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  • Writer's pictureEvangeline Lawson

Clipping My Wings So That Others Can Fly: How Bird Watching Helped Me Reconnect With My Value

About three days a week I take a walk in nature. Well, in my neighborhood, but with the hills and plentiful trees, it constitutes a nature hike to me. I get a tremendous amount of joy pushing myself up those hills (in some ways as a metaphor for my life), but more so from watching the birds. There are probably dozens of bird varieties that I encounter during this time and I feel great pleasure at each revelation of a different shaped beak, inconspicuous yellow feathers tucked below cedar-wood colored wings, or my favorite, the blue-breasted fliers, that often take my breath away with their indigo pride.

I guess you can say that I have a fascination with birds. I don’t think I realized it, until I found myself sitting in my car in a parking lot one day, just watching them flit to and fro, and becoming surprisingly aware of the glee they brought to my spirit. Upon deeper reflection, I accept that I admire birds because they are free. Not just symbolically, but in a very real, practical, and tangible way. They glide effortlessly through the atmosphere, stopping to rest and eat of course, but even their work, seems to be done with joy and careful planning.

During mindless chatter with a friend of mine, I was sharing my affinity for birds and he exclaimed, “Of course you love birds, because they are free like us!” To which I replied, “Yeah. I think I just allowed myself to be a caged bird, so I don't really feel much like a bird.” No truer words had I uttered. I even surprised myself with the admission, but even more, the accountability. I couldn’t blame someone else for caging me. I did so. Unknowingly at times, intentionally at others, and as the idea goes, once you become aware, the immediate follow up should be, what are you going to do? In true form, I did a deep dive into my thoughts and practices, critically evaluated the racist, sexist patriarchal systems that with full knowledge, I am not immune to, and came to the conclusion that I, the woman who so loves birds for their commitment to freedom, had clipped my own wings, so that others in my life could fly. This isn’t some self-righteous diatribe about what people have done to me, but rather, how I compromised myself. For love. For acceptance. Out of fear. Sometimes even for peace.

The practice of clipping a bird's wings is controversial, but it’s purpose is to trim primary wing feathers so that it is not fully capable of flight, until it sheds those cut feathers and grows new, fully functional ones. People often do this to domesticated birds, so they cannot escape. Luckily, it is not permanent. However, taking something and compromising its gifts, that which sets it apart from other animals in the kingdom, must be damaging. I am not an expert in animal psychology, but being able to fly free one minute, and then in an instant not, has to confuse the mind.

I had to acknowledge that at 41 years old with talents and skills a plenty, I had not lived fully in my gifts and had to put myself in an intellectual and creative prison. It’s never too late to come into an awakening, but it tends to bring about feelings of regret and remorse. For me, I had to accept that I squelched integral parts of my being to fit in. That I wanted to be appreciated and accepted so badly, that I put my unique essence in a jar and sealed it, buried it even. I plucked out those hidden yellow feathers that set me apart and allowed me to fly above other creatures and became one of them. Not soaring to an ascent of tremendous proportions, but grounded. Not in a balanced way, but in a lowered, unelevated state. This isn’t an elitist statement. It's recognizing that we are all made for a purpose, and it is our responsibility to live that out. More importantly, no one should allow themself to exist in a self-imposed prison, especially when there are prisons being erected all around us to keep us bound.

Clipping your wings takes various forms, depending on the person. For me, it manifested as a reduction of value, as if others were more important than I. For every time I chose to stay silent when I should have spoken up, I clipped my wings. When I accepted poor treatment and being taken for granted, I clipped my wings. When I had the answer, but acted like I did not, in an effort not to appear to be a ‘know-it-all’, I clipped my wings. When I dimmed my light, so they would be the brightest light in the room, I clipped my wings. Every time I stepped behind him and waited for an introduction, I clipped my wings. When my boss told me I was the best employee, then refused to give me a raise, but I didn’t challenge them, I clipped my wings. Every time I accepted the phrase, well, you’re too___to do that, I clipped my wings. Being ignored by a person that always needs my help, wings clipped. Listening and responding to every detail of their mundane and repetitive day, but when I attempted to share new and exciting ventures in my life and they were disengaged and barely listening, I clipped my wings. Accepting being relegated to the girlfriend/wife corner where the discussion centered on children I did not have, while the men moved about discussing more titillating topics, was me clipping my wings.

Essentially, I put myself in a cage. I did not just put others' needs before my own, in many ways what I needed to be whole became less important as I became a supportive character in their life journey. What I realized is that not only did that cost me, but in the long term it compromised the quality of the relationships I did have. As I became this frustrated, disgruntled woman, the truth was I needed to first reconnect with my worth and value. Then I needed to establish strong boundaries that would support my flight. The belief that I deserved to fly too was imperative. The free birds, the ones I see on my nature walks, with all of their variations, have something in common, they all fly free. Some glide through the air, while others flap their wings, almost desperately to stay up, but they are all flying. So can I.

Monday, April 26, 2021 11:40pm

© 2021 Evangeline Lawson

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