For about three weeks now I’ve had a robin who throws himself at my foyer window. The foyer is two stories tall and the window is inaccessible from the ground floor. There are no window coverings. Every morning, and again in the afternoons, the bird sits in the tree outside the window and repeatedly throws himself against the glass.
At first we had no idea what he was doing, calling him our suicide bird, but then I learned that in mating season, birds are very territorial. He was seeing his reflection in the mirror as another bird, and he was simply trying to protect his territory.
If we turn both the upstairs hall light and the foyer light on, it sometimes dims his reflection enough so he quits, but not always. With a hypnotizing rhythm, he throws himself against the glass, returns to the branch, shakes himself off, and throws himself against the glass again. And again. Easily, for two hours every day.
I’m afraid he will hurt himself. I’m afraid that one day I’ll step out my front door and see his tiny bird body on the ground, neck broken. I go outside and talk to him, I go inside and jump around inside the window and try to scare him, but none of it does any good.
Then it dawned on me. Maybe this bird is here for me. Maybe this bird is here to teach me something that I’m not noticing in my own life.
Fighting Our Own Reflection
How many times have I fought something that wasn’t really there? How many times have I defended my territory against something that was an illusion? Could it be that there were times where I thought I was persevering, pushing ahead with strength and determination, while others were looking at me with pity, or even laughing at my folly?
Have others tried to get my attention, to let me know that I was fighting my own reflection, but I didn’t notice? Perhaps. I started thinking about the times where I’ve stood my ground, defended my territory.
It’s interesting, because as a female who wanted to please, and then as a mom, I have spent a lot of years learning how to stand up for myself. My instinct still is to take the short stick. I can handle it, I can make others happy, I don’t really care.
Whenever I open a loaf of bread, I dig out the two heels and I eat those first. Not because I like the heels, but because I know my family won’t eat the heels, and it’s easier to get the two heels out of the way first, so nobody else is stuck with the heels. Except me. Because I can take it. This is a fight I’d never take on. This is territory I would never defend. But what if I did?
The Choices I Willingly Make
If I didn’t eat the two heels, my family would keep them wrapped in the bread bag, stashed in the refrigerator forever, waiting until I ate them or threw them away. Which would drive me crazy. Seeing the uneaten heels of the bread would bring a multitude of bad thoughts to mind. Every time I’d open the refrigerator, I’d get irritated. If I said something, my family would probably say something simple, like, “Throw them out if you’re not going to eat them.”
But I don’t like wasting food, so I’d either have to eat them anyway or throw them away. But I couldn’t make someone else eat them. If I did nothing, eventually, my entire refrigerator would be stuffed with bread bags containing the two heels from each loaf. I’d be the one fighting myself, not liking anyone elses solutions, banging endlessly against my own reflection. Which is why I simple eat the two heels first. I avoid the whole scenario.
But bread is minor. What about the big things, where I feel strongly about defending my territory?
The Choices I Unwillingly Make
This last week, my husband did something that really upset me, yet he refused to apologize. I felt like I needed an apology, like the core of my being was wounded. Even though I know he made the mistake inadvertently, I still needed that apology. But he doesn’t apologize. Before we got married he told me that he doesn’t believe in apologizing. And he doesn’t. Nor will he. And I know that. But I still wanted it.
So now what? What happens when I feel like I need something, but I know I will not get what it is I want? Am I like the bird, constantly throwing myself against an immovable object? I must be, because I know I can’t win. Yet I still try. And I know that the only one who gets hurt in the process is me.
Fighting Others, or Fighting Myself
But I feel so strongly that I need to defend my core, my rights and my integrity that I keep fighting. To my own detriment, because what I’m really fighting is my own reflection, not my spouse.
I’m fighting my own history of putting myself last, of willingly taking the short end of stick, but I’m not fighting him. His behavior brings out my frustrations with me, and my inability to take what I need, to put myself first. I know where he stands, and I always have.
And so I finally see. There is no other bird there. It’s only just me.