Hold your breath.

Take heart. 

Allow yourself to feel it. It will break you, but it will not destroy you. 

I broke at the bridge, as I was driving to a physical therapy appointment and saw the visual of the smoke over the river, the birds quiet, the ducks sitting on the same dock we had jumped from just a week before. 

Life is vulnerable and delicate. All of life. And the beauty remains through the darkness, but the truth blazes in a different way. How often our lenses are clouded by the clear skies and what can take place in comfort–which is a neglect of gratitude and tenderness and active, compassionate care of all that is precious. 

I just watched My Octopus Teacher, a documentary about a man who became more alive and more connected through the literal and symbolic dive into the depths of the ocean and his self–the earth, the world that is always there and here and yet is not often truly seen or experienced. If you haven’t watched it, go do that now. 

There was a photographer down below. I saw no one else nearby and heard just a faint whisper from the river that all is not well. There was silence between this other human and myself. Both of us taking pictures, trying to capture what cannot be truly captured. And certainly not with words. Only with emotions and connection really, but we directly expressed nothing. We didn’t need to. 

To be empathic means to allow the power of love to truly devastate you. Because love will again, break you. To feel what is true and real and meaningful all around us. To know that control is what you must relinquish. It will hurt. It will rip open the armor you have tried very hard to tightly wrap around your inner most depths so that you can endure the suffering. But to turn off any part of your self is also suffering. Numbness, morphine–it’s a slow death.

Smoky air fills up the breath of life. Graffiti all along the rails and posts and overpasses. It reminds us that there is much to say and much to feel and that at times, it is displayed in our faces because nothing else can be. The colors, the letters–‘I will not be silent but I will also not be fully known.’ 

As fires burn up the beautiful west coast, it is yet one more reminder that we as humans do not have full control. And also that we must rely on something else deeper and more powerful. I have unfortunately become numb to some of my own pain. And when it erupted this morning, I did not have any more answers. I still felt the chaos of not knowing what to do, how to start, where to go, and if I should put my mask on. 

But I felt the fullness of what life is. Fragile and heartbreakingly beautiful and good, except for all those parts when it is not. We have to somehow walk outside barefoot and willing and open, knowing simultaneously that we cannot save everything and that we also must relentlessly try. However, we cannot do it without our full selves. We must act, but we cannot truly know how or when or why without the guidance of that emotional, empathic, connected self that must not be neglected nor shutoff nor purely irritated. We all bleed the same. And everybody loves ice cream. Don’t you forget your humanity. Sometimes all it takes is to help a hurting animal or hug someone who is scared like you to remember who you are. Do that. Don’t let your ego tell you that you cannot do anything because there is too much to do. There’s something for each of us to do, and something for all of us to do together. Start now. 

The common octopus often only lives for one year. Then the process of creating hundreds of thousands of eggs that will develop into only 1-5 living babies deteriorates her body until she passes. But she fully lives that one year and it is remarkable to think about how we can do the same with whatever time we have.