The other day I was walking around in a Deseret Book store, when I saw this darling little necklace of a small bird. Deseret Book is really extra in the motivational department (one of the reasons it’s really dangerous for me to go there), so not only did they have this little necklace, but the packaging read ‘A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not in the branch, but in her own wings’.
We constantly use our circumstances to decide how we feel. Even the simple question of ‘how are you?’ will have completely different answers depending on what is happening to the person that is answering. In some sense, yes we are dependent upon what happens to us and around us. When we experience something disappointing or even heartbreaking to an extent, our branch may fall out from underneath us, and we may, for a moment, not be okay. When a branch falls, the bird does too for a time, but then the bird opens its wings and remembers the second nature action of flying. Of finding another branch.
Sometimes we are genuinely trodden down by events that shake our very core, such as the loss of a loved one, a financial crisis, or even feelings that have seemingly no reason or right to exist. For that we may fall a little longer, and we may keep falling until our wings heal and we can at least glide. Or we may fall until we hit the ground. At which point, we must decide whether or not to get up again.
Getting up is hard. Even just gliding is hard. It’s a terrible sensation of losing footing and trusting weight to something that is not so second nature. When we do find a new branch, we may put all our prayers and wishes into the strength of the branch rather than the strength of our wings. But birds were given wings, and birds were made to fly.
Falling is terrifying, and will be every time it happens. Each time we fly, it becomes easier – like using a new type of paint. It will not always act the way it does in your head, and the first few paintings will be mildly wrong – off in some way, not quite the feeling you meant to express. The more we paint, and the more our branches break, the stronger our wings get. Maybe the first time we fall for twenty seconds, maybe we fall for several years as I did. Maybe the second time it takes just as long to get flying.
But as we learn to fly, we learn to trust our wings rather than our branches.
We will still need branches to rest on, and we will still fall when they break, we will never be invulnerable. But we will become resilient. Not unfeeling, not unpanicked when the branch does inevitably break, but resilient. Confident. And ready to fly – after all, we’re birds, made to fly, and it’s second nature.