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The week I read The Alchemist, my daughter broke her arm.... is it an omen?

by Alison Schipp August 17, 2017

The week I read The Alchemist, my daughter broke her arm.... is it an omen?

"Oh no, she's done it again...." my internal dialogue sounded off. It was the primary school calling. I feigned that I had to sneeze just to catch my breath.... but my silence said it all. It was the 3rd time Ruby has broken her arm..... 

The nurse knew about the other breaks. I'm sure could appreciate my delay in responding, and my somewhat casual approach. 'I'll be there soon......

Of course, my heart went out to her.... I downed tools and switched gear immediately. But I couldn't help but wonder what this was.... a set of careless accidents?; a kid that has a go at everything,?; all sorts of things went through my mind.... and then I thought.... or could it be an omen? A really bad omen??????

When I met Ruby at the sick bay, I could see she was sore. The little girl deep inside her cried when she saw me. We hugged. "Do you think it is broken?"....."Yes", she said in a quiet, sad, but reasoned voice. I believed what she said to be true immediately. Two things about my darling.... she knows what it feels like to break a bone, but also, for a young, developing character, she is very insightful. Possibly more than many adults.

When I asked her what had happened, she explained with humour and humility. Always overflowing with an abundance of humour, I wasn't expecting to see it in this situation. Her humility, wellllllll, let's say we are working on that as it is less often witnessed. Again, a major helping of this too.

She detailed things for me about her accident. They had won her bat tennis match. Note well, this had been down to some serious planning for a whole week with the determination of a pro tennis player playing for Wimbledon! Loosing the week before, she was unable to process such a huge disappointment and her emotions had really got away on her. She announced determinedly that she was going to create a strategy with her tennis partner (I was waiting for her to say she was going to just smash the other team), and they resolved to try their best. In the face of tennis being quite a new game to Ruby, after they won, she decided to practice a bit more. Hitting the ball out, she went and collected the ball for her friend and ran back to play. And with her foot catching the top of the net, she went down in her classic 'sack of spuds' stunt fall. After she had explained all this, and realising how crazy it was, she told me, 'Consolation prize? We won!'

I didn't feel so sorry for her this time. That sounds callous, but things were different.  Firstly, it was me. I was different. Much different. Over the last months, I have learnt so much. This introspection was driven by a major life event, ripe for a separate blog article. I had shifted my understanding from 'Let me take your pain' to 'That must be really awful for you'. This meant in practical terms a major shift in energy. Empathy is just so exhausting!!!!! I'll sum up the impact of this change to thinking in one tweetable 140 character line "Try not to carry the weight of another's pain".

Secondly, Ruby was showing me that she was sore, a bit shaken, but she really seemed very lucid and sensible. I hoped it was that the pain was tolerable, and not that she had become immune to the experience...., or worse, squashing down her emotions! That would be terrible. We had talked deeply after the second break, only 10 short months ago. She had been so upset with that, mostly about missing out on things, and 'why me', came up.....ALOT. But after we put things in perspective and gave that all powerful internal dialogue a few other things to reach for, she was able to carve an inspiring path, explaining to people what she had done, how she is going to handle it and what it meant to her. Far more insight than just coming to terms with breaking an arm.

I suppose, the core message for us from this set of experiences is that the omens in life are not often not always the big loud obvious ones. I thought that with this being the third break, that this was clearly a bad omen. But with a few days reflection, the lessons have been quite different - maybe in a place far closer than the bat tennis court at the primary school. The maturity, humility, clarity and compassion being displayed by this one little family, surrounding this one issue, is an omen. Or a sign. A sign of a curious and connected family. I mean truely connected. And supportive in its truest sense. It's also a clear sign of a wonderful child developing into an amazing humble, funny and hopefully curious person. A positive, gorgeous, set of signs that fill me to the brim with joy and love.

Reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, on this day, during that week, was crucial to my appreciation of what had happened this week. 

As for Ruby, she is doing just great. We purchased a rebound net, so she can keep honing those razor-sharp game-winning skills, we keep laughing about things and she is still on the bat- tennis team. Scorer and PA to the teacher in charge! (whom btw, called me on the Sunday night after R broke her arm, hoping that all was ok - what a woman! What a community!!).

Feeling seriously grateful.


Alison Schipp
Alison Schipp


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