We have been coping anxiously with the reality of a 15yo at a chamber music camp for 10 days two states away. I drove her there last Friday, and spent the night in a B&B before driving myself home the next day. After dropping her off, helping her set up her space in the yurt she is sharing with two other girls, and walking around the grounds to locate the dining area, practice rooms, and showers, I sat in the rental car and texted her. It is not completely rough camping that she is doing, but I knew there would be more insects than she cares to be around, and that it would be very dark at night, and it was apparent even in that short tour that most everyone knew everyone else, and so I worried about the happiness and comfort of my city girl.
She did not respond to those texts. However, late Friday night I received five texts, the first four of which grabbed my heart and rent it utterly. My reaction was exacerbated by the fact that I did not read them until the morning, nor did I hear my phone ring any of the four times she tried to call me. She had been alone in her yurt (roommates were off practicing until late) in the very dark hearing insects she loathes, and I had not answered her.
I don’t like it here.
I don’t want to stay.
Can you take me home with you tomorrow?
Why aren’t you answering??
The fifth text enumerates the reasons she did not want to be there. The schedule assumes very late night and a couple early morning bedtimes with which she is not comfortable. Everyone knows everyone else except her. Etc.
Things have slowly improved since then, but she is still (as of Tuesday morning) not happy. She is “not completely miserable” (her words) so we have not gone to retrieve her, and we know, whether she does or not, that this experience will stretch her in positive ways, but we are not sleeping well here. It is difficult knowing that she is not happy.
And those four texts. I know I have been immersed in the Psalms (cannot visit monasteries and follow their rhythms without brushing up against the Psalms in a blunt-force trauma kind of manner) and so this connection was immediate last Saturday morning when I read her texts with dawning horror at the realization that I had let her down in what for her was an hour of deep need:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
— Psalm 22.1-2, 14-19 NRSV
Not that I am God, nor is she in such desperate straits as this psalmist appears to be, but oy. I see why the monks love the Psalms. For the most part they are humankind talking to God, free to express all manner of human emotion, and the whole range of that emotion is in them somewhere. It has all been felt and said before. And life goes on. As Kate herself said via text that Saturday morning when she decided to stay for the duration after all: