This is excerpt from one of the book chapters I’m writing. Stay tuned!
I’ve had a lot of embarrassing moments throughout my career. It’s part of my anxiety. Always afraid that something World Star Worthy is going to happen, I am overly cautious. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the inevitable is always going to take place, the best I can do is to be prepared for it. I’ve learned to give practice to the words, “just roll with it”. Little did I know I was going to need to put the words into action quite literally.
I was invited to speak before the National Conference of Black Political Scientist at their annual meeting. Thrilled to speak before an audience of “woke” black academics on the topic of politics and environmental policy, the words for my presentation came easy. Baby weight gone, I pulled out a conservative navy-blue St. John dress and paired it with navy & grey suede heels and my favorite charcoal grey leather & knit Jacket.
Now this jacket is special. Every woman should have at least one piece of clothing that makes her feel invincible. That one jacket that makes the entire room stop, stare and wonder at what revelation and amazement will proceed from your lips. My grey charcoal leather jacket is my power piece. When I wear it, I feel as if the arch angel Michael himself has dispatched a special unit of angels to wrap me in a cloak of vibranium and surround me with protection. NOTHING can harm me when I’m wearing my jacket.
I arrived to see many faces I knew from my academic days at Mississippi Valley State University. A crowd of 150 people gathered for the event and every seat was filled. As I was escorted to the dais, I noticed the table and seating was placed on an elevated platform, roughly 1 foot from the ground. It wasn’t very deep but there was room behind it to stand. I stepped carefully as to not trip in my heels.
The program was proceeding nicely, and we were preparing for dinner. The hotel staff let us know we’d need to move from the dais to the round tables that were set up for the meal. As my colleagues to my left and right were moving to the tables, I pushed my chair back from the table to stand and step down.
That’s when it happened.
The two back legs of my chair tipped off the end of the platform stage. My chair began to fall back, with me in it. Unable to steady myself, the chair, me, my heels, my fabulous protective grey vibranium jacket, we ALL fell backwards and onto the floor behind the stage.
The room fell silent.
As people immediately began to rush to my side and determine if I was ok, a checklist began to run through my mind:
How the hell was I going to recover from this one? I still need to give a speech! I did a quick self-assessment to my head and extremities: I didn’t feel bruised and no ankle or knee problems. I could stand and that was good. I saw no runs in my stockings, tears in my dress or damage to my power jacket (thank God). No scratches, nails weren’t chipped, contacts were still in place. I was good. The hotel staff along with conference leadership regularly asked if I was ok or needed medical attention. As an attorney, I know the first rule of a fall is to never say you’re “ok” early and without having a full determination of what injury may show up later. Nevertheless, I let everyone know I was fine. I stood up and said, “I’m good!” to an audience held captive by the unknown.
At least I now had everyone’s full attention.
Within 30 seconds, one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever had to learn was formalized into an event and completely changed the beginning of my speech. That one reminder that keeps me moving and motivated is this:
It’s never about the fall. It’s always about how you recover.
There will always be things in life that cause us to falter on our way to destiny and greatness. Whether it’s a self-inflicted stumble, an unintended misstep or a push from a jealous competitor, you will, at some point in life, fall. The real test of fortitude is how you recover.
As those around me helped me to my feet, I gathered myself and the lessons to share with the anxious crowd. I began my speech:
You know, it’s never about the fall. It’s all about the recovery. Now this is a lesson for all the students present, so I need you to take notes. You’ll need this later. How you recover will dictate what people remember. I go through a quick checklist and reminders of who I am. First, I check for any injuries or bruises. I remind myself that I am a child of God, no weapon formed against me shall prosper, anything that rises against me must fall. Angels are encamped about me and no harm shall come nigh my dwelling. I have the mind of Christ. So physically and mentally I am ok. I can recover. I remind myself that just in case there was a slight “exposure” in the midst of my fall, I’m from Mississippi, raised by a mother that taught me to always match my underwear. I’m good, I can recover. I remind myself that I’m a Spelman College graduate and check my closed toe shoes and flesh tone hose for any rips or tears. I’m good, I can recover. I’m a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and while it may sound vain, I checked my hair, makeup and lipstick. I’m good, I can recover. I remind myself that I am Dexter’s wife, Devin, Deriah and Lil Dexter’s mother, a twice elected official, Obama appointee, triathlete, citizen of Wakanda, a black woman descended from ancestors that have overcome far worse, a truly magical creature who leaves a trail of noir pixie dust in her wake. I’M GOOD. RECOVERY IS WHAT WE DO.
Suffice it to say, the remainder of the speech went well but it was the lesson of the fall that mattered most. Sometimes it takes a little reminder to share by example so that others can see recovery in action.