• Lijing Cobb

All is well

“Listen, guys, I need help.” On our way to our weekly skating lesson yesterday, I opened our conversation this way.

“What do you need mommy?” All of my passengers, my kids, asked.

“Well, you know how I’ve been checking out these days?” My kids all read my blog and we talk about it so they all know what I’m talking about. “It’s been happening way too often, and I don’t know what to do.” I do know what to do. I need to resume my meditation practice. But I also wanted my kids to know what I was struggling with, and I wanted to see what they would say. I was half expecting them to move back to their Pokemon cards or a fantasy play quickly.

But they started brainstorming. “You need to break out of your routine and do something different!” They exclaimed. How astute.

For the rest of the 15 minute ride to the ice rink we did not stop discussing and planning, and by the time we arrived we had a plan. We were going to do the 3 color challenge.

But first, skating lesson. My 7yo and I had our lesson first, and my 10yo and 9yo practiced while they waited for their lesson, which was right after my session. As the door to the rink swung open, little and big people filed in, most of us gingerly, and headed towards our destinations. Before all of us could move to our designated spot, however, an invisible giant magnet drew everyone’s eyes towards the practice section of the rink. A small crowd had formed around a fallen figure, and behind that human wall there came a hysterical shriek. Quickly the news spread that a woman had fallen on the ice and she was bleeding from her head. Our instructor skated over to help, and the supervisor, after examining the situation quickly, pronounced loudly to a hushed crowd, “Call 911!” She also forbade the use of the practice section until medics came to help the fallen woman move out of the rink. Meanwhile a sobbing teenager was escorted towards the door, her face ghostly white, her slim body shaking violently.

“Did you see what happened?” My fellow lesson mate asked.

“No, I didn’t. But I heard that that woman fell and cracked her head open. She’s bleeding a lot.”

“Oh no! And I’m not wearing my helmet out of vanity. I wore one for my first lesson but I was the only adult wearing one so I ditched it. Now I wish I had mine! I’ll be extra cautious today.”

5 minutes later, our instructor glided her way back to us. “It looks worse than it is. The head has a lot of blood.” She reassured us. “I’ve seen worse. She’ll be all right.”

Our lesson started, proceeded, finished. Our legs wobbled, but we persisted in our learning, and we all survived the lesson without cracking our heads open as well. Life moved on with just one head cracked open in that hour, in that rink.

As we walked out of the gym and towards our car, my 10yo asked, “Mom, did you see what happened to that woman?”

“No, I didn’t. Did you?”

“Yes, I did. I was right there! One of her legs just slipped out in front of her and went all the way up, and her head was on the floor!” She narrated the traumatic scene she had witnessed.

“That’s terrible! Was she ok? Did she scream?” I asked, still haunted by that terrifying scream.

“No, it wasn’t her. It was her daughter.” Ah, the white-faced teenage girl. “The mom was fine. After she sat up she actually smiled and said she was ok, but the daughter wouldn’t stop crying!”

“Oh I’m sure it was terrifying for her to see her mother getting hurt the minute they got on ice. Can you imagine getting out to have fun together, only to see your mother’s head cracked open and bleeding all over the place?” I shuddered at the thought.

“Yes, my legs were all wobbly for the whole time we were in there, mom!” My son chimed in. “I’m fine seeing my own blood, but I can’t stand seeing other people’s blood.” My son gets nose bleeds quite often and when it happens, it’s a bloodbath in the sink but he stays calm.

“Yes, I’m the same way.” I agreed. By then we were seated in the car and ready for the drive back home.

“Mommy, don’t forget our three color challenge!” My 7yo reminded me.

“Yes, of course. As soon as I take my nap.” I answered.

We drove home, I took my nap. When I woke up, I heard my husband’s voice. He had come home early. There was a bit of a commotion downstairs. Maybe they were doing something with their dad now. Maybe we were not going to do the 3 color challenge after all.

My husband walked into our bedroom and whispered, “did you hear what just happened?”

“No. What happened?”

Our kids were playing a card game. The 10yo was teasing the 9yo, who usually employs haphazard strategies that ensure his loss at the said game, and the 9yo told the 10yo to (spell the four letter word) off.

“Did he actually say it in those words?” I asked, shocked, incredulous. Our kids know bad words are to be left alone.

“Well, he spelled it out, but yes, he said it.”

“Was he upset about it?” I followed up.

“Yes, he was crying.”

“Ok.” I nodded, and started to strategize how I wanted to broach this subject with my son.

When I went down to the scene of crime, all my kids were playing their card game, and my boy wasn’t crying. They had forgiven each other and moved on. I sent my 10yo to get her laundry, the 7yo to check on her dad, and had the 9yo all to myself.

As soon as I brought up the subject, tears welled up in my boy’s eyes. The scar is there, even though the head had stopped bleeding.

“Your sister was trying to help you become a better card player, but clearly she did it in the wrong way and hurt your feelings instead. You were trying to stand up for yourself and you had all the right to do that, but you did it in the wrong way as well. Agreed?” After a few minutes of discussion on the subject, I proposed to my son what I thought was a fair assessment of the situation.

He nodded quietly.

“I’m glad we can agree on that. So you see, we can mean to do good things, but do them in a bad way, and the good thing becomes a bad thing. Yes?”

Again he nodded, his face now peaceful. The sobs were gone.

“Ok, so in the future, let’s all think about how we do things. Let’s do good things in good ways and make them stay good, shall we?” I squeezed his arm and looked him in the eyes.

“Ok, mommy.” We hugged to let each other know that we got the other’s back.

“Mommy, let’s go downstairs now. We are all ready for the 3 color challenge!” My 7yo popped her head in. Was she listening? Did she know that we just finished our conversation?

So there we sat, finally, on the already stained carpet in our basement, with 4 pieces of construction paper in front of each of us, a tray of miscellaneous paints and a mishmash of paint brushes in the middle. Each of us closed our eyes and picked out 3 random colors, traded our colors to our satisfaction, and then settled into our challenge: making art with those three colors.

The kids chatted happily while they created. I stayed quiet and absorbed in my creation. What could I possibly do with a brush that administered no precision, paints that were cracked, washable, and weak, and a piece of paper that was the shade of a lousy beige? But such was the fate of this amateur dabbler at the holy name of art, so I shook off the woe and persisted in making something out of it.

Ask again please, what could I NOT do with what clearly stood for love in all its measly disguises?

“Is it working, mommy?” They checked in.

“Yes it is.”

“You see! You can’t do art and check out at the same time. You have to stay checked in!” The kids are wise.

Half an hour later, we wrapped up our creative process. As I looked at our individual paintings, I could read each person’s personality clearly. It is so interesting that artwork never lies. My son used to draw frightening monsters with sharp teeth all the time, but now it has graduated to a dark “abstract,” as he calls it. My 10yo is the neat and careful one, with a moon and stars and their reflections in the blue water, making perfect sense. And my mini me let her painting morph as she went, not having a goal in mind, and genially accepted the suggestion that she had produced a pig with a huge head and a tiny body.

The last one is mine. A tree, rooted, whole but with distinct parts, surrounded and supported by a universal energy, vibrant, centered, inviting. Let love come. Let us grow together.

After our art therapy, we went to enjoy a dinner together at a buffet. As I sat at the table with my son to my right, stroking his stiff hair and telling him to make his food choices wisely; my 10yo to my left dissecting her kiwi and leaning her pre-teen strong body heavy against my arm; my 7yo finally taking over the space of my lap, arm and finger wrestling with me, and then a tickling contest with giggles galore, I thought of the woman who had cracked her head open in the morning, barely a minute into a memory she was making with her daughter, only for it to turn into a nightmare when her teenager witnessed her mother’s head hitting the ice, blood everywhere, grinding their adventure to a brutal halt. What lesson was there to be learned in all that unnecessary blood?

The woman smiled and said that she was ok. The daughter, hysterical scream, tears, shaken. Cards, my son’s tears, the conversation. Shoddy paints, brushes, unsatisfying construction paper, finished artwork. All of these things, a perfectly imperfect day, led to the dinner, our family sitting together, my kids by my side, feeling all is great.

Sometimes our intentions are not matched by the outcome. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they are exceeded. Life is messy (I spent 15 minutes cleaning up after the 30 minute art session, with the stained carpet owning still more stains to its name nevertheless), painful, and sometimes bizarrely, shockingly unpleasant. But when the blood is cleaned away and the hurt is explained, we need to hold onto the good and trust that all is well. Let the lesson continue. Let us stop digging deeper into our wounds, but instead, get help, and let the wounds heal.

Let’s all join the injured woman in her smile for her daughter, and say, “we are all right.”

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