Avoiding a Klutz-Catastrophy
The Impending Disaster of the Habitual Klutz
We all have moments of klutzy actions that can result in a brief moment of pain and embarrassment. It's part of being human. For the habitual klutz, however, what may seem like a human tendency can prove to be more dangerous. Learning to overcome Klutzy tendencies can improve the quality of life - and make living safer for you and those around you.
The Two Types of Klutzes
Types of Klutzes:
When it comes to Klutzes, there are typically two types.
1) The Self-Harming Klutz:
this type of klutz seems to only inadvertently cause harm to themselves. They run into table legs, stub their toes, knock their legs into coffee tables and fall down (or up) stairs.
2) The Others-Harming Klutz::
These klutzes tend to cause maximum harm to others, not themselves. They accidentally smack the person behind them in the face when they go to put on their sweatshirt. They elbow the person behind them when they reach for their purse or backpack. They step on others' toes - literally - and they usually don't even recognize what they're doing, until the resounding "ouch" from somewhere outside the range of their peripheral vision.
Case In Point:
While I am most assuredly the first type of klutz, my wife is the second type - which means that things turn out bad for me, regardless of which way I turn. Not too long ago, I injured myself by seriously falling UP the stairs. It's not as common as falling down the stairs, but it is its own thing. Seriously. You simply aren't paying enough attention to what you're doing to lift one of your feet high enough while climbing the stairs to clear the top of the step, and you go on a death-defying plunge forward. Unfortunately for me, the stairs at my complex are concrete. The entire building is a concrete framed building. On top of that, the stairways are narrow, and I had my hands full with the stuff I was bringing home from work and the mail that I had just retrieved. I did not have time to drop what I was holding, so I went plunging forward. Fortunately, my face broke my fall against the concrete wall. My glasses were bent beyond recognition, I received a head abrasion, and then I landed full-force on my left knee, leaving a nasty bruise. Since head wounds bleed more than cuts or scrapes anywhere else on the body, I had blood streaming down my face by the time I limped down the hall and got into my apartment.
Similarly, I regularly get smacked in the face (always accidentally) by my wife. It's a running joke in our house. I fall off the bed when she play-pounces on me. I get smacked in the face because she's swinging her arms and I've been following behind her too closely. She rolls over in the middle of the night and I get smacked in the face. She's the kindest, most genuine person I know, but she's not very mindful - and I'm a firmly established klutz in my own right. The results can be hilarious but disastrous - typically for me.
Are a Klutz?
Regaining Control of Klutzy Behaviors:
Although accidents happen to everyone, and it's not possible to stop all klutzy behavior flat out, it is possible to learn to control it - and even to manage it effectively.
Step One - Environmental Awareness:
When you have a klutz episode, take note of where you are, and what the specific circumstances are that caused your episode. Is your nose buried in your phone so as a result you bumped into things? If so, the solution could be as simple as avoiding multitasking - at least temporarily. As new and exciting technology is continually released, it's easy to get caught up in the latest gadget. Nothing is more important than your own safety. It wouldn't kill you to stop texting while walking. After all, what good is your new IPhone if it's broken because you dropped it after running into the balcony - for the third time.
If most of your klutz episodes seem to take place in your home environment, there's actually a very reasonable explanation. We get comfortable in our own environment far easier than we do in strange places. If you're over at a friend's house, for example, you're likely to exhibit more care of your environment. Not only do you want to avoid the embarrassment of tripping over their new, expensive carpet, you're also far less familiar with the environment. As a result, you pay more attention to where you're going.
At home, it's a different story. You know where everything is, so you lose your sense of focus. The reality of the matter, however, is that your coffee table is not hatching an evil plot to inflict bodily harm. Your hallway walls are not jumping out of position just to trip you up. I often blame inanimate objects for my inability to pay attention. In reality, though, they're not moving. I'm the object in motion - and ironically, running into a wall does not keep me in motion. It stops me in my tracks, and ultimately I have nobody to blame but myself.
Step Two - Self-Awareness:
Once you've gotten a handle on your environment, it's time to turn the focus inward. Being spatially aware is often more difficult than it seems at first. Each person has a psychological bubble around them at all times. This is the reason that someone stepping into our "personal space" makes us feel uncomfortable or irritated. Inanimate objects like tables, chairs and doors, however, do not have the same kind of spatial versatility. It's up to us to recognize and pay attention to where we're going.
Step Three - Slow Down:
You are far more likely to have a klutz-attack when you're in a rush. When you're running behind schedule or your alarm clock didn't go off (most likely because we forgot to set it) it's easy to go into over-drive and try to hurry up to get everything done as quickly as possible. While time may indeed be a pressing concern, it is still not as important as your safety. Being a few minutes late to dinner is not the end of the world. Ending up in the ER because you tripped and fell while trying to simultaneously put on your shoes and run down the stairs, however, will make you much later in the long run than running a few minutes behind. Weigh the positives of rushing against the negatives. Is getting to work five minutes late worth putting yourself in potential danger? Unless your boss is a tyrant, probably not. If you continue to rush regardless of the risks, you're likely to be even further behind schedule. Take a few deep breaths and try to refocus your attention on getting everything accomplished more effectively rather than just quicker.
Step Four - Be Aware of Others:
I have the worst of both worlds. Not only am I a klutz that tends to wreak havoc on myself, I'm married to the kind of klutz that inflicts unintentional pain on others. I can't tell you how many times in the last week she's stepped on my foot (with her heel, no less) or accidentally elbowed me in the forehead while we're trying to get comfortable in front of the TV. Not only do I have to be aware of my own spatial surroundings, I also have to be aware of hers. If she's readjusting or moving, my best move is to not make any moves at all. Stay as still as possible until things calm back down. Only then is it safe to move - and only in a slow and steady manner.
While klutz-catastrophes can truly be embarrassing, in the long run they can also prove harmful. Your best option is to exercise caution and not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of every day life. By learning self-relaxation techniques and paying more attention to your environment (and yourself) you can avoid a large majority of incidents - and be more prepared for the unexpected when it inevitably presents itself.
© 2013 Julie McFarland