How do you feel?

I shall close my eyes and listen deeply to the ocean as it fills me

How do you feel?

I cup my hands around the shell

Hear the vibration of the tide as it swells

And rolls

How do you feel?

And it tells me

I don’t know

I have forgotten how to feel

Honestly, deeply


I can tell you how you feel

Or how someone else feels

I can interpret

And assume

And cogitate on the mannerisms of half the room which had brought me to this understanding

Of how everyone feels

But I cannot tell you how I feel

Because I forgot how to notice

I don’t know my own tune

I cup the shell to my ear

Close my eyes

But how do I feel?

*Empathy is not a useful feeling when it is overused. Some of us overthink everyone around us and fall (quite accidentally) into worrying more about them and “out there” rather then minding our own business and considering our own highest good.

What is my own highest good? And why does it make me feel vaguely selfish to think that sentence?

“Not my circus, not my monkeys” I have said in the past, all the while patting the heads of the little furry critters as they leap my boundary fence, soon I’m leaving out feed bowls and encouraging them.

Which makes me feel ridiculous when I finally realise what I’ve been doing….again.

Surely it is weak to have such a flimsy boundary fence.

Caring too much? Not caring enough? Selfish or over extended? Often there is no happy medium – I am either burnt out and aloof, or over extended and concerned with other people.

It was a stunning evening yesterday to arrive on the coast. I sighed with relief and opened all the windows.

No monkeys here.

When I breathe I can feel my lungs again. I fill them full of salty ocean air as I wander down the boardwalk. A stranger amongst thousands of other week-end visitors.

It’s nice to be invisible, transient, as important to the scenery as a leaf fallen from a tree. In my head and at first almost unaware of it, I begin to write instead of to think. The words bubble up from the deepest well. I do not think them. They don’t come from my brain, they are from somewhere else and my connection to that “elsewhere” is restored.

I listen when I write. Which might sound strange to someone that thinks that writing is talking and reading is listening.

It can be of course, but when I’m journaling, I’m listening to myself. I’m reading my thoughts. The thoughts are talking and I’m writing them down and reading them. It’s a simultaneous process, it’s what makes journaling so beneficial for hearing the things we are telling ourselves as we think them, and also for tapping into that innate wisdom and intuition which everyone has access to.

If we only listen

And how we listen is important. I had been typing in my notes on my phone the last couple of months rather than beginning a new journal.

But to truly listen we have to write – not type, or I do anyway. And I am doing that again. Bliss. I had no idea how much I missed it or what a difference it makes.

Crafting the shape of the letters, the forward slant of the pen, the curling and flattening and lifting and dropping of those letters onto the page – there is medicine in that process. Some alchemy occurs which does not otherwise form in the more mechanical rapid tap of keyboard.

It is the difference between someone speaking very fast and loud, and a conversation enjoyed quietly, whilst deeply connected.

If I could write my blog posts by hand and then send the bits of paper in a bottle to my readers I would. But for now at least I can listen and then transcribe aspects of that conversation later. Besides, the ocean has enough rubbish in it already.

This year I have been a piece of string that is cut and cut and cut. The me that began is not the me who will see it through to the end, and I can feel another pair of scissors descending as I write. I cannot tie the pieces back together and I wouldn’t want to. I’ve got gigantic holes in my song line, this blog, and if it were a true map of my passing then it would be full of double backs and gaps and strange long blank spots.

Which it sort of is. But I will remedy that once I catch up with myself and become more consistent again.

Seismic shifts have occurred this year internally. More so than any other year I can recall. Trying to catch myself is like trying to catch a moving car – I just get a hand on the door frame and it accelerates out of sight.

I’ve been partially deaf since September with a clogged left ear. I’ve had sinus issues and suffered with the worst head cold, it went to my chest and left me coughing and hacking. I rarely get sick so it’s been odd and annoying. Two months of being clogged up emotionally, mentally, physically.

Sorry I’m whinging a bit and I will continue because I am actually going somewhere with this

Worst of all my symptoms, was the weird death in my ear canal. I could hear externally but everything inside the ear felt blocked and noisy. Inescapable. I guess it’s like tinnitus of sorts. But no ringing, just the sound of a thick drowned corpse sloshing about and smacking up against my left inner ear. It was a purely physical symptom, which when crossed with the monkeys, the circus, and the car speeding away feelings – has been disturbing.

After time spent on the beach and in the cold immersion of water this morning I had a nap. I fell into a deep sleep and woke up to the sensation of water trickling from my ear. I was loathe to break the spell and it went on for about a minute

Perhaps my jaw had finally relaxed enough for my ear to unblock. Perhaps it was simply cleaned out.

Whatever the case, my hearing has returned with stunning clarity. I’m also writing again instead of being lost in thought. I can hear my inner voice.

We all have a voice that is our own, it is buried deep. I’m not talking about our verbal voice, though I spend so much time alone sometimes I am surprised by the sound of mine when I speak. But it’s not that voice.

And I am well accustomed to thinking. I think if anything – too much. But thinking is not the sound of our authentic voice, but rather the remix of emotions and memories overplayed with the imprint of other people and experiences.

To hear our true voice we have to be able to access a different part of our mind. One that is beyond thinking. One that is speaking of things we know very little about, yet these things instantly resonate with us when we hear them. It’s like we are relearning the things we already knew, but had forgotten.

My pen is a seashell.

In the early morning, my legs lie still in the cold sand, I stare at the vast emptiness of the quietly breathing ocean. My mind is a window full of fog. I scrub a little hole to peer through.

My pen is a seashell

How do I feel?

Listen to the deep tides that pull and twist us towards the unconscious space beyond the footfalls of the familiar. Follow the anchor chain down to the bottom and pull it free. Unmoored, unknown, we float until we are known.

Header photo courtesy of Elisabeth Arnold Unsplash.

31 thoughts on “Seashells

  1. Thanks for the invitation to sit beside you on the beach. I listened to the sound of the waves washing ashore and to the seashell of your inner voice. How do I feel? My pain of loss welled up from the depths where I buried it. I, too, tend to put caring for others above caring for myself. I’m glad that you’ve had a breakthrough with your clogged left ear. May you find clarity amid the seismic shifts of your life <3

  2. Lovely poem. Glad you’re hearing is back and better than ever. And I love what you said about empathy because I have a problem with being too empathetic too and it can cause a lot of problems.

    • Hi Pooja, thank you, yes I was talking with someone about empathy just this week. It’s a wonderful trait to have when listening and supporting someone, but but taking their story home and worrying over it is a step too far. Sometimes it is difficult to disconnect and release their troubles instead taking them on as our own – which is definitely not helpful, for anyone 🫤

  3. I feel like you n I are very much in sync when it comes to your journal thoughts. The leaf among the crowd is very relatable to me. I have chosen that same place in recent days. Being inconspicuous is so nice for a change. 🍂

    • I think we tend to also see ourselves through others eyes sometimes. Knowing that we are invisible and unknown silences the voice of that self judgement – or it does for me anyway – enjoy the cloak of invisibility while it lasts Michelle 😊✨

  4. This is so beautiful. I can almost hear the sea as I read it. It’s so important to check in on ourselves “how am I feeling?” and to check in on those we love, too xx

    • Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts Janet, life is busy, so important to take the time to check in. I had the longest conversation with one of my brothers yesterday evening and it was so lovely to really check in with each other 💕

  5. I love listening to seashells; I put up a post about it once, called ‘Shells’, I think; is it like listening to our feelings? your poem examines it well —

  6. Happy to hear you have your hearing back! And thanks for sharing your journey with us. I’m glad you have your clarity back and feel more in tune. Now i’m encouraged to look for my own ocean to get some clarity

  7. To become quiet we walk to sea, to the beach not far from our house. Actually, it’s quite noisy there, the gulls are crying, we hear the waves, the wind but there we forget every demand and come to ourselves. Later we listen to ourselves writing or talking about what’s going through our minds. And we collect seashells. Actually we blogged about it, about shell art, just yesterday.
    We are happy that your hearing is back.
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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