It’s interesting how quickly our emotions can change, sometimes taking us from one extreme to the other in a matter of seconds. Having lived a life where I needed to continuously manage my emotions and monitor my actions, I’m realizing that it’s only now that I’m experiencing emotion in the moment, as it happens. It’s amazing what comes up when you let yourself feel.
I noticed a bird in the mouth of one of my cats one morning. I leave the patio door slightly open so my cats can come and go – it must’ve flown in at some point, not able to find its way out. This was a first for Rocky, as he (along with my other 2 cats) has lived his entire life indoors until just last year. They now have a fenced area they can explore and enjoy, although birds are still frustratingly out of reach. So the obvious pride he displayed as he strutted past me that morning came as no surprise.
My brain was slow to engage, as this was not a familiar scene. I wasn’t sure what to do. How long had it been in his mouth? Was it alive or dead? I suddenly recalled something I had read somewhere…”cup a wounded bird in your hands and softly blow your warm breath on it, there’s a chance it could recover”. So after some stern words and a bit of a struggle, Rocky reluctantly dropped the bird. I gently scooped it into my hands, closing them around it. I began warming it with my breath, silently praying that I wasn’t too late. I desperately wanted this bird to live.
After some time, I felt something – a wing moved, a beak brushed against my fingers. I could feel its tiny heart beating. Wondering if it wanted to be freed, I opened my hands, but it didn’t move. I continued to hold it and breathe on it as I walked to a stone wall, deeming this to be a good release spot, tall and out of harm’s way. As I opened my hands this time, it flew away, strong and sure in its flight. I cried tears of joy as I stood and watched, filled with an incredible sense that I had just saved a life. But as I turned to walk away, those tears of joy turned into tears of pain. The little bird was unlocking emotions inside me that I didn’t even know existed.
Memories of my husband’s suicide 2 years ago suddenly flooded in, and although my instinct was to quickly interrupt the thoughts and keep the tears at bay, I allowed myself to feel the emotions. I never felt responsible for his decision, nor do I to this day – but I was now feeling an overwhelming sadness at not being able to save his life. We were estranged at the time – too many demons, a life unraveling – too much to endure. It had always been his belief that it was his right to choose when he wanted to leave this earth. And choose he did.
As I thought about things, I realized the bird that Rocky caught that day freed me from guilt that I had been unknowingly carrying. I was reminded that just as with that little bird, I held my husband in my hands and breathed my warm breath on him. In both cases, I did all that I could – hoping for life, yet knowing I was not in control of the outcome. For the next few hours I was able to think about the events, feel the emotion and ultimately put it all into perspective.
As the saying goes…’we win some and we lose some’. It felt damned good to win one that day.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons