A random bird and the nature of sadness

Do you see my bird friend? He's in the very center.

Do you see my bird friend? He’s in the very center.

A lone red-breasted bird in my yard uses his beak like tiny tongs to pick up wet, rotting maple leaves. The leaves stick together, but he manages to flip over these soggy pancakes, and delve into the underneath. He must be looking for something–bugs, maybe–because he’s very diligent and focused. He doesn’t notice me watching from the window of my office. Of course. Why would a bird notice me?

Today I awoke hating myself. The sky is gray, but the drizzle’s not mean-spirited, more half-hearted really, so there’s no good reason for me to feel depressed. I even worked out, ate salmon, and spent time with two lovely ladies. I have no right to be down, but sometimes sadness is inexplicable.

I want an explanation. I want something I can put my back into. If I knew The Why, I’d attend to it, with purpose, like that bird. He knows why he goes about uncovering. He finds a beetle, maybe, or a worm. A thing that sustains him. He doesn’t loathe himself or what he finds. He’s a bird.

I try looking for my thing, the whatever-it-is that makes me want to cry and curl up. I replay a week’s worth of memories. I remember shoveling out the soiled shavings from the chicken coop, taking a walk with my husband, watching Silver Linings Playbook at the theater, a dinner out with my family, a late night phone conversation with a friend about writing. None of these are it.

I keep uncovering. There was that trip to the grocery store when I forgot to pick up dish washing detergent, but that’s not really a self-loathing offense. I keep looking.

I look outside for the bird. At first I don’t see him because his brown back and red belly blend almost perfectly with the dark rusty leaves. His movement catches my eye, and I am glad I see him. Still there.

I wonder if he has a friend who he nestles his wing up against at night and rests his head on while he sleeps.

My husband and I don’t see each other all day and by the time he gets home from his job and a lengthy commute, it is dark. I’ve missed him, but he is tired. He’s been flipping leaves all day. Well, his version–the industrious labor that keeps our bills paid. I am grateful.

But I don’t seem like it.

When he walks in the door, I’m bursting with talk about birds and the quality of the rain and why people get sad. He wants to eat and sleep and prepare for flipping leaves, which is a noble and necessary pursuit.

What do I do? What good is time spent analyzing and anthropomorphizing birds? Or feeling sad on a bleak day? Or wishing for a warm wing to nestle up against?

How can that bird go all day, by himself, flipping leaves over his head without wondering if there’s something more? Maybe he does wonder. To himself, while he’s flipping leaves. Maybe that’s enough for him.

I want that to be enough for me, too. I want to be self-contained. I don’t want to need.

Sometimes, I pretend I’m like that guy who could slow his heart down and withstand long periods of time in icy water. I slow myself down. I try to stop talking, interacting. What’s the very least I can need, but still exist?

I try to kill the need in me. The need for connection, for relationship. The desire for a warm other to rest my head on while I sleep. If I didn’t have that, I would be stronger. Impervious. Nothing could make me sad.

But I can’t hold my need in for very long, and when I let go of it, it’s like the guy in the icy water. If he lost control of his mind and body, his heart would speed up suddenly. The water would feel colder, shocking. How terrifying. His fingers and toes would begin to pulse with pain. Maybe his heart would stop or he would freeze to death.

Today the cold is getting to me. I feel like I’m thrashing around in a tank of icy water. I barely have control of myself. I look at a photo of my husband and think, YOU! You put me in this tank! even though I know that’s not true.

There’s no tank of icy water.

There’s just me, in my office, looking out at a bird.

22 thoughts on “A random bird and the nature of sadness

    • Thanks, Caz. I know it will pass, but that feeling of being trapped in the bad state of mind–the tank of icy water–is truly ungood. I’m sorry you’ve felt this way, too.

  1. I love the sound of the birds skritching around under and in the leaves. It is the sound of my daily morning re-entry into the world as I step out on my porch to put out the water bowl. Before I really realized what it was, I thought it was squirrels or even the wind but it had this little frantic purpose. Nice post! Love your blog.

    • Yes, birds add such a wonderful ambiance to life. They’re like tiny little mirrors that show more than just reflections. Watching them, I find, provides insight about my own experience. I guess that’s why so many people are into nature and bird watching and all that stuff poets write about.

      • Yes, and I want you to know I am not making light of your intense emotions but relating that there really is purpose behind all of our occasional desperateness. And the solitary purpose of that bird can be cathartic, albeit depressing, this time of year.

        • Well said! I like your phrase “our occasional desperateness.” That’s an excellent description of what I (and probably others) experience sometimes. Thank you for your encouragement and understanding.

  2. I was JUST driving home from somewhere, and I thought (for the 2nd time today) where is Meagan? We are now linked. It’s official. There was your post, and sounding a lot like mine yesterday… NOT in any of the details, or the specifics of the writing, but in the mood. I hear you. I feel this. I know exactly what you are writing about. Powerful stuff, my friend. “You! Put me in this tank”… indeed. I hear you. Try not to thrash; you survive by floating.

    • Dawn! I’ve been in “the alone cone” lately. But I read your blog and really liked it. Not liking that you feel stuck, of course, but loved the title (Stick. Stack. Stuck.) and totally related to that feeling. And how did I miss this comment, “please stop writing about watching your own fruit rot – it’s compost compared to what you are capable of.” Yikes! Also I LOVED all your pics of Israel. I need to give you some comments. Because you deserve to know how awesome you are. Especially when you say clever things like, “you survive by floating.” To true. Sometimes I just need to hold still and breathe.

  3. I can relate to feeling this way, but not always able to put it into words. Your writing is so beautiful and eloquent….I’m speechless (typeless?). Thanks for sharing this :)

    • True about the bird, Steve. Apparently the drippy darkness doesn’t bum out that dumb bird. Or maybe he’s just hiding it really well.

      Thanks for reading, my friend. Always love your comments.

  4. thanks for the recommendation. what i enjoy about watching animals is their life looks so simple (which is probably a total misconception if I was speaking from an animal’s point of view). i watch them do their thing and wish I could trade places. i wish life could be simple – for just once – or at least a little while…. and floating – i wish i could float. instead i am in a free fall. it’s as if i substituted one ‘f’ word for 2 ‘f ‘ words and i am not even referring to the f-bomb. oh fudge. yep, i am not in a good place right now, but my boys will be with me tomorrow. they are my true light.

    i very much enjoy reading your blog. thanks for taking the time out to respond to my ramblings.

    • Thank YOU for taking the time to respond and discuss and engage. I’m so sorry you’re feeling gloomy, but I’m happy you will get to hang out with your boys tomorrow. Like you, my child is everything bright in my world. Well, my husband’s pretty rad, too. But kids rock. (So do animals). And yes, floating would be cool. One time when I was a kid my parents, who were in the Coast Guard Auxiliary let me put on this big orange floaty suit and get into the cold Alaskan ocean. I just floated around on my back in this head-to-toe floaty suit. It was so awesome. One of my favorite memories. I am rambling now…

  5. Meagan – thank you for the way you write. It’s kind of mesmerizing.
    Sadness woke me up today. It has a certain flavor, a special melody that I know all too well. I long too, with all my heart. Desire has its nest in my soul. I think that’s good, although hard to stand sometimes, because it burns like fire – intense and with strong intent. When it does, I want it to be soft and slow, like a breeze. That is much easier to stand, but Desire and Sadness don’t want it to be soft and slow. They want to be powerful and clear, and full of intent.

    I’m regarded as a HSP (a highly sensitive person) with a introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving trait (INFP). At least according to Myers-Briggs personality tests, so I guess it isn’t strange that I feel emotions strongly and intense. That’s how I am – strong, intense, sensitive, intuitive, sad and desirous…and happy too. :)

    After this weekend, I will put my arms around my 18 year old daughter that comes home from volunteer work at a conservation park in Victoria Falls in Zambia. She has been working with reintroducing the cheetahs and lions back into wilderness. Sadly they’re endangered and almost extinct. She’s been mothering three lion cubs that will within two years form a new pride of their own. And she’s been walking with a 2 year old white male lion and his pride too, in an effort to teach them the surroundings and to hunt. What a program and what an adventure. I’m happy for and proud of her. And yet, some days, I wake up and Sadness is my companion for the day. That’s how I see it – feelings are companions that carry messages and information. All I have to do is…listen.

    So thank you for your post. I’m glad I found you.

  6. Pingback: Year One | Hot Pink Underwear

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