Abby Normal

I went to sleep last night with prayers for Abby Sunderland in my heart.

I awoke to learn that she is okay, and I am delighted and relieved for that.

What I wish to say today is that Abby’s situation is a perfect confluence of the opposites (the very place where the transcendent, sublime, even divine is most likely to show up).

Abby’s brother sailed around the world alone—the youngest to do it.  Abby wanted to do it too, to get the crown of youngest to sail around the world alone.  Note how many opposites this collective focal point conjures: life and death, over-protection and under-protection, bravery and fear, equipment and nature, togetherness and isolation, young and old, water and land, safety and adventure, “good” parenting and “bad” parenting, giving up and keeping on, ego and oceanic oneness.

Given that my aim is to enhance consciousness toward the benefit of the collective, my personal opinions about whether or not, as a parent, I would let my own sixteen-year-old sail around the world alone (I’m nervous for him to start driving lessons) is at least partially beside the point.

I went to sleep with images of “pitch-poling” and “submarining” in my mind’s eye—the experts conjectures of what 25 foot waves in 80 knot winds might do to cause a sailor to hit the rescue-me button (a forty foot boat flipping end over end; nose-diving straight down the face of giant waves and capsizing into 50 degree water).

Me, who was but once in 25 foot swells and praying for death, me who has been sick on every boat in childhood (but not adulthood, so it leaves me wondering if I was always sea-sick or if it’s boats with parents that always got me), felt tears in my eyes as I imagined a little girl, no matter how brave and well-equipped, alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean suddenly realizing that she is out of her depth.

I dreamed of water and treasure and tears.  I awoke early and rushed to the laptop to find out the latest—relieved that Abby is okay, that help is on the way, that an airplane found her and made radio contact and her boat is upright.  Whether she continues or stops remains to be seen and my aim is to leave judgment out of it and trust that there is not a parent alive who doesn’t want this child to survive and be okay.

Once learning that she is alright, however, I felt that it would not be inappropriate to post on this—to point out that the image of a girl alone in the middle of the ocean is a perfect symbol of the zeitgeist—an idealization of the autonomous, a drumbeat of “need no one,” “just do it—alone,” “the heroes are individuals.”

Meanwhile we look in horror at our polluted and growing more polluted oceans, of baby turtles covered in tar, and we cringe at how we treat the Great Mother Ocean.

Thus the Ocean did not kill Abby Sunderland today.  I hope that the ocean loves Abby and has respect for her desire to commune with her.  But if like astronauts walking alone in space, we now have the feminine child (a puella perfectamundo) capturing the same collective imagination that Amelia once did, what does this reflect back to the group?

Perhaps WE are Abby, brave, yearning to test our mettle, to prove ourselves, to live fully even if it means risking death; perhaps she is a hero and not just a stage-parented and confused child who believes that this is her dream (and has nothing to do with examples set and egos cross projected).  Perhaps WE are responsible in some measure, just as we drive cars but look askance at oil companies.

My vote:  consciousness and love.  If the profound image of the child alone in the ocean can be taken deeply into our souls, we might not unconsciously need to send our children into the middle of the ocean (many of whom feel alone and abandoned in their rooms in the hearts of our very own homes), nor would we, perhaps, need to send our children into wars, or into poverty, or into empty and seemingly meaningless lives via our hyper-competitive, materialistic, prize-oriented, always comparing collective world view.

I hope this is not judgment, but I fear that it is.  I just want all the kids and their parents to be at least clear that we’re all together in this collective situation, even if we cannot all be always safe and sound (between us we are quite everything).

Namaste, Bruce


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5 Responses to “Abby Normal”

  1. Jennifer Gruskoff Says:

    Thank you for articulating my thoughts so beautifully, Bruce. I was so confused about my feelings for Abby and the complex situation that has unfolded. When she left for the trip, I thought it was a bit insane but I was also rooting for her to make it — and trying my best not to judge her parents, while at the same time beating myself up for perhaps being over protective.

    Then, she goes missing, and the committee immediately points the finger at the parents and asks, “how could you let her do this?” At the same time, what an amazing vote of confidence you have in your daughter.

    I saw her face before I went to sleep last night too and you blog is the way that I learned that she is OK.


  2. Jenn Says:

    I am amazed by your gentle, yet spot on, critique of Abby’s situation. That she had such a dream and her family had such confidence in her abilities was remarkable. Should she have continued after mechanical difficulties delayed her journey and stymied her dream placing her in the Indian Ocean in the winter (Southern Hemisphere)–a dangerous time to sail with known tumultuous seas? My main issue with anyone attempting such extreme feats is the potential risks placed on rescuers, the resources used for rescues and the huge expense that is incured. A chartered Quantas Airbus flying a 10-11 hour 4700 mile round trip mission pushing the envelop of flying time range for one person? I will not breath a sigh of relief until Abby and her rescuers make it home.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Great points about the well-being of others who become involved, further underscoring that we, our lives and our choices all effect each other—all the more reason to widen consciousness when we can and go a little easy on ourselves and others when we fall short of accounting for everything or come up short on being our own most generous, brave, non-judging best Selves.

  3. krk Says:

    Thank you for this post today. Amy had been tearing at my soul for days.
    Your sensibilities have helped to put the situation in loving light.

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