lundi 9 mars 2015

Bird by Bird, Breath by Breath

It happens when I am “being a good girl”. 

Let me explain this.

Waking up at 7 am on Saturdays to catch the 8:30 bus.
And remaining focused instead of watching dreamily the colour of my ginger tea in the glass pitcher.

Most of the time, this means focusing on something that needs to be done: washing the dishes, working on a translation, getting ready on time for the bus, brushing my teeth, sweeping the floor, and so on.

All the while, I am only Half Breathing.

Half a breath comes in, half a breath comes out. Half of the required oxygen gets in, half of the toxins get out... Meanwhile, the diaphragm gradually gets tense after all these hours of holding back.

Also, you can't breathe easily with a - 28 C wind chill and a scarf over your face all the time.

This combination is an excellent recipe for getting tired and tense, and for being suddenly overwhelmed by your emotions and feelings when they do manage to come out.

Moreover, I also tend to hold my breath when I am focusing on something that I really enjoy doing, like drawing, painting, taking pictures, or practicing yoga. Isn’t it strange? 

Drawing birds allows me to reconnect with their freedom and grace.

Not really... Because this kind of careful “focus” is the opposite of engaging myself truly, and freely, in these activities: without thinking, without worrying about doing it right. 

Remaining focused in a serious, careful way is the opposite of my true nature: the Wild Child that needs to be completely absorbed in her current environment, activity or feeling – when I can loose my sense of time, when I don't need to achieve anything. 

Then I am fully alive, and fully myself.

American Goldfinch.

Well, I can grow even more tense and tired when I am “being a good girl” (i. e. focused, organized, reliable) for the sake of somebody else.

Because of my personal history, when someone is asking me to support them in some way, it can be very difficult for me to say "no" (I care for this person; their project or need is important for them; I think I can actually help) and yet, for these very reasons, it is equally difficult for me not to divest all of my energies towards this responsibility.

If that responsibility has a limited time frame and scope, and is then removed from my hands, then the story has a happy ending.

But on a few occasions, things went a bit out of control.

If the project/problem is entrusted to my care for a while, or if it has no real ending/solution, the responsibility slowly invades my mind, obliquely. I become less involved in my own life, but also less grounded. 

This is definitely a sign that something is wrong, and it's a slippery slope. Ultimately, if the process goes on, I begin to loose my sense of self...

So you see, in that kind of situation, I am holding my breath both physically and mentally.

The Wild Child in me is no longer able to tug at my sleeve, like she usually does when I am focusing on my own projects in the wrong way. This time, she has to be locked away in a remote room so I can’t hear her voice. She becomes wilder, and more desperate. She cries for light, for air, for freedom. 

(All the while, I am doing my best to remain faithful as well to the person I promised to help, so these conflicting loyalties are bringing me down, fast.)

When I can’t stand it anymore (after several weeks or months, as I am not initially aware of what is going on), I run blindly to her secluded room, where she was first locked up a long time ago*, and I find her shaking with sobs, with exhaustion, with despair at not being seen or heard, again. 

I fiercely promise never to do this anymore, ever. I am, too, shaking with sobs, with exhaustion, with despair at not being seen or heard, again.

I am crying as I write, because a similar story has in fact happened to many children, literally or symbolically. And because I am standing there right now, free at last, but still shaken, exhausted and vulnerable.

I took up this particular responsibility because I thought I might be able to do it all by now (or, to be frank, I thought I should be able to do it): juggling between my (many) own projects and somebody else’s. 

You know, like grown-up people do all the time.

Well, I am still not able to. But I am now quite convinced that I don’t need to. I probably don't need be a Grown-Up, either. Or even a Good Girl. 

Quoting Charlie Brown: What a relief!

I did not arrange this conversation, okay? I was merely there at the right moment.

What I need to do, instead, is to let my Wild Child lead the way.

As in: drawing a Yellow-Rumped Warbler that is multi-coloured and looks like any other young bird.
Except it's my own.

A few weeks ago, I took my healing stones outside in the new, thin crescent of moon that is smiling up there every time, for each one of us, with a promise: everything will be all right.

I let them glow in the sun the following morning, for good measure.
Mingling with tiny ice crystals.

This was a wise move, as the full moon in Virgo on March 5th turned out to be particularly unsettling and distressing, apparently for good reason. Meditating helped, but I kept my stones inside.

(I happen to be a Virgo and a Dog, two signs known for being loyal, reliable, intuitive, helpful, and for doing things right. Quoting Charlie Brown again: Good grief!)

Oh, Bluebird. I miss you, and our long summer afternoons on the hill.

February 2015 has been the coldest in Quebec for the last 140 years, after a long, intense January. But March is here, and a few hours ago North America has switched from Winter time to Summer time.

I am ready to drink up every hour of sunlight, every slender moon, every breath.

Right here, inside each moment.

Fully alive. And free.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

Thank you for reading this story with me. I feel better already :o)


(* I started to put away my true self when I was about 10, gradually losing contact with my real personality and with life in general. This is another story, but it has a happy ending :o)

ps - You have probably read Anne Lamott's wonderful book: Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It is very uplifting, reassuring, and deep-breathing.

5 commentaires:

  1. Merci pour ce partage même si moi aussi pour en percevoir tous le sens je vais devoir le relire .. plusieurs fois
    Cela étant .. on te retrouve telle que tu es C'est donc une joie de relire

    1. Merci Claude pour ton commentaire qui me touche :o) et ce n'est effectivement pas un processus facile à comprendre… Moi-même il m'a fallu des années ! Et pourtant cela m'arrive encore. Le partager ici est à la fois libérateur et salvateur.

      J'espère que nos enfants sauvages se sentiront tous réconfortés au passage :o)

  2. Dearest Emmanuelle, so happy to hear you're in a better place & you've set your Wild Child free. It is so easy to forget to breathe, I find myself holding my breath when I'm horse riding, driving, taking photos, exercising, knitting, & then I realise and let go & things change in beautiful ways.

    The seventh image, the tree shadow looks to me like a woman of the forest, her hair flowing, a long robe, arms if she is the tree spirit herself :)

    take care

    1. Dearest Chontelle, thank you for your friendly visit, it makes me truly happy! I'm taking good care of my Wild Child, and I can't wait for my current translations to be over, so I can start drawing again. I wonder what will come of this letting go, as you say :o)

      And you are so right about the tree shadow, when I stopped to take this photo I felt that the spirit of the tree, its personality, was painted in blue on the snow for all of us to see…

      Cheers and hugs,


  3. thank you for sharing with us!
    i can deeply relate to what you write about in this post Emmanuelle.


    ps: i LOVE your bird drawings, so beautiful.