The Bird On The Key

Gayla - Sarasota, Florida
Entered on December 11, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Bird On The Key

Last December I left freezing Illinois to vacation on Siesta Key, near Sarasota, Florida. By the end of one week I developed a tiny broken bone in my right foot from running too many miles on the hard-packed crystal-sand beach. I can’t really blame the beach, although running on the wet surf was like running barefoot on cement. I’m sure I had paved the way for my stress fracture by living a stressful life and running excessively to cope with anxiety. My broken foot, a stress fracture, was my body telling me that enough was enough.

Three months ago I moved to Sarasota. I worry about my dwindling savings, my daughter’s well-being, my career. My unemployed status is evidence to me that I must not have one single marketable skill or talent, not one measly thing to offer this world. Sometimes I feel depressed, losing sight of anything good.

Now I can’t go running to relieve this daily stress. I’m like a caged bird, flapping its clipped wings, pacing back and forth with energy that has no outlet. Distressed, the caged bird starts pecking at itself, or plucking out its own feathers, looking for a target for pent-up nervous energy. I have my own self-destructive habits. Immobilized by fear and self-doubt, I tear myself apart.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving I listened to NPR’s Ira Glass on the radio. Since it was Thanksgiving weekend, turkey (or chicken or other fowl) stories were the topic. These were such inspiring stories. It sounds silly, but I silently wished for a bird to appear in my life, to give me some message of hope.

When a wave of despair moves in on me I like to go to the beach to walk. Recently, one early morning, I headed for the Key. On that beach, where I broke my foot almost a year ago, I saw my bird, a sandpiper. Sandpipers are notorious for scurrying along the edge of the water, running on toothpick legs. But this bird wasn’t running; it was hopping. It was hunting for breakfast, hopping on one leg.

The bird didn’t seem to notice its right leg was missing. It was not sitting in the sand crying about its loss, or doubting its abilities, or pondering its purpose in life. Not one ounce of self-pity. It seemed happy being a bird. Why can’t I allow myself to just be human?

My bird understands abundance, survival, adaptation and the advantage of accepting life as it comes, with no resistance. My bird reminded me of the natural world where there is no place for complaints or worries. My bird lead me back to my heart’s real work, creating art, music and essays that honor my life and remind me to celebrate being human. I asked for a bird and the Universe provided exactly what I needed. My bird told me that even though the two of us can no longer run, there’s no reason not to fly.