Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Falling Down

No, not the slightly off-beat Joel Schumacher film with Michael Douglas which carries the same title as this piece.  This is about really falling down. Or very nearly.

There are so many exciting things you can do that involve falling down, or falling.  Jumping out of planes, bungee, abseiling, zorbing, the list is pretty endless.  There are also the not-so-pleasant falling experiences, accidents and the like.  Whilst I’d love to do a few of the first list, I’d never want to be involved in the unpleasant side of falling down that occasions some. But may be I aleady am, and on a daily basis.  For being so dramatic, you’ll probably want to call me a jerk, but I prefer hypnic jerk if you please.

There is a physical reaction that occurs in, they estimate, 70% of people that is known as a hypnic jerk, a moment when the body senses a relaxing of the muscles and tries to protect itself by nudging you, mostly making you jump slightly. It is similar in principal to the jump you make when you’re startled.  I am not startled easily.

The most common time this occurrs is when falling asleep.  It’s that moment when your eyes are closing, your body and mind start to relax then, pop.  Your brain thinks this relaxing is you falling over, or down, and produces a little nudge.  This can be a little shudder, a twitch or even a full-blown jump upright.  I know, I get this most nights.  Let me explain.

Settling down at night, it always happens at the same point in the night-night process.  My body tells me it’s time to sleep, and the eyes will close, and the mind drifts away to somewhere else, somewhere……….

………. and I’m falling. I don’t know where I am. I don’t have time to remember who I am.  I can feel the sensation as my body falls through space and I’m powerless to stop it.  My mind races.  How can I save myself, I’m falling, the ground will be approaching fast, the end will be approaching quickly, I’m falling.  There’s no wind that I can feel, and my mind can’t compute that. All is black, all is dark, and I’m falling.  There is not a single thing I can do to save myself.

A fraction of a second later, I’ve twitched, shook or jumped outright from my fall and in to a shocked reality.  I quickly realise the falling has happened again, and I settle down, breathing just a little quicker than before.  The whole episode lasted nothing more than a millisecond, but for me in my stupor it lasted an eternity.  A horrible, tumbling, falling eternity.  If I’m lucky, there will be only one.  On a bad night there can be as many as three, with each as bad as the one the preceeded it.  And on a bad night I will jump bolt upright, shaking, swearing, breathing heavily.

It’s as uncomfortable for me as the one that shares the space with me.  Mrs drop4three often jumps too, feeding off my surprise, my shock.  She, unlike me, is startled easily. On the odd occasion when I have a big jump she will shout out in surprise.

But I’d still love to throw myself out of a perfectly good airplane with a rag on my back.  I’d love to jump from a great height with a rubber band round my ankles.  These are the things I’d do willingly for fun, for the rush.

And an hour or so from now, it’s likely I’ll be getting the rush again.  Not one that I asked for, not one that I wanted.  But there’s little I can do about it as I go tumbling and falling to eternity again.

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