How Long Do Birds Live?

The truth is, I never really thought about it. I never wondered. Even though I am attracted to birds. I watch them. Talk to them. Welcome them into my day as messengers from Spirit. I never wondered about them.

So as I sit on my couch, watching a Red Headed Woodpecker bang his head against the same old tree, I wonder what else is in front of me, every day, that I look at without seeing? Without understanding. Without curiouslity. When did I stop wondering?When did I stop asking?

As a child I drove my parents MAD with my wondering-unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing about me that maddened them. I wanted to know where God lived? And if Heaven was in the clouds, and planes could fly though the clouds, why didn’t all the people in Heaven fall through the clouds? I wanted to know how to decide something when there were always at least two choices? And, what makes something Good or Bad? And, if the earth was spinning why couldn’t I feel it? And, where do birds go to die? I never saw a bird just dead from old age. A cat may have gotten it. Or a car windshield. But I never saw a bird fall dead from a tree limb, or drop over mid step.

I think my curiosity resurfaced because I was sitting still. Warm cup of morning coffee in hand. No where to go. Nothing to do. (I delude myself, it is 5 days before Christmas and there is a ton to do. Denial is a beautiful thing!) But as I sat, I began to wonder about the New Year. How/what did I want to live, feel, do in 2016? As I wondered, looking out of the front window, I began to see. Really see. The birds.

I remembered I love to wonder. I love to move slowly, take time, ask questions. And, I really love the answers!

So, with Google at my literal fingertips I Googled “how long does a Robin live?” I was so fascinated, and so enjoyed that feeling of satisfied curiosity, that I Googled “how long does a Bluejay live?”

Birds live much longer than I thought. Robins live 4-5 years. The oldest banded robin lived 13 years 11 months. Blue jays live about 7 years, the oldest studied by researchers in the wild lived to be 17 ½ years old. One captive female lived for over 26 years.

Now you know too!

Have a WONDER FILLED Holiday,
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I could, but I don’t want to…

When I was younger I did things because I could. Or should. Or perhaps I didn’t know any better. I could talk on the phone, make dinner, oversee the kids homework. I carried a washer and dryer into the basement in my first married apartment. I helped build an addition, doubling the size of our home, with a 2 year old underfoot and another one on the way. For several years I sustained a 2 hour commute, couch surfed or stayed in the cheapest room.

I am not complaining. In fact I am bragging. These were badges of honor to me. The more I could do, the more valuable I felt. Self sacrifice, manual labor, inconvenience were all indications of my fortitude. I was an Amazon woman. I didn’t need any help. Thank you very much.

But today I feel differently. I hear myself saying, “I could do that…but I don’t want to.” I don’t want to drive there. I could but I don’t want to clean out the garage. I don’t want to hang sheet rock, drive a nail, or go to Lumber Liquidators, EVER. If I am on the phone and Tom asks me where the refrigerator is, I don’t show him.

Part of me is afraid I have gone soft. That I’m being a baby. A wimp. I am also concerned this is my creative way of pretending it has nothing to do with my age. It’s not that I can’t lift that bundle of roof shingles, I just don’t want to…images

I think what I am getting at is choice. And wisdom.

A very wise woman once told me, “If it is not my passion it is not my job.” So today I check with myself before I throw myself into a habituated pattern of Amazonian pursuits. Do I want to do this? Is this my job? And yes, I admit, I must ask, “Will I throw my back out?”

XO

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Is it you or is it me?

Do you ever walk away from a conversation feeling worse about yourself than you did before the conversation?

I do. Sometimes. When this happens I ask myself, “Was that them or was that me?” Was I being thinned skinned, as my mother told me I was or were they being superior, mean, passive aggressive?

Yesterday I reached out to a co-worker by asking her some “How are you questions?” I listened to her answers, nodding, laughing. I felt interested. I was getting her. Then she asked me a specific question about myself concerning an issue that was public enough  for her to know some details. As I responded, she interrupted with a moralistic sounding interjection. What I heard her saying was…if only I had thought like her I wouldn’t be in this jam.

“Wow I was stupid. I should have known this. She did. That’s because she is a better therapist than me.” My mind was racing.

I began to give her more details, hoping my explanations would explain my decisions.  I was grasping for her understanding. I was feeling increasingly pathetic. The more I told on myself the more I seemed to reinforce her “take” on my situation. I finally stopped talking. Defeated. I walked away not liking myself as much as I did before we engaged. I walked up the stairs to my office with heavy feet.

Since this was not my first I-am-inadequate rodeo, I knew what I needed to do. Over the years I have developed coping strategies for this kind-of-thing.

  1. I decide I never liked her anyway. I call on my best-junior-high-mean-girl to internally trash talk her. My adolescent self believes this will make me feel better.  It never does.
  2.  I decide I better get busy being a better, stronger, more successful version of myself. I’ll take a class. Read a book. Dress more sophisticatedly. Share less of my vulnerability. I usually just feel tired at the end of this option and take a nap.
  3. I eat some chocolate. I haven’t found a down side to this.
  4. I call a trusted friend to vent hoping they will agree that she is just not that nice. I love it when my smart, loyal, accomplished friend says, “Yeah I always thought that of her too. You poor thing. I think you are wonderful.” For a moment I feel victorious.
  5. I ask myself what got touched in me that I am reacting so strongly. This one is the hardest and the least fun…”Really? Do I have to look at myself again? Do I have to get honest about me? Damn!” Sometimes it helps do combine this one with #3.

So after quickly moving through #1, #2, skipping #3 & #4 — since I had no chocolate or time to call a friend — with a sigh I moved into #5.

I remembered the book The 4 Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. The 2nd agreement is Don’t Take Anything Personally. The premise is that what others say is more about them then me. That we all come from our own projections that are a result of our view of the world. The stories we make up.

This was comforting. I realized that my co-worker had her own reasons for commenting the way she did that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with her experience. I no longer had to be angry at her or quickly read a self help book.

Not taking anything personally is liberating.

But, it may not be the finish line.

If the relationship is significant enough to me I realize I need to say something about how I felt as a result of what was said. Even though I am not taking it personally I may still feel bruised. So coping strategy #6 is talking to the person about how I felt when they said what they said. (I lied, this one is harder than #5.) It takes courage and trust in the relationship to be strong enough for vulnerable honesty.

Deciding when to speak up and when to let-it-go is a constant process of discernment.

Chocolate makes this easier…

 

 
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I can’t know what I don’t know…and I hate that!

Sometimes we just don’t know. We don’t know the best way to go in our lives, what decision will move us in a desired direction or what will keep us safe in the future.

Staying in the not-knowing is painstakingly hard. I hate it. Most of my friends do too.

I often attempt to correct this unpleasantness with a lot of figuring-out-of-things. Making pro and con lists. Getting others opinions. Imagining into the future. Anything to know.

Living in the question is an act of faith. I have to trust that I will know when I am ready to know. That takes a tremendous amount of confidence…in me. It also means I must remain open to all possibilities, not just the narrow the options I have selected so I feel more comfortable.

My new daughter-in-law was struggling with some career decisions. She wanted to know what she should do…now! She went back and forth, up and down, trying to know the right choice.

I told her that she needed to be willing to live in her question, until her answer appeared. I assured her it would.

I felt like the wise sage offering advise to the fair maiden. Advise born of 5 ½ decades of figuring out life…sometimes more successfully than others. Life takes its own time and its own route. We are best served by being willing companions to the ride.

I like knowing this.
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Living in the Question…

Staying in the not knowing is painstakingly hard. I hate it. Most of my friends do too.

I attempt to correct this unpleasantness with lots of figuring out of things. Making pro and con lists. Getting others opinions. Imagining into the future. Anything to know.

Living in the question is an act of faith. I have to trust that I will know when I am ready to know. That takes a tremendous amount of confidence…in me. It also means I must remain open to all possibilities, not just the narrow the options I have selected so I feel more comfortable.

My new daughter in law is struggling with some career decisions. She wants to know what she should do…now! She goes back and forth, up and down, trying to know the right choice.

I heard myself tell her that what she has to be willing to do is live in the question until the answer appears. I assured her it would.

I felt like the wise sage offering advise to the fair maiden. Advise born of 5 ½ decades of figuring out life…sometimes more successfully than others. Life takes its own time and its own route and we are best served by being willing companions to the ride.

I like knowing this.
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I DO. I HAVE. I BE.

At our July women’s group Jude summed up life with these three choices. They made sense to me. I knew these in myself. I wrote them down and have been noticing them ever since.

I DO.

And boy, do I. I think this way. All. Of. The. Time.

“What do I need to do?” I feel tired.

“What should I do?” I feel exhausted.

“I finally I got that done, but look at all I didn’t get done.” I feel beaten.

It’s hard to get out of bed some mornings.

I believed that when the kids were launched I would have all kinds of time on my hands. That I would get it all done, whatever it was that needed doing. Maybe I would even be bored. That I would entertain myself by organizing my junk drawer.

I am not keeping up with my list of to do’s. I cannot even close my junk drawer.

 

I HAVE. 

I have down sized twice in the last 5 years so I have much less than I ever did. I kinda like this. I live in a small home that will not tolerate a lot of stuff. This reality supports minimal accumulation. It makes window shopping bittersweet…I see something I love and want, knowing it will truly make my life complete, but, remind myself there is no place to put it, hang it, or prop it. I walk away…sad for not having, relieved that that purchase will not be on my next months Visa bill.

However, I have cleverly rectified this dilemma by disguising my consumerism as necessary home improvement projects. Depending on the day and my mood this list can be quite long. My have and my do are a formidable couple.

I was visiting with a friend yesterday and while we talked I was gathering home improvement ideas from her place. I mused that maybe I would rip out our wrought iron banister, explaining I never was a fan of wrought iron and by replacing it with wood, like her’s, it would warm up our place. Laura said she kind of liked wrought iron, she said she thought it looked clean. I remembered she has an iron coffee table and end table. Then she said, “I don’t know, you could do that, maybe you are made of money and that is not a consideration.”

Thank you Jesus. Or Laura. Those words cut right through my need to have. My budget  and my sensibility rose to the surface. I felt relieved. Less to pay for and less to do.

I went home and appreciated my wrought iron bannister in a whole new way.

 

To BE. 

There is sooo much written on this state of mind. It is unarguably the way to be (no pun intended). But, man, is it hard to do (hah, another pun).

I have been mulling around the idea of how to turn my to do list into a want list so I can be more in the moment while doing it. Still with me?

If I do what I do, fully doing it, then I will be. Got that?

So when I am finished writing this post I plan to weed my garden. Weeding is not one of my favorite activities. I wish I were one of those people that feel contentment yanking and sweating and clipping, but I am not. However, I do walk through my garden every time I leave the house, often stopping to admire it, amazed with myself for creating such a spot of beauty, so I want it to look good.

I found my want. I want to pull weeds, tend to my garden, restore it to beauty. It is no longer a to do, but a want.

I consider calling my friend Heidi while I garden since we have been playing phone tag…you know, kill two birds with one stone (bad garden metaphor). I quickly remind myself that multitasking is not conducive to being.

I decide to just garden, to be fully in the moment, pulling weeds, clipping plants, sweating like a women in menopause; not thinking about the next chore to be done.

Wish me luck…
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Post Script

My garden looks beautiful. I still didn’t love the job, but I love the result both in the garden and in myself.

I was fully in my moment, BEING while I was DOING.