Yet, when she learned to walk, she continued to collide with the world around her.

She became a mass of constant bruises. Her body would let her do nothing else. Stumbling through her small world, she learned the pain of broken bones and the shame of broken trinkets. When she learned to speak, even her words bludgeoned those listening. Her handwriting was no better. It wavered and scuttled across blank pages, just like the hand that held the pencil.

As she grew older, this child learned to tiptoe through life, to move slowly and with reservation. She grew taller, and learned to never reach farther than arm’s length, lest she lose her balance. With other people, she soon knew to keep her distance. Her edges were blunt, but no less dangerous to the unsuspecting for being so.

She didn’t always succeed in this, however. She both feared and desired this failure. She was often so lonely. It was this loneliness that clouded her vision, until her steps inevitably lead her to bumble into some poor soul.

The collisions always left both parties dazed, and the extrication of life and limb was also most painful. Many hearts were left battered and bleeding in her path. Her own contusions she could ignore and forgive, but those caused to others left her reeling with shame. At times, she felt she should come with a warning to all that would venture near. At others, she wished to scream at those turned in her direction to flee while they still had time. She feared her words, though, just as she feared her movements.

She was aware that words could wound as surely as a stone, that they could trip as easily as an ill-placed stick. Often enough she had positioned herself poorly, and received a rain of hard words for her troubles. So, she kept her mouth sealed tight, and cowered from the criticisms of others. She hid behind screens and tapped haphazardly on keys, hoping to soften her sentences while avoiding direct blows aimed in her direction. How she tottered, though, whenever her protections proved faulty. . .

One would think after so many years of bruises, breaks, and stumbles that she would be immune to most pain. Surely a callous would have grown to protect her from herself.

I never have gotten any less sensitive, though.

Every misstep is still an embarrassment, and every impact an agony. And, after so many repairs, my ego is a fragile thing. I cradle it delicately lest it shatter. I’d guard it jealously, but I know how foolhardy that would be.

I am clumsy. I make mistakes. I am not above reproof.

I just wish by now I’d learned to grow a thicker skin.


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