the Responsibility of the Empath

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the Responsibility of the Empath


I am in Hawaii. It’s the first week of January, and back in DC there is something called a “bomb cyclone” impending. The temperature is in the single digits there.

And….Hawaii is glorious of course. All the more glorious in that five years ago I was too ill to take trips like this. Which didn’t stop me from trying…but I was in abject misery at every given moment and trying desperately not to be. It was excruciating both physically and emotionally.

But now I am in twelve step recovery. For me it works, like nothing else I tried ever could. Now I have the tools to navigate life’s bumps, and it’s a different world. I have freedom like I have never had before. I’ve regained my sanity. I feel guided, supported.

The most seductive aspect of travel (I think) is that all the new stimuli jostles loose your thought patterns. A stream of memories I had forgetten – and new associations put together from them -flicker through my mind like ticker-tape. Many humbling, but the safety of hindsight allows me to see them with new eyes.

To my core I am an explorer. Every dark corner I must investigate, every diversion off the beaten path I must take. The thrill in this is the intuitive guidance I receive when I head off into the unknown, and this intuition is the foundation of my recovery. Just around each corner that I am urged is some new wonder I couldn’t have anticipated.

Example: I like to go for long walks on the beach. Long, tranced-out, silent, solitary walks. I sit and watch people. I buy food from locals. I climb over fences. I listen to music. I stare at the sun on the sea until I go blind. I talk to children. I stretch and I sit and I notice and I appreciate. I try to quietly leave a trail of tiny positive actions behind me, but only that. I connect.

So I go for a long walk. To walk in Hawaii means you climb volcanic rocks on the shore line for ages. It’s not easy…but I am nimble. I press forward, always.

And I find a giant sea turtle napping on the beach. I am flabbergasted. I break every rule out of ignorance. I get super close, pet its fin. They are incredible creatures to see, prehistoric…black eyes as big as my fists, lazily blinking at you. Water flushes out of their noses and eyes occasionally…“turtle tears” they are called.

The next day I walk further. It’s not easy but I have set a goal, to get to the furthest point I can see from where I am staying. And I am rewarded for this. It’s moments like these that let me know my intuition is the Universe speaking through me, and it wants the best for me.

I stumble upon a small cove of twenty sleeping sea turtles. It is mind blowing, all these big docile animals napping on each other. Each of their faces different. I am mesmerized.

And then I walk further on…and find a stranded turtle. He is on a dry rock, stuck. The rocks behind him are jagged. He must have floated in and then the tide went out..and now he is locked in, unable to move.

I climb down to him, talk to him. As I do many people pass by…local services were called days ago but nothing is happening. He has been there for two days I am told by a passerby. Stranded. In pain. Dying. Alone. Exactly as I was, for about fifteen years. I feel like I can read his mind, the situation is so similar in a sense. How did I get here? How long will this pain last? Can no one help me? How long will dying take? I imagine his pain, his confusion…I have felt this way myself, so many times. He is suffering. If he is to die I need him to know someone cared, that some kind of kindness was given him. That the world is actually good. That he is not alone. That we truly did all we could.

I travel back down the beach to fetch him water. When I return I am overjoyed to see a ten year old boy has mercifully placed a small pail of water underneath his mouth. We take turns filling the bucket, and wetting him down. He drinks a bit, weakly. But he does it and perks up a bit. It’s so sweet to see him swallow, to trust us.

When I am alone with the turtle I talk to him in soothing tones and pet his fin. I hope the vibration of my voice at least relays that I mean well. He lifts his head and looks at me. We make eye contact.

“We are a team” I tell the kid when he returns. “You water him now, and I will come back tomorrow and do it again.” I tell him “You were very smart and brave to put the bucket underneath his mouth. Thank you for doing that. Our responsibility is to do all that we can, and the rest we must let go. But if you can do something you should. That is our repsonsibility.” And we high-five, we are turtle saving team. When I leave he is diligently at his station, wetting the turtle. I love this kid, I am so proud of him for going the extra mile here…when every adult who has passed by expresses concern and leaves it at that. “Rest assured I won’t let this go” I tell the boy before I leave. “I am going to do everything I can to help. But if it doesnt work please just know we tried our best.”

On my way back I tell every local I can find. A man I met who runs a local tour company, the kid who runs the surfshop, a posse of preteen boys vaping. “Tell everyone you know who might help” I ask them. “Go get your older brothers”.

That night I think about the turtle. In the dark, alone. Just himself and his maker, the stars and the sea. Is he afraid I wonder. I was, for him.

And the next morning I am fully expecting to see dead turtle…but he is gone. I am quite sure someone came early in the morning and lifted him out…or the tide must have finally come in enough he could muster enough energy to climb out. And I am so grateful that he is free and will live to swim in the sea again.…even if he were to die tomorrow I’d feel satisfied. Just like me…we have lived to tell the tale.

And I think about the little boy…and whomever lifted the turtle out (if indeed that is what happened)…and the turtle himself. It just makes me so happy to know we are not alone. We are never alone…listen for the Universe to tell you what you need to do. It speaks in the form of intuition…like ”bring the turtle water”. But then it is up to you to listen to it, and do what it says. Beyond that you have no control, and you must rest assured the Universe has it’s logic.

No one will ever love you more than this force, this voice, this energy…all good things come from it. Recognise and appreciate it. And when you are given moments like this…that affirm “I am human, I don’t know what’s around the bend but I know I will be good” give thanks. You are alive.