5 min read

Breath of Fire. Burn the Air. Write About It, If You Dare.

At times, I’ve felt like I was suffocating until I wrote the first few thousand words. Writing is my “in case of emergency break glass” box—but there’s always an emergency, so shattered glass is a given.
Breath of Fire. Burn the Air. Write About It,  If You Dare.
Photo by Trey Gibson / Unsplash

Writing is how I manage to breathe.

I didn't think I would find the words, again. I didn't know I had anything left to give, let alone that I haven't already said in long form (thrice, at least). 

Whenever a humanitarian crisis or deadly disaster is headline news, I am derailed. And yes, I’m “off the rails” quite often. To unload the sheer weight we are carrying around, we need outlets, and words are mine.

24/7 news makes it tough for information hoarders. I know there are billions of people suffering at any given time, but access to it from my handheld device is next level. This is not a me-problem, but a systems wide design flaw of life dictated by a screen.

When a domestic terrorist attacks, or a mass shooting alert comes in—inevitably—I shout or swear at my screen. I mean, on top of the wars and natural disasters, Another one?!

Any plans I had beforehand, now shot to hell–pun intended. This is where we are? AGAIN?! 

I think of their loved ones, and I think of mine. If it’s near my people, the waiting to make sure my people I love are alive is like pulling out burrs from tights—tedious, time consuming, laborious. Nail biting. The utter precariousness that is a mother's love. The way our hearts can beat outside our chest for decades on end.

I think of how anyone "in it" will be forever changed, first responders and journalists forced to witness repeated catastrophes. As I am flooded with images, names, news stories, texts, and the usual onslaught of media that accompanies a modern day slaughtering of biblical proportions, I start to sway. I get dizzy. Whether it’s my vertigo or my lack of hydration seems irrelevant; I’m still sick to my stomach.

The ordinary day juxtaposed with a day of “mass casualties” is a mind fuck. Knowing regular people are trying to enjoy their lives, at play, or at school, or shopping at the store, as they ignore what’s happening or worse played a part in it makes my blood boil. The world should stop. Why don’t we stop it??

As the world and my head spin, I feel it ALL coming up. The anxiety and rage rise simultaneously, followed by deep concern and a ravenous urge for details. Insatiable curiosity is not accurate, but the feeling maybe this time I’ll understand. Of course, I only have more questions…

With a “What the fuck is wrong with people?!”—incredulity comes next. They all meet in my throat, to be joined by  two other things—my unbreakable love for humanity, knowing we can do better and the acid that comes when that faith is tested, yet again.

We can push the trauma and drama aside for a moment, maybe breaking for dinner, pausing for a kids soccer game. But eventually, with massive death on display, while trying to fill our cup with a hole in the bottom, something has to give.

Josh Spector V @jspe...• 12/26/21 Writing a blog creates value for you even if no one reads it. 2 21. 91 Em is for Matriarchy (... @Bluegirlpdx Replying to @jspector It's definitely a value add for processing big stuff and connecting ideas. I write about 1000x more than I post. A wise colleague pointed out not everything you write has to be for everyone. 6:37 PM • 12/26/21 • Twitter
I write more for the value added to my life and sanity than my biz dev strategy.

Rage-writing the nights away.

Mass and/or school shootings have a way of putting me over the edge instantly; it’s usually my sleep that goes first.

Awake at 2 am, my mouth fills up with words, not to speak, but to purge, spilling out onto digital paper. Sentences pour out, less salty than a mouth full of blood, but certainly as vociferous. When the dam breaks, I am on a 12-72 hour ride to get to the other side, relaxing my jaw, finally feeling "empty”—and my cup, somehow finally refilled.

It would be nice to catch my breath, but capitalism and patriarchy are relentless. The Powers That Be will not let us be. Their violence knows no bounds. What container is big enough to hold ALL of this grief?

They say you grow around grief, but are we capable of that much spaciousness when we’re being crushed, our hearts heavy with responsibility—met with the reminder of the cards stacked against us?

It doesn’t matter if I know someone involved, in the vicinity, or in the demographic community of the targets and victims—anyone, anywhere in imminent danger makes me worry. I’m a Jewish mother—sue me.

As a Jewish mom, my heart easily breaks for kids who need care. They’re starving?! Like somebody give them some goddamn food and water—and a sweater; I’m cold.

At times, I’ve felt like I was suffocating until I wrote the first few thousand words. Writing is my “in case of emergency break glass” box—but there’s always an emergency, so shattered glass is a given.

I am starting to see writing as I do Yin Yoga—something I do to slow down, process, be still, and breathe. To move the trauma through my body, to move through the “stress cycle” and a voice burnout. To avoid a breakdown, to break up the cloudy stuff, like fascia, to find more room when I’m wound up tight.

Writing can be spiritual, religious, a practice all its own, even if no one reads it. I have barely examined my process, though it’s clear it’s a sacred practice.

Writing every waking moment between now and death is probably not the most sustainable way to exist, but it’s better than drugs, right? Infodumping or ranting is balm for a world fill with so much violence and heartbreak. As my Yin teacher says, the only way out is through. 

As I exhale, all the toxicity and hate in the world fill up the page. As I write, sometimes for days on end, I find deeper breaths, full of hope and possibility. I see the words of others and sigh. Words hang in the air like hot breath outside a winter’s night. When I hear your stories, I see Ruach Hashem, the breath of life, of the universe, in side each and every one of us.

If they ever figure out how to download a brain, I may volunteer...It might be nice to dump it ALL out onto a disk or the cloud, and finally get some goddamn REM. Maybe I could upload that fast too? Maybe we could upload compassion to those who’ve lost their ability to see their fellow humans.

Until then, I will continue to rage and research, to connect with my people in community (sometimes meeting them irl), to use my power (words), to listen to the dreamers, to read poetry, and to write some of my own.

I left corporate and agency life to have agency over my life. To write my own story, to follow my passions and ditch the patriarchy. I found my purpose on the page, and my people through my writing. If I am lucky, my words will continue to mean something to those of you trying to find a way to breathe, too.