Sunday, October 21, 2012

To Heal a Broken Wing

The bird wanted to fly again...naturally. 

* ~ * ~ *

I have walked the past few years suffering from a very deep sense of disappointment.  Oh, not your run of the mill kind of disappointment, like when a much anticipated plan falls apart, or even the hundred and one small disappointments that befall us on a daily basis.  There are many who thought the disappointment I suffered was what comes after a marriage ends.  I knew that wasn't it.  That was understandable, and perhaps played a part, but because of the very fact that it was understandable -- I mean, who wouldn't be disappointed?-- it actually fell into the realm of "normal." 

However, I do recognize it as the doorway.  Like a new grief has the tendency to become a conduit for old griefs we never allowed to heal, the disappointment I felt over my marriage ending opened the door to a deeper, more profound disappointment that had been lurking under the surface all along.

This was something different, heavier, and for a time, nameless, and was playing serious havoc on my faith in any and everything, particularly mankind, but once I could finally identify it, simplify it in my mind in some form to make it more manageable, I got to work in finding a cure.  But first, I needed to find where the disappointment was directed.  That, in all honesty, and unfortunately, has taken me years to sort out. 

I had to sort it out.  For me, there was no alternative, and I'd do whatever it took.  And I did that because something in me said it wasn't right.  There was something off...something broken.  I did it because I wanted to heal.

I had no problem admitting there was something wrong.  I didn't deny it, or try to pretend all was okay in my kingdom when I knew it wasn't.  What good would that do?  There was something wrong, something off key, and I wanted it found, identified, dealt with, healed, so I could get back to the person I know myself to be...naturally. 

There were too many signs, too many things I used to do, too many ways I used to express myself, that was no longer in evidence.  My daughter, speaking one time about herself, after surviving the nightmare of being stalked by a cop, "Where did I go?  It's like I see the real me, still there, on the other side of some glass, and I'm some person that is standing in her place, stopping her from expressing.  I'm smiling, but it's not real, I'm acting like her, pretending to be her, but not.  How do I get her back?"  I remember answering her, "When you feel safe again."  She just looked at me, with those big, beautiful eyes full of tears, and said, "I don't think I'll ever feel safe again."  I understood, knew the feeling, but I also knew that if she was willing, she'd allow that self she so sorely missed to find expression again.


One time, during my early 20's, after having a terrible argument with my mother, I got in my car and went for a drive.  At the last minute, I decided to drive to see a friend of hers.  I knew he loved her, understood her in some mysterious way that I couldn't, and so I went to him, seeking, hoping for some answer to make things better.  He questioned me for a time, and after I asked if he could give me some understanding into my mother, I looked up at him, and I'll never forget it...his head was tilted sideways, and he was wearing a crooked smile.  I said, "What?  What's so amusing?"  He said, "I didn't see it before, because of that prickliness you wear around yourself all the time, but you are more like your mother than you think."  I'm not sure what offended me more -- his telling me I was prickly, or telling me I was like my mother -- but I went with the mother comment, "I am not anything like my mother!  And I will never be!"  He stood there unchanging, with that infuriating smile on his face, and said, "It's a compliment.  A compliment I thought never to give to you.  But now I see you, and that heart of yours is very much like your mothers.  Thank God that it is so.  She's a healer, and you are too.  Just not in the same way."  Then he turned around, and went back in his house, leaving me standing there, stupefied. 

Years later, I remembered that conversation, and smiled.  He was right.  I was a a different way.


My mother used to work in the healing arts.  She studied and practiced alternative medicine before it became as mainstream as it is now.  (You can thank her for playing a role in why you have these things so readily available to you.  It wasn't easy, because the medical field was pushing back.  They are still pushing back, to a certain extent.)  For a time, she worked in a clinic that was healing people of major illnesses, through diet and herbs, and natural medicines.  After she left the clinic, she began doing massage therapy.  She can be proud of her life of service, for I know she healed and touched many who were at the brink of death, with her healing arts being their last resort. 

In fact, when I came up against a life threatening condition of my own, it was her I myself turned to.  Her, I trusted.  We may have had our issues, but my faith in her knowledge had me literally putting my life into her capable hands where the care for the body was concerned.  I obeyed and did everything she told me.  I believed in her, and honored the work she did.

But something happened...something began to change.  Her focus began to shift, ever so subtly.  In fact, it is only now that I can see what happened...because I fell into the same trap.  To this day, I don't think she looks at those she saved, or all those grateful hearts she touched, but instead, looks at those she didn't.  Or, more accurately put...those who refused. 

I think it boggles the mind of a healer.  Creates some sort of shock.  For truly, it goes against nature.  Everything in nature responds to healing.  Wants to get back to it's natural way of being.  Hell, at the very least, even recognizes, instinctively, what it's natural way is

That bird I saved years ago wanted to fly again.  I knew he did.  He knew his wing was broken, knew that something was broken, and worked with me to heal himself.  I think he knew I wanted what he fly again.  To be in his natural environment.  He heard the call, the song of his feathered friends, and longed to go back to them, be a part of them again.  

That bird didn't hold tightly to his broken wing, defending the wound, making himself right about how he couldn't fly anymore.  Bless his heart, he just kept tryin'!  He never gave up.  He got tired, weary from the work, but I didn't feel him ever give up.  He never quit until he flew again.  And he wouldn't have flown again without me.  He had help, and received it. 

But humans...How could someone not want to be healed?  What was that in them that resisted, refused, and rebelled against healing?  How could they not want to go back to what is natural? 

That wall.  It is that wall my mother and I bumped up against...again and again.  That resistant thing that will not forgive.  That prideful thing that will refuse help.  That refuses to see, or even admit they even need help, because needing help is seen as weak. 

We get nowhere without help.  I would be nowhere without help.  All those people that my mother helped heal would not be anywhere without help. 

That disappointment was directed right at mankind.  Because this is what I saw...a difference.  Even an indifference.  And my heart didn't know what to do with what I saw.  My mind didn't know how to reconcile such a discordance with nature.  Man could choose...and wasn't. 


The bird wanted to fly again.  Humans did not want to rise again, choosing again and again to hold onto their wounds, under their own free will.  That was the supreme difference.  Simply...unwillingness.

----(to be cont.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Broken Wings

If you love something set it free
If it comes back to you it's yours
If it doesn't, It never was
"  (unknown)

It's been awhile, and I apologize.  I've had to work out some things before I could find it in me to write here again.  

Judy Clement Wall recently wrote and gave a wonderful gift to her subscribed readers called, "52 Weeks: 52 Ways To Love Your Wild Self."  Her readers desired to share it with others, who for some odd reason, haven't yet subscribed to Judy's blogs -- so Judy, ( whose preference is to be simply called "j"), put her book up for sale HERE, in the form of a pdf file.  I highly recommend you purchase it, and also, while you're at it, if you haven't done so already, The (Fearless) Love Essays, which she wrote and published last summer.  (Hint: Great Christmas gifts!)

The first section of 52 Weeks is called "Winter Ways," and covers the weeks of winter, and when I got to week 8, "Find Your Life Theme," I stopped.  In that moment, a memory flashed, rose up clear and true, and sang out for me to look at it.  Then, a couple of weeks later, I had a conversation with a friend of mine that rocked my world, and had me thinking again about the theme of my life.  In week 8 of j's book, she mentions and shares a link to a post written by Alex Franzen, called "Does Your Life Have A Theme? (Want to find out?)," which you can find HERE.  

I have to admit, I felt an unreasonable fear, quite the opposite of what j says she experienced in the exercise given.  I struggled for a time with what was coming up for me to look at.  So I let myself sit in the struggle, listening to the voice of conflict within me.  I wrote...and wrote, gave it a voice...set it free.  And when the conversation with my friend came around, who so tenderly bared his soul with me, with a whisper that melted a hardness around my heart I didn't even know was there...I felt something in me shake loose...and finally bend.  

Sometimes, even when our hearts ache for significance, even when we want to believe we matter, that our lives matter, there is something within us that is, at the same time, paradoxically, afraid of it.  We don't want to know we have that much impact on our world, or on each other.  Because with that knowledge, that awareness, comes a heightened sense of responsibility we fear we can't live up to.  

We can, and we will.  We must.

I believe Marianne Williamson said it best: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." 

What follows is the memory that rose up inside me, and shined a spotlight right onto my life's theme.  It has been before me all the time, hiding in plain sight.  Isn't that the way of it?  And with the unknowing (or maybe knowing), help of my friend, by his laying bare and exposing his own broken wing, he let me know in no uncertain terms, who it was that brought back to him his desire to fly once again...He told me I must write.  I honestly didn't think I was reaching anyone.  I don't think I wanted to know.  I think I felt safe hanging out in between.  One foot in, one foot out, never really committing.  His revelation to me brought me up short, right to the point of decision.

                                                      ~And humbled me to my bones ~
When I was a young girl, about 8 years old, I witnessed a cat sneaking up on a cardinal.  Something in me knew the cat would be successful this go around, and without thought, I sprang to action, and took off running toward the cat and bird, yelling out an alarm as I went, but I was too late.  Just as the cardinal was lifting off the ground, the cat leaped into the air, and dragged the bird down beneath him.  It was only afterward, with prize flapping from his jaws, teeth sunk into one of the cardinal's red wings, that the cat finally looked up to notice the crazy girl running at him, top speed, waving her arms and yelling.  He was so confused by what he saw, his mouth literally dropped open enough for the bird to drop to the ground.  For a split second, I saw him consider sinking his teeth back into his prey again, but by that time I was damn near on top of him, still yelling, and he decided I was the bigger predator, and took off running for his life, leaving his tasty prize behind.  

The bird was still alive, and frantically trying to fly away, but it's wing was hanging at an odd angle, broken, and all he could manage was a flop.  So he decided to make a run for it, a sound emitting from him as he hobbled away that pierced my heart because of the pain and fear I heard within it.  That sound drove me to scoop him up gently, when he'd finally cornered himself, and coo at him, as he trembled in my hands.  It pained me that I wasn't fast enough to save him from the cat, but I was glad he was still alive, and I felt a ferocious protective instinct rise up from within me.  I could protect him while he was wounded, provide shelter, maybe heal him.  

I took him to my dad, and asked if we could save him.  My dad looked at the bird, and noted the broken wing, and told me with gentle honesty, "It's the shock more than anything that kills them.  He doesn't appear to have any other wound other than his wing being broken.  But he probably won't last long enough for the wing to heal, because of the shock.  And even if he does, and his wing does heal, he probably won't be able to fly again.  And a built to fly.  A bird needs to fly.  What kind of life would he have if he couldn't fly?  Let him go, Cindy."

I couldn't.  I just couldn't stand the thought.  My dad must have seen it in my eyes, because he heaved a sigh, then told me to follow him.  We went down to the basement, and he found a box, then told me to go gather some grass, and leaves.  I ran and got the items as quickly as possible, and then brought them back to my dad.  He instructed me to put them in the box, then he laid the bird inside, on top of the nesting material.  He then told me to find a lid to a jar, and fill it with a bit of water, and set it inside with the bird.  After all that was done, he looked at me, and said, "Now we wait.  Keep him in the dark.  The dark will comfort him, and might help the shock.  Let him rest.  But he probably won't last the night, Cindy.  Be prepared for that."  

The next morning, I raced down to the basement to check on the bird, and found the box empty.  My mind wouldn't accept what that might mean, so I frantically searched the entire basement for the bird, thinking, hoping, he'd simply decided to escape.  I couldn't find him, and I felt a grief hit me as I slumped down on the stairs to cry, accepting that my dad probably took him out, thinking to save me seeing the bird dead.  Suddenly, I heard a noise, a chirpy little noise.  I silenced my tears, even my breathing, and grew still...listening.  The sound came again from beneath a work table, so I jumped up and went over to look, and there he was.  I crawled and reached until I got hold of him, careful of his broken wing, then carried him back to the box, and inspected him.

He didn't look like he was dying.  He looked alert, if not a little freaked out, bouncing around the floor of the box, dragging his broken wing beside him, but he was alive.  I cooed at him, telling him it was all okay, and that I wouldn't harm him.  I was here to help.  At some point I heard myself say, "I'll see you fly again."

And I meant it.  I didn't know I meant it until I said it, but I remember feeling, with every fiber in my being, I meant those words.  Come hell or high water, I'd see him fly again.  I had no idea how I'd do it, but my life now held a purpose.  I felt it solidify in me, and I aimed for it.

The next few days were spent in simply trying to keep the bird still.  I finally decided to wrap him with a dry bandage, with the intention of holding his wing to his side.  That worked for about a minute.  Binding him seemed to upset him, and the point was to calm him down, so I gave it up, took it off, and just kept the box closed.  My dad was right...he seemed to quiet down in the darkness the box provided when the lid was closed.  I got the feeling the box being open, above him, had him feeling exposed, and that's why he kept escaping, and running for cover somewhere else.  I had thought he wouldn't like feeling closed in, but I was soon proved wrong when I noticed he calmed way down when the box was closed.

I don't remember how long I kept him in the box that way, but it was the bird himself who let me know when he was ready to do more.  One day, I opened the box, and he tried to fly out.  I noticed he actually worked his wounded wing.  I remember celebrating with him, instinctively knowing his wing was on the mend.  From that day forward, I got him out once a day, and gave him a little push off the table, knowing he'd naturally try to use his wings.  The first few times were painful to watch, as he automatically spread his wings to fly, but fell down to the ground, with a hard landing instead.  I couldn't care, and something told me not to coddle him.  He must fly.  I couldn't stand the thought of him not doing what came naturally to him.  Like my dad said... what he was made for.

Day by day, he got stronger, and his wounded wing began to work again.  We got to the point where he was flying from surface to surface, but still low, and still with clumsiness.  He also began to sing.  He could hear the other birds singing outside, and I felt like their singing was somehow connected to his desire and will to fly.  I knew the day would come that I'd have to take him outside, and let him go, and when that day dawned, I marched outside, talking to him about his big day, and how much I'd miss him, and trying not to cry.  

I'd put a lot of thought into it, planning the day of his flight, and had decided to let him go from the top of the wall in our back yard.  The top stood level with our yard, and was built to separate, and hold the earth in our yard from the field below.  I stood with the bird wiggling in my hand, aching to be set free, and hesitated.  My heart beat picked up, and I felt the tears blur my sight, then told the cardinal I loved him...and with a lift of my hands, pushed him up in the air and let go.

His flight was wobbly at best, and not very strong, and he couldn't make it to even the lowest branch on a tree.  He tired quickly and fell to the ground, and sat still.  

I jumped down off the wall, and raced to him as fast as my little feet could take me.  He was so still...I thought...

He looked up at me when I reached him, breathing hard, and when I picked him up, his little heart was racing.  I cooed at him a little while, trying to decide what to do...he didn't even wiggle in my hand anymore, so exhausted from his attempt at flight.  I hoped I hadn't pushed him too soon.  Then I told him we had a little more practice to do, that's all.  He'd fly again, and now that he had felt the wind in his wings again, he'd fly that much sooner.  He didn't seem all that excited.

But the next day, he was ready to go again, singing in response to the bird song he heard outside, flying from surface to surface in the I scooped him up, and took him outside to try again.  He went a little higher, but still fell, exhausted, onto the ground.

Days went by with the same scenario, and I began to lose hope.  My mom and dad told me I needed to let him go, but they weren't there, didn't see what happened when I let him fly.  I couldn't stand the thought of a cat getting him again, once he'd worn himself out from flying, and fallen to the ground.  I whispered to him, "You must fly.  Your wing must get better!  Try!"  And he'd go a little further, and then fall.  The day came when my dad drew the line, and told me the bird had to go, and I wept, and told the bird he had to fly this time.  His wing could take it.  His wing was healed.  And it was.  But for a bare spot absent of feathers, I found no mark on it anymore.

I stood there, giving him a pep talk, crying, and with my entire being, earnestly willing him to fly, I finally let go....

And he flew.  High and glorious, if a bit ungracefully, he flew.  I watched him go.  Made sure he knew what he was doing.  He flew from branch to branch...getting better as he went along.  Then, he flew back, and landed on a branch of a tree that stood next to me, and sang.  I watched him, my heart happy and sad all at the same time, and then he flew away.  I watched him until he disappeared, then flopped myself down on the ground and cried.

A few days later, I was walking to school, and heard a cardinal's song.  I looked up, and there one sat, flying along from branch to branch as I walked.  I like to think it was him, coming to greet me, singing me a song.  I smiled and waved at the bird, feeling lighter in my step, my heart lifting, knowing I'd played a part in healing a broken wing, and setting a bird free to do what came to it naturally.... to fly.

---------  (to be cont.)