June 16, 2009

Keep on Tryin'

In early spring a mother bird persistently built her nest under our carport. Upon her first attempt at building, the bits of pine straw, twigs, and dried-out grass easily blew away. I couldn't imagine the mother bird ever having success at building a sturdy base upon which she could complete the nest. I think the first few attempts failed, actually. And I thought to myself, Good grief, give up already! It's obviously NOT the place to build. Try somewhere else. But that bird kept at it. I remember one morning as I headed out the door--noticing the bird making yet another attempt--there were once again only a few starter pieces to the nest. But by the next afternoon it appeared complete. I was astounded! How could she go from those poor first attempts to absolute triumph seemingly overnight?

I learned that nest building is instinctive; birds cannot not complete the task. They rest when their hard-wired building impulses have been satiated through completing the task. Birds even instinctively know what building materials to use: mud, spider webs, caterpillar silk, leaf mold, plant fibers, and saliva, which are then intertwined with twigs, leaves, grass, and/or straw. Hundreds of trips are made from their building site to various places to gather all of the supplies needed. All done with a beak! . . . pretty resourceful, if you ask me.

I started wondering what instinctive behaviors I have, besides the basic ones: survival, sleeping, eating, language acquisition, sense of right/wrong, and so on. I wanted to think outside the structured scientific definition of "instinct" and look at what is unique to me. What instincts do I have (even though scientifically they might not really be instincts)? What is hard-wired into my being that I try to fight or deny as being a part of me? Well, an obvious one is the creative flow. I'm hard-wired to unleash my creativity in various ways: writing, decorating, gardening, even parenting. Yet so often I lack the confidence to let the creative process flow. I stifle it. I think what I create isn't good enough. I undersell my natural skills to myself and others. Or I become envious of others' skills that are seemingly better than mine . . . creating the comparison game, which only paralyzes me from any creative action. Instinctively I know that being creative resonates with my being. But my human nature fights the process out of, well, I guess you'd call it insecurity. Or fear of failure. Or fear of not being good enough. But the birds don't play that mind game with their nest-building. They get up, perform their God-given instinctive duties, and get it done.

Even with my poor first attempts at something, I need to remember that those early efforts always lead to the next step. Thus the opposite is true as well: No steps lead nowhere. And that's not gonna work for me. Each attempt at the creative life builds momentum to propel more energy into the next project. And as a whole the constant movement is all a success. The failure only lies in the lack of movement. The "frozen moments" as I call them. Or "creative paralysis".

Again . . . nature always sends us such simple messages about how to achieve inner wellness. By the way, the momma bird in our yard went on to have two baby birds. One flew away with ease and dignity; the other bird took days and days and DAYS to get the whole flying/worm catching thing accomplished (it was quite a sad sight to see, actually). That poor momma bird was just as persistent with her (rather large at this point) baby as she was with building her nest. She tirelessly fed it worms and encouraged it to fly, only getting a weak attempt from her baby to try these things on its own. Hours and hours (believe me, I had nothing better to do than keep up with this, so I know) were spent following her "big" baby all over the yard, while it simply hopped everywhere, waiting to be fed. After five days there was triumph. The birds left the yard, and the circle of life continued: the baby bird finally succeeded in flying.

Just like that momma bird who stayed the course for her baby while it was developing its skills, God is here for us as we stumble through our weak attempts at accomplishing our life's mission. And then one day it clicks in us. We get it. We are confident enough to carry on with the instinctive skills for which we were created to use in this world. And help was always by our side . . . in the form of many things God chooses to use: people, angels, nature . . . . Just keep your heart open to the encouraging messages around you.

1 comment:

Kimberly 'Butterfly Wings' said...

What a beautiful reminder that we are uniquely created with a purpose (a mission) to fulfill in life and that all we need is to look inside...to uncover the God-given gifts and talents. I love nature's ability to mirror these lessons for us. Just the message that I needed to hear...patience and persistence will guide me to my goal.