We took my two sons to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware this summer, their first trip to the ocean. Midwestern natives, the boys and I grew-up on Lake Michigan’s shores, comfortably viewing the Great Lake’s waters as far as the eyes could see. But the saltiness, the beachiness, the waviness of the Atlantic all presented new experiences for my young clan. The night of our arrival, we walked to the ocean’s edge together and watched as the boys splashed just shy of the breaking waves. They giggled and raced in mock terror from the rushing waters, turning to challenge the waves as they departed back to the sea.

The children woke my husband and I just after dawn the next morning, begging to scavenge the sands for crabs and jellyfish. Groggily, we obliged. As morning turned to afternoon and their adventures brought them further into the crashing waters, all of us Midwesterners met with the power of the ocean.

I held Xander’s hand (my youngest) at the point where the water reached his armpits, which happened to be the waves’ breaking and most explosive edge. Helping him jump the waters, we laughed together as they crashed ashore and we floated like buoys on their crests. And then I saw the “rogue”, moving swiftly towards the two of us.

I scooped-up Xander and tried to run with him onto the beach, but mine was no match for the ocean’s speed. I screamed at him to hold his breath; I knew that we were overpowered. The wave crashed over us, and I lost him. My baby. I felt myself slam against the rocky bottom, sharp and jagged edges cutting my backside. Kicking and splashing, I shot to the surface and cried for Xander, but another wave knocked me under. I regained my footing and staggered about, desperately searching for my child. I heard him before I saw him, crying hysterically and panicked. When I reached my first-grader, he sobbed and clung to my neck in a steel embrace.

Later as we snuggled together on our beach blankets, I watched my eight-year-old (Josh) take his boogie board out. He smiled, waving to Xander and me, floating on his belly while riding in toward the shore. Like a bad déjà vue, I rose and screamed at him. He turned and saw the water about to overtake him, terror in his eyes as he struggled to get on his feet and run in to us. But the wave came swiftly from behind. When he surfaced, blood poured from his chin and tears streamed down his cheeks. I raced across the sand as another wave pummeled him to the rocky surface below. Collecting him in my arms, the three of us retreated to our beach house for the remainder of the afternoon.

The next day, my older and wiser brother-in-law sidled-up next to me as I stood at the ocean’s edge, my young ones playing safely in the sand behind us. “Watch how these other kids handle the waves,” he said. “They’ve spent every summer here at the ocean since they could walk, and they know that when the wave is too big, they have to dive straight into it to get through.” I observed as young ones tucked their chins and plunged, headlong into the crashing waters. “It’s counterintuitive,” he continued. “You’d think that you have to run away from it, but sometime they only way through is to go right into the chaos.”

We, in our virgin reactions to the larger waves one day prior, had of course retreated fearfully towards the beach. His suggestion to plunge headfirst into the depths of the ravaging waters flew in the face of reason, yet I watched as children up and down the beach did just that…and then they popped gleefully to the surface, posterior to the wave’s hand.

Since our return from Rehoboth, I’ve retold this story many times because it seems such a significant life lesson: You’ll hurt more if you run in fear, than if you dive-on through to the other side. How often have I retreated, altered my course, gripped-firmly to the place in which I stood because of fear? Whether in my personal engagements or professional activities, I often resist at that place of breaking waves. Like my boys at the ocean, I feel too frightened to plunge forward, and so I battle the waves crashing against me until I am broken and bruised and unsure which way is up.

As Halloween draws near, fear seems a relevant blog topic. Fear chases many of us back toward our own private“beaches”: fear of fragility, fear of failure, fear of what others might think, and fear of success. Feel the fear…then let it go. Jump in and do it—whatever it is. If our instincts and path have led us there, it’s where we need to be. I am grateful for this community in which we can jump through the waves together, help one another up when knocked down, and occasionally sit on the shore together and simply soak-up the sun…

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again; you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jessica Feltz
Author: Jessica Feltz

<p> I learned about Community Acupuncture while studying at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine (MCOM) in the Spring of 2006 when Lisa Rohleder's first article about her clinic appeared in Acupuncture Today. Coming from a middle-class background myself, I was the only student in my acupuncture class to have not experienced the healing benefits of this medicine prior to beginning studies at MCOM. I couldn't afford it. And my family couldn't understand what I was doing by investing in an education that they didn't perceive to be financially sustainable. </p> <p> The Community Acupuncture model is a perfect fit for me, balancing social justice and taoist simplicity with the patient's innate ability to heal him/herself (with a few gentle nudges from strategically placed needles). I am grateful every day to have found CAN and the love it brings into my life. I want to share that joy by spreading the message about how we can create a new health care experience in our communities through each of our very small efforts...and how those very small efforts can in turn change the world. </p> I enjoy my two sons, my 4 cats, and big stacks of books.  I own and operate...

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  1. beautifully put


    thank you for these sentiments which have been my mantra for few years now-ever since my life as I thought it was going to be changed irrevocably. Sometimes I remember them, and sometimes I still fight the waves.

    Your writing is beautiful as well as the message

    thank you again

  2. great image

    Thanks Jessica for the reminder to face what scares us, and merge with it!  I just started studying Aikido before I moved (must get back to it soon) and it was really helping me–the non-physically-adventurous bookworm–really get the wisdom of that, at a body level, bypassing the intellectual part.  

    As a side note, just the other day I was trying to describe the physical feeling that acupuncture induces (in me, anyway) and I realized that perhaps the closest thing is being at a beach, on my back, being covered with sand (not my head, of course). I know other people get more “floaty,” like they’re in water, so there are two nice beachy images I think.

  3. Excellent

    and true!  I love it, very well put Jessica.  I made me think about opening this clinic.  I was scared and put it off for a long time.  I then just dived into the chaos of getting it open.  And now things are starting to look real good, and the clinic is running really well.



  4. salt water taffy…

    Hey Jessica,

    Perhaps you’re really meant to return to the beautiful, safe shores of Lake Michigan! 🙂  We miss you!

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder of our mortality, fear and the fantastic rush of life flooding through our every cell as we plunge head on into those sweet, salty waves. Ah, just like soca music, you took me back to my island. Perhaps it’s time to open a CA clinic in Trinidad and Tobago – beachside.


  5. Moving Past Fear To Being

    Thanks Jessica for your blog.
    As part of my entrance requirement which lead to my being accepted at OCOM, I got to write an essay. As I reflect back on my essay, it was laden with political commentary, as to making oriental medicine/alternative medicine more affordable and being plugged in politically. Well, I been out of college for some years now and was too afraid to practice for so many imaginary reasons, so I started and stop practicing acupuncture.
    Moving right along, from the beginning I thought about group acupuncture (having seen models a PAAC in Portland, OR). Well, I renewed my license and been blessed to have one day rental of a clinic space that is big enough for me to do just that. What I did was just hold in mind what I desired, and I was amazed how out of no way a way manisfest. In a few short months I met someone who employed me doing acudetox in the prison, having my Saturday clinic going (still looking for patients, but it’s happening), been teaching Qigong for several years now at the local community college.
    When you move past the fear, to just allowing and doing all that necessary to make your desires manisfest the universe does corrospond to “the nature of your song.” I have discovered more and more each day it works if you work it. I am so pleased a friend told me about this site and that I decided I get to walk through those false perception of lack, limitation and fear. I…We are so blessed.