I was perched with one knee on the edge of the roof, my shin scraping the guttering and my other leg balanced on tiptoe on the top rung of the ladder, when it hit me.
No, not my broomstick, extending from the tips of my outstretched fingers in a vain attempt to dislodge that highly combustible branch. The one that sat there taunting me as it waited for the first Catastrophic-Fire-Danger warning of the impending summer season.
Nor the question of why they bothered putting a warning on my ladder not to climb on the top two steps. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper just to leave off the warning and the top two steps?
No, it was the image of how this montage must appear to an impartial observer. They would have to be impartial, because any of my family or friends, having exhorted me not to attempt the manoeuvre in the first place, would by now be yelling “We really don’t want to spend the next six months visiting you in the rehab centre. So when you fall, make sure you land on your head.”
I, on the other hand, mindful of the somewhat terminal effect of landing on one’s head, was already chanting the mantra “If* you fall, be the cat not the toast.” (* Notice the difference in confidence levels?)
The impartial observer would, of course, be laughing hysterically, the question of falling on my head or my feet being too far into the future compared to the look of horrified concentration on my face as I was about to launch into a stream of invective against wayward branches, too-short broomsticks (or limbs), nonsensical ladders, and the circumstances that led to me being the one up on the roof in the first place.
And that was when I realised I could choose whether or not to go on being the angry person my husband had decided he didn’t want to live with any more. Although, given that I figured I was the same person he’d married 37 years earlier, he clearly didn’t like to rush into a decision.
For some time past, telling myself “it’s just physics” had only limited benefit when I drove around a corner and the contents of my handbag scattered to the four corners of the car; or I tripped over something that wasn’t there; or the washing machine leaked; or I knocked over a bottle of wine (oh, maybe that wasn’t just physics…). I got exasperated by the fact that I was the only person on the road who knew how to drive, and annoyed that my kids never seemed to understand that having a decent roof over their heads didn’t simply entitle them to lie around in bed and get pocket money, but should actually involve a little engagement with the things that make the place tick.
It was, of course, too late to fix the negative effect my anger had on my marriage; but I had found lately that, when things were bugging me badly, it often helped to mentally step outside the situation (and split my infinitives in the process) and imagine how it would look to a dispassionate onlooker. With a hidden camera. And Keystone Cops soundtrack. Even in the middle of the most awkward moments, I found myself laughing at the image. So I could try and stop my anger dragging me down for the rest of my life. I could start to think like the impartial observer, see the humour in the situation, and laugh with other people at myself, instead of responding with outbursts of rage. It might give my banal and dysfunctional life some purpose if others could join me in seeing the funny side.
Heaven knows, they say we’re supposed to laugh fifteen times a day. Or is it fifty? Doesn’t really matter. With my new-found attitude there would be no shortage of opportunities.