Sunday, July 17, 2011

Leaning into the sharp points

There are moments in life that one will remember when turning 80.  Some of these moments are about transcendental joy...when you hold your newborn in your arms for the first time and even though she looks like an Eskimo, your husband assures you that he saw her come out and that she belongs to the both of you.  This child's first word is "mama" and she has placed her trust in you.  You say to yourself, "I will keep her safe, no matter what else I do, I will keep her safe."

But you can't...and she hits the coffee table edge going about 20 mph and needs her eyebrow glued shut, all the while saying "I'm OK, Mom, I'm OK".  And she falls on her bike, on her skis, on her skates, and off the monkey bars.  You think you are prepared for what may come, but you are not.

Some of these moments you will remember are about a fear so deep and so old that to go anywhere near it is to risk some part of yourself not returning.  Pema Chodron recommends that when we hit this place of profound fear that we "lean into the sharp points" and through the leaning will learn to work through our attachments.  I have found that sometimes we get thrown there.

Thursday afternoon, I went to pick up my daughter from a local camp.  As I drove into the parking lot, there were several squad cars and a bevy of reporters all lined up across the street.  As I walked into the building, I asked a staff person what was going on...she responded with "the headmaster will be addressing all the parents in the auditorium."  It finally dawned on me, in a flash, that something bad had happened.  I walked into the gym and in the chaos of the moment, I could not find my daughter.  I asked the headmaster if all the children were safe, and he did not answer.  It took me a minute, maybe two, to find my daughter.  It was the longest minute of my life.  We listened as he explained that there had been an accident in the pool and a camper had been transported to a local hospital.  As I write this, the camper remains in serious condition.

As a crisis counselor, I can tell you many of the symtoms of an acute stress reaction:  surreal sense of time; physical symptoms of nausea, headache, or fatigue; confusion around facts of an event; and disbelief at what has just occured.  I would hazard a guess that every parent that picked up their camper/s that day experienced some of the above.  In the end, we all moved into shared grief for the parent that was not in that gym but in a hospital room with the child that is a part of her transcendental joy.  We are all with you as you lean into the sharp points.


  1. I can't even begin to fathom the terror or the aftershocks of that moment for you, or any other parent involved. Give our girl an extra hug for me.

  2.'s like when Stevie vanished from sight in a crowded Times Square McDonalds, you described it well.