Letters from Oahu, Hawaii |Part I

February 28, 2017

The Ocean and Ourselves

As I write this I’m sitting on the sharp rocky edges of an island, a six-hour plane-ride away from the closest continent. It’s the furthest away I’ve ever been from mainland, but I feel free, not isolated. Or perhaps it’s because I have only been here a few days. (Oh, the magic of novelty.)

The ocean is royalty here. The waves move in and out, methodical and hypnotic, an expression of peace and power. The ceaseless whooshing a lullaby, an orchestra, a narrative that tells the story of existence, if only we could comprehend its language. We try; we listen. It fills our senses—I am like a sea shell. Clouds kiss the horizon, reflections on the water.

The water—so much water. We were whale watching earlier, from the shore. From where we stand their tails are tiny. If we’re lucky, we see the subtle movements in the waves, the way the puffs of water spray upwards from their breaths, a reminder that we’re not so unlike them. Water and air is life for us both.

The ocean is a reminder of the breath in your heart. As the civilizations of modern man churn on, the ocean rolls on; it just is. A treasure of a billion secrets, so trust-worthy. Nothing humbles me like the ocean. Perhaps we are each one of us a teardrop of the ocean. Our veins are mini-streams and currents—trapped. And so we yearn for greatness, for the grandiose body of which we were once a part; we are constantly drawn to that which we can never hold in the small palms of our hands. The great tragedy of our yearning.

I will miss this sound. I know I will come back to it in daydreams. The breathing of the waves, like a thousand distant showers, endless exhales; they vibrate in my soul, clear out all the useless noise, wipe clean my mind’s pathways.

I think we are drawn to the ocean because we are made of water. How simple a conclusion! Seventy percent of our body is water and 100 percent of our life is dependent on water. And so we see the ocean as an extension of ourselves. Of the power we hope to someday achieve. (We have yet to conquer the ocean, and ourselves.)

When we see the ocean we recognize something in ourselves in all of creation—an alignment suddenly clicks. The answers we seek lie somewhere in the depths, we can feel them. (Are they destined to remain unknown?)

Somehow knowing they are merely there brings us peace, even if we cannot touch them, and so we watch, we listen, from the safety of the shore, from the semi-safety of our boats. We bob on the surface of life’s great mysteries and inhale the grains of salt and wind; oh majestic fear of the unknown; we wrestle with wanting to jump in, and not wanting to disturb the beast.


Lies are Exhausting


“Lies are exhausting,” said the heart.

“But some things mustn’t be said,” said the brain. “Sometimes the truth does more harm than good. What’s more important to you? Truth or peace?”

“Can’t the two co-exist? Doesn’t truth seek justice?”

“The truth seeks nothing but itself,” said the brain. “The truth is selfish, if you ask me. It wants the spotlight. It wants to be heard. And it has a right to be, but in reality, whether or not the truth is uttered, the truth still is, regardless.”

“But the truth must be sought, must be proven, must be shared, must be lived,” said the heart. “It mustn’t be suppressed.”

“The truth is never suppressed,” said the brain. “The truth just is. People choose their own truths and choose their own lies. People are free to choose. And each choice comes with sacrifice. That’s when one must prioritize.”

“But lies are exhausting,” said the heart. “And you yourself can’t even keep up. Each time a lie is uttered, another must be made to cover it up. Must we lie? Doesn’t the truth set you free?”

“The truth only unburdens the liar,” said the brain. “It’s impossible to appease everyone. The truth is uncomfortable and it stings. Once uttered, it merely becomes a burden to someone else.”

“But the truth is not a burden! Lies are the burden! Lies wrap me in shadows,” said the heart. “Lies choke my breath. Lies are exhausting. Lies make a fool of everyone. The truth is the truth—it simply is, as you said—and so it must be. It’s a lesson for the ears that don’t want to hear it. The truth is inevitable. It doesn’t go away.”

“The truth!” said the brain. “Don’t you see it’s all relative? One person’s truth is another person’s lie! What is the truth if everyone chooses to believe what they will, to see what they want to see?”

“Even so,” said the heart. “Lies are exhausting. They bring me no joy.”

Finding a Place for the Past


“The past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past…. That is why we dwell on the past, I think.” Virginia Woolf

One of the things I admire and love so much about animals, and dogs in particular, is their ability to live truly and fully in the present. They have memories, I’m sure, but they don’t agonize over them the way we human beings tend to do. Our minds and emotions are so complex, it’s difficult to center ourselves and live in the place that is now – which, really, is the only place we truly exist.

There was a time that I gave the past more time of mind than a healthy person should. I would relive moments that I wished hadn’t happened. I would over-analyze decisions I’d made, wonder where I would be if I’d made them differently. I would lose sleep over people who had gone from my life, and be completely fixated on the feeling that time was constantly fleeing from me.

I was not living my life. I was sleepless, frozen – debilitated by memories. I was unable to move on because I was unable to recognize (let alone appreciate) the joy and opportunity of the present, of each day being a new canvas on which I could continue painting the story of my life. I was fixated on the past because I somehow thought that my story had ended with certain memories, that nothing could ever be new again – that I could never be new again.

But what I didn’t realize is… I become new every day.

That is why people are so overtaken by sunsets and sunrises, I believe. We never tire from their beauty, and in that way, they signify hope. They signify that we can always find beauty in the ending of one day and the beginning of another. No matter where we are in our lives, no matter what has happened in our pasts, there is always beauty. If we would only dust the past from our eyes so we can see.

My life is not a series of moments being cast into the wind. My life is the present moment where I am breathing. Each moment and each day is a stroke of paint I add to the canvas that is my life. It is my choice: I can either abandon the brush and dwell over the strokes on my canvas that I wish weren’t there, or I can pick up my brush and paint over those strokes, make them beautiful, make them new.

Memories are beautiful. They are jewels we carry with us as we travel through the years. They are gifts, precious souvenirs. They are not meant to be burdensome. Yes, some memories are painful. There’s no denying that, and sometimes there’s no escaping that either. But it’s what we do with that pain that will shape the rest of our lives. Pain is but another color of paint for our canvas. In pain we can find power to renew ourselves, we can find meaning and lessons and inspiration. We can even find our true purpose.

And so I have learned to embrace the past. It is my story, but not my complete story. The past does not live in a shadowy, mystical place beyond the stars; it is not an irretrievable realm. It is not something my heart should ache for because… the past lives in me. I own it. It does not own me. And I will always be growing more and more beautiful because of it.