Three Things to Remember When it Feels Like You’re Drowning in Life

Sometimes life just feels relentless. It feels like an endless sea of suffering, and you fight and fight the current to no avail. Maybe you finally learn to relax and surrender to the flow. Maybe you break the surface. Maybe you think the worst is over, just for a clean-up set to wash through and knock you flat again. 

You feel like the lessons have been learned, like you’ve squeezed the lemons and made the lemonade. You don’t understand. Why now? Why more?

First – whether you believe there is a why or not, you don’t need to figure it all out now. You may look back and realize how you’ve grown or how it served you, or the knowing may never reveal itself. Right now, it is okay if it just sucks. Let yourself acknowledge that it is hard. Don’t diminish it or make excuses for yourself. 

“Many parallels can be drawn between our existence and the sea.”

"Many parallels can be drawn between our existence and the sea."
A surfer walks along the rocky shoreline of Northern California, silhouetted by the setting sun.

Then – think of the ocean. We describe ourselves as feeling like we’re drowning for a reason. Metaphors run deep with the ocean because we are so connected to it as humans. Many parallels can be drawn between our existence and the sea. 

Waves are formed from wind in far off places. The energy of that wind builds into swell as it crosses whole oceans, the memory of a breeze crashing on our shores. Waves come in sets. Sometimes there is a lull between sets. Sometimes the period is long and we have ample time to catch our breath between waves. Sometimes there is chop and we can’t catch a break. Sometimes we know what weather system brings the biggest waves, and sometimes the cause and direction remain a mystery. We’re all just trying to keep our heads above water. 

We all have different breaking points. We have different beaches and sandbars and reefs and rocks that change how waves affect each one of us. Our different circumstances determine how hollow the waves are that hit us, how dangerous they are, and how much havoc they can wreak.  

"We're all just trying to keep our heads above water."
Surfers sit in the Pacific Ocean as golden light hits the rocks behind them and a wave crashes unridden.

“We’re all just trying to keep our heads above water.”

Luckily, no matter how waves hit us, there are things we can all do.


We can learn how to surf. It takes time, and blood, and sweat, and tears, but we can learn how to ride the waves of our minds. We will fall and there will still be times when we feel like we are drowning. But we can lessen the impact of waves with healthy coping strategies, therapy, meditation and more. 


When a big set washes through and we get pushed under the surface, we can remember to stay calm. When a surfer gets held under, staying calm and relaxed is the most important thing they can do. In a literal sense, it conserves oxygen, and allows your buoyancy to bring you back up to the surface. It works similarly in the metaphorical. Stay calm, breathe deeply, and the wave will pass. Trust that you will be okay. Trust that you will survive it.


Never give up and never lose hope. No matter how long you’ve been battling storms, you never know what is on the horizon. The ocean is ever-changing. Dozens of conditions are always in flux. And all it takes is a tiny shift of the wind, a few degrees, thousands of miles away, to change everything. A new ripple, compounded energy traveling across the expanse, gaining momentum to create new swell headed elsewhere, bringing you crystal clear waters and a lull to float on your back, sun on your face, smile, and take a deep, ease-full breath.

“All it takes is a tiny shift of the wind… thousands of miles away…”

"All it takes is a tiny shift of the wind... thousands of miles away..."
A crayon drawing of a naked woman lying on her back, floating in ripples of water, golden hair suspended around her head.

Who I am

Wind-blown mane and salt-kissed lips

Spontaneous. Capable. Fierce.


yet ablaze;

Coconut wax and clinking halyards,

Old soul

young spirit;

Pulse beats strong with the waves

breath with the swell

in flux with the tides

under the changing moon.

Red-tipped nose and pink-nipped cheeks

Branches weighed by perfect white.

Present. Adventurous. Self-aware.

A peak in the clouds

the whole world below,

one small piece

a planetary puzzle.

Fresh flakes turn liquid as lashes brush skin;

Clouds billow forth

from whispered words

in the early dawn light.

A little lost, a little found

not always right but always true.

Laugh easy

feel hard;

Bare. Naked. Alone.

Fiery. Alive. Together.

Wholly imperfect, imperfectly whole

Emerging from the heart




Dear Starry Night,

The patron saints of the wayward traveler looked to you to guide their way, ancestors of a culture steeped in respect for you. You lit their path through the inky night. 

You are the original roadmap. Connecting the dots, a finger traces a path through your abyss. 

You are a blanket that expands me rather than constricts me. Beneath your cool breeze I am infinitely small, and yet I am the whole universe. My worries subside under your ancient eye. 

Careful, you warn. Even we do not last forever. 

And when you do burn out, your light remains. You leave the kind of mark I dream of — stoking souls long, long after you are gone. You show me that even the strongest, most concrete fixtures of life are impermanent. You show me that while I am forever small, I am never alone. 

Photograph of the big dipper: "You are the original roadmap."

“You are the original roadmap.”

You are the wisest of them all. You listen to my silent fears and aspirations as I lay below you on the cold, damp earth, grass tickling at the tips of my ears. You are imprinted as a patchwork into some of my most cherished memories. 

And when I am apart, I look up at you, letting your cool light bathe my face and I know that no matter how far, this same light touches the faces of those that I hold dear. 

You are not warm and coddling, but rather incite the strength and passion within us to light up our own darkness, to fight our own battles. You do not champion us, but you quietly believe in us.

“You incite the strength and passion within us to light up our own darkness.”

Photograph of the starry night sky: (You incite the strength and passion within us to light up our own darkness."

A sisterhood of strength, bright enough to light up the darkest of nights, you ease the fear of all. Some connected, some apart, you shine your brightest for all, never discriminating. And even when we cannot see you, when you are hidden and we feel alone, you shine still, promising us that we will see the light once more. 

That is strength. To stand beside one another, solid and proud, and shine your light no matter who sees. You guide my way through the darkness. You show me how to find my own way through the darkness. And when I lose my way, all I need do is look up, and you are there to remind me that I too am made of stardust.

Pencil drawing of a woman's face, hair wild with constellations on her skin: "I too am made of stardust."

“I too am made of stardust.”



Out There

I climb 

Each step higher a step wiser

Golden hills glint flaxen 

A wispy hand in the clouds reaches down

to brush the cheek of a proud green peak

My path is carved by trunks

solid and peaceful

old souls cocooned in bark  

Wind roars 

like the fire in my soul

flames fed by an untouched world

Out there I am infinitely small.

I frolick

Rainbow droplet spray off my worn rubber boots

I turn wild with the flowers grown thick wherever they wish to take root

Movements light 

Smile easy 

A turn onto a dirt road

Gravel scatters in the wake of adventure 

Spontaneity a loved one 

as the future unfurls it’s wings and takes flight before me 

Out there joy seeks me out. 

I fly

Twin arcs slice

angles calculated

hip reaching to kiss the snow 

Load and release 

a zing forward

a burst of speed

pure unbridled adrenaline flows 

Board slices through water

cutting sharp lines 

A shadow

one with nature

flirts with the depths  

A whole world watching from below 

Controlled breath

racing heart 

a craving to find more

dig deeper 

push harder 



Innovation the new game 

Out there I strive for my best. 

I amble 

Journey eclipses destination

Each moment unique


worthy of attention

A keen eye catches details 

an open heart captures them

A search with no goal

A path with no end 

An idea with no expectations 

Relishing time that cannot be re-spent



Out there I simply exist.

I laugh

Each second a gift 

I choose to elevate

not deteriorate 

A twinkle of the eye

more brilliant than the sun itself 

A crinkle of authenticity pulls reciprocation from strangers 

A beam of light 


heals the world one smiling face at a time 

Out there I am free.

I rest

Laying under the stars 

Mother Earth runs her fingers through my hair 

The sky winks

painting a picture of the millennia 

A story playing out before my eyes 

close enough to touch

yet infinitely far away 

A snapshot in time 

Pulse slows  

Out there I am at peace.

I dream

Smile playing on lips

as I imagine

infinite possibilities

wide open for those who chose 

Chose to defy

Chose to let go

Chose to be brave 



Forever searching for the next adventure 

Ambition revving

like the engine of an old truck

Heart racing at the mere thought 

of adventuring once more

Out there is where you will find me.

The Art of Journaling to Change Perspective

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.”

~ Camille Pissarro

Every single day, millions of incredible things happen. Whether or not they happen to you, the world is filled with little miracles and beautiful moments that occur each second.

However, we often find ourselves so wrapped up in our lives and our worries that we neglect to see these things. It takes an awareness of the surrounding world to tune outside yourself and really see all that there is.

The sun sets perfectly between two rocks over the Pacific Ocean.
The sun sets perfectly between two rocks over the Pacific Ocean.

“The world is filled with little miracles and beautiful moments that happen each second.”

While at first it may be difficult, with time this practice will flow more and more easily. But even when we do notice these moments for a smile, it can be hard to remember them. The more we practice, the easier it comes. Writing down what we see not only tracks our progress, but helps us remember little beautiful memories over the days and years.

Inspired in part by the movie “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” I decided to track all of the tiny perfect things each day that I bear witness to. Each moment I see that brings me or someone else even the smallest spark of joy, I document it. Every pure, honest, beautiful, true moment that I witness, I flag it in my memory, and write it down before bed.

What began with a single journal, a fresh page, and three perfect things has become so much more. Slowly, I noticed that my little notebook page seemed to grow smaller and smaller as my list grew longer and longer. Not only was it becoming easier to recall perfect things throughout my day, but I was able to recall them so much more descriptively.

“What began with a single journal, a fresh page, and three perfect things has become so much more.”

Journaling about moments of beauty in daily life.
My first ever journal entry on Saturday, March 6th, 2021.

I try to recall not only the moment in its visual depiction, but also the feelings it evoked or the way it touched me. When I read what I wrote, I want it to make me feel the same way it did in the moment it occurred.

It is incredible the power that this exercise has had on my life. Even on the worst of days, I can often find at least three beautiful moments, even if none of them happened to me. It is the most reflective and invaluable way to end my night and completely change my perspective on a seemingly awful day.

It is no exaggeration to say that this practice has changed my outlook on life. When you begin to notice these beautiful moments, it seems as if they are drawn to you. I believe that they were always there, but merely veiled to most who do not pay attention.

Now that these instances are unveiled to me, I am able to draw on little moments of joy throughout my day. When I feel my worst, I can find moments of happiness wherever I look. I am able to live more in the present and notice my surrounding. I actively search out the beauty in life. I see beauty in others hearts and in nature and in the mundane tasks of day-to-day life. It is far easier said than done, but each day I grow better.

Someone writes "love" out of grass on a sand dune by the ocean.
Someone writes “love” out of grass on a sand dune by the ocean.

“I actively search out the beauty in life.”

If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be this: just begin. We are all guilty of wanting things for ourselves but never committing, telling ourselves that we will just begin tomorrow. The only reason I am able to see all of the beauty in life is because, one day, I decided to change. I chose to begin. I resolved to open up a new journal to a new page and put pen to paper. And I do not regret it.

“The only reason I am able to see all of the beauty in life is because, one day, I decided to change.”

Journaling about moments of beauty in daily life.
A recent entry from Tuesday, January 11th, 2022.

If you are unhappy with your life, it is within your power to change it. Your mindset it everything. And while it takes time and discipline to change your mind, it can be a relatively simple process. All you have to do is begin.

Drifting Diagnosis-less

“To heal is to touch with love that which we previously touched with fear.”

~ Stephen Levine

We, as humans, like things that have names. We do not like the indescribable. Things that have names have a nice little box that fits in its nice little slot in the universe. With undiagnosed chronic illness, I am free floating in space with no niche for me to cozy into. Living a life without a diagnosis is living a life untethered. 

The thing about our medical system is that they won’t treat what they can not name. No matter the debilitating symptoms that hold you back from living your life, without a name, you are adrift, alone in the fight. 

The needle has become a familiar friend as doctors run test after test until there aren’t any more and they circle back to the basics. I find myself hoping that my numbers will leap out of the normal range, alerting my doctors that no, this is not in my head. As my blood sugar crashes and my heart rate spikes I demand through a haze of pain,  No. There is something wrong. You just don’t know what. 

Shaded pencil drawing of a hand reaching out towards a frayed rope symbolizing when you are past the end of your rope and you are reaching for something to tether you.

“Living a life without a diagnosis is living a life untethered.”

There is no test to measure the shards of glass beneath my feet that everyone else seems to dodge, no test to determine the level of fatigue in my muscles that tire so much faster than they once did, no test to quantify the debilitating exhaustion that binds me to my bed. I know how I feel. But no doctor, no matter how qualified or compassionate, can feel what I feel. 

And so I drift. I find myself suspended in an in-between space. The space between the sick and the actively recovering. I wait for a wave of relief when someone finally gives me a name. That name holds so much power. I wait for the relief because with that name, there is a plan. A plan of how to move forward, how to anchor myself back down to the land of the truly living. 

But while a diagnosis will show me the path to physical wellness, I have spent enough time in the in-between space to know that I can begin to reclaim my power without a name. There are other avenues of wellness. I can listen to my body, and not push farther than it allows. And while I may not be able to heal my body, I can heal my brain. I can take care of my mental health, and send my body love. Through mindfulness, I can get rid of the thoughts that do not serve me, and learn to find joy. This, in itself, is healing. 

“This, in itself, is healing.”

Photograph of a silhouetted girl jumping for joy in the Pacific Ocean with the sun setting behind her.

Sure, I don’t have a diagnosis, and maybe that means I don’t get the medical attention I need just yet, but I am still growing. I may be adrift, but I am collecting pieces of driftwood, and soon I may just have a raft.