be like water

comments 13
human experience / relationships / Uncategorized


The first time I’d ever seen the phrase “Be like water” it was scrawled in red spray paint across a section of the Pont’s des Arts footbridge, or “Bridge of Locks” as it’s become known, in Paris, France. It had been written in all caps that must have been at least four to five feet tall and forty feet wide. I found it peculiar at best – a bit puzzling initially.  There was something quite deep philosophically; yet, downright disrespectful to the beautiful Paris attraction at worst. I didn’t have a good camera shot at it as people were in my way while gazing along the famous bridge to the Seine River underneath, along with all the hundreds of thousands of locks that had taken up residence there.

A gorgeous sight, that bridge. A hopeful, inspiring place where one would join with his spouse, companion, lover, and friend then promise forever and click the padlock shut before tossing the key into the Seine. It should be that simple…love I mean. It should be as concrete as purchasing a padlock, attaching it to a chain link fence and making a promise before a lovely scenic river among hoards of tourists all making that same guarantee. For just three euros a couple could pick up a lock and write their names on it with a permanent marker also made available at the kiosk. Forever for three euros! That’s a bargain, friends!

The Bridge of Locks before parts of it broke due to the heavy strain of thousands of padlocks weighed it down, loosening the links. Hopefully it wasn't a metaphor for thousands of hearts broken and promises unkept....

The Bridge of Locks before parts of it broke due to the heavy strain of thousands of padlocks weighing it down, loosening the links. Hopefully it wasn’t a metaphor for thousands of hearts broken and promises not kept….

Eternal love aside, I went back the next day to photograph those words in paint that had haunted me. Three simple words had taken my attention off of the romanticism that has the power to have inspired writers and painters, poets and prophets. That quote  – graffiti really – that, to me, trumped foolhardy love with it’s concrete promises, was quite profound. In fact, love is very difficult to explain and particularly hard to maintain. This quote held with it something more tangible to me than mere promises made with keys and padlocks. So much so that it had remained heavily on my mind ever since I’d happened upon it a day earlier. Unfortunately for me, it had already been painted over, to the point where one wouldn’t have ever known it had existed. I questioned whether I’d actually seen it there or made it up or maybe it was on another bridge overlooking the Seine River with locks attached to it’s chain links? I looked it up on google to see if it even existed outside of my head.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”  ~Bruce Lee

I’m guessing “Be the water” is a close cousin to “go with the flow”, except it sounds deeper to me. It puts me in charge of how I react to my circumstances. It assigns me a role to play in my life. Beyond going with the flow, it makes me the flow and charges me with personal responsibility for my own peace and harmony. I can fight the crowd or I can be one with the movement of the crowd and eventually get beyond the crowd. Does it say be a chameleon? No. It says to find a way around or through something.

For example, if due to life circumstances I cannot continue in a relationship, be it friend or lover or partner, I must resolve to charge ahead, over, around, and/or through it, to overcome and be my best self. Fluid motion is key. Remaining stuck or stagnant is a form of death. Death of life, death of soul, death of potential, death of joy. Being rigid makes us place obstacles around ourselves and others. It makes seeing clearly almost impossible according to Bruce. If we are rigid we have already decided we know the ending to the story. That being the case, then why continue?  Do we have that much power? We don’t, do we? Young children are often like water. Wide eyed and accepting. Learning and growing with each new experience. It is us, the ones who “know better”, that tend to fight so hard to stay young, maintain the status quo, give in or give up out of fear. Fear changes people. Fear beats down life. It comes in all different sizes, shapes, colors, titles, diagnosis.

I say choose life. Be empowered. Be water, my friend.



The Author

I am a licensed clinical social worker who just happens to adore the written word. I have had a private practice and am now writing a memoir on my life in the company of my father and many of my clients who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I hope to dispel some myths and break down some barriers for those with mental illness. I write out of need and complete joy, which I hope to convey throughout my blogs. The human experience is not exclusive to one group. I hope to appeal to most as I touch on some pretty heady material with some self-deprecating humor and raw emotion thrown in for good measure. I have four amazing children, one HUGE dog and a tolerant husband. I am blessed.


    • Tony, it’s never too late to transform into a drink-worthy liquid 🙂
      You heard it here first! Thanks for reading, my friend! You are faithful and true…now be like water, dammit!


  1. I love the water and everything it is to me…. still i stand so still and refuse to move. I need to move or it is going to kill me soon. Thank you for this!


    • Thank you for caring enough about yourself to want more for you. You’ll move when you’re ready. When the pros outweigh the cons and you see nowhere but up. I’m here for you when you do 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t just dont know what or why I’m fight. What I refuse to give up. I say I lose control at the last minute and Therapy Man knows that’s not true… it still feels real to me. I’ve seen the pros and cons… written them for myself and yet…. I won’t give up the fight. Its like I deserve to feel like this. Or, I hold on to some incredibly messed up belief that there is hope that I am wrong because all of my life I have been. Even that is a cop out. I’m frustrated.


      • JamilouseJamilouiseJamilouse…yes, you must be exhausted and frustrated at the lack of flow. Think about secondary gains you receive for being “stuck”. Do people pity you? Do you get attention from some that you crave validation from? Do you hang with people who somehow encourage your victimization (it makes them feel superior to keep you down somehow)? Maybe you are so used to your mind in chaos that you don’t know any other way to be. It is “home” to you. When you try to break out of “home” there are many messages overt and covert that come into play to keep you in your chaotic thoughts/behaviors. Somehow you are getting reinforcement for staying where you are. Either positive or negative.
        Acceptance is what you need to embrace. Accept your lot in life. Accept and forgive past decisions that haunt you now. Accept that you battle mental illness and make peace with it. Like asthma or diabetes…you have a chronic condition requiring meds and therapeutic intervention. Welcome yourself into a large group of us who have special needs and are deserving of being the best we can be. If you don’t, my dear Jamilouse, no one can do it for you no matter how many I love you”s you hear or “I care about you”s or external forces begging you to love yourself…if you don’t buy into it then you will continue this cycle. It is a painful, ugly cycle that leads no where. You deserve to give yourself more kindness and understanding. ACCEPTANCE. iT’S TIME.


      • Thankfully the person providing the secondary gain is more burned out then I am… that doesn’t make sense, but to you it might. The attention I have been getting is no longer coming. I’m having to move on. It was attention for behavior that I am ashamed about anyway so I am being faced with all of this gunk! Yes, lots and lots of acceptance. I was working so hard this summer with my therapist on Acceptance Commitment Therapy and for once I felt like something was working. Until it didn’t quite fit into my horrible side…. ugh. Now I doubt I am making sense. You are such a great support! Gah! I hear you… I am reaching for it and I do have my finger tips on it… that “pay off” though. Wow!?!?! Such an evil thing. I’m always pushing responsibility off on someone else or something else… I just did it in this post. I know these things. That is what frustrates me so dang much. Thank you…


      • I heard you take responsibility, JL. The problem is you’re not acknowledging the hard work part. You were dealt a crapy set of genetics and perhaps fam dynamics or whatever. Accept it and all they comes with the gunk. NOT just the pretty stuff. It’s all a part of your past or present. It doesn’t have to be included in your future unless you bring it forth. You are in control here. You control whether you take meds or not, seek therapy or not, eat dinner or not, go to work or not….be in charge of you, JL. Don’t be afraid to fuck up either. Happens all the time. JUST DO YOU AND DO IT TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITIES. You deserve happiness every bit as much as anyone else. Take the reigns! One dAy at a time. One minute at a time some days.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Are you familiar with The Happiness Trap? I have been trying to get thru it… the demons on the boat keep winning….


      • Finish it. I want to hear the part where they (demons) are tamed down, know their place because the heroine is in charge of the boat (after she stops feeling sorry for herself of course :))


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s