“A free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wing in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky.”
“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams, his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream, his wings are clipped and his feet are tied”.
(Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird” )
Have you ever watched a bird soar, its wings taking it higher and higher? The light catching the colours on its chest. Traveling over lands and seas, through early morning mists of scarlet reds and warm golds from far away sunsets. Yet for a bird that is caged life is very different and its freedom to soar and follow its instincts is clipped and stunted.
Freedom is a beautiful thing. Being free to be who you are is a gift many struggle to find. When I was a child I always felt different, I never wanted to follow the crowd, wear the latest fads or like the things everyone else did. If the other girls wore pleated shirts for their uniform, I wore a long straight one. When everyone got their hair cut into bobs I grew mine as long as I could. I wore flowers in my hair, loved dainty pretty dresses and things that sparkled.
I struggled in my teenage years and had few friends. In fact if I’m honest I got on better with boys than I did girls of the same age as I often found them always falling out and being jealous of each other. I had no interest in gossip and while everyone loved the current boy band, I loved music that was considered very old school. I loved art and books and had strong views on things I cared about. Yet as I grew older I found it harder to be who I really was, I struggled with nurturing the real me.
Human nature is to want to belong and fit it and I’ve always struggled to find my place. While I have sought to be accepted I didn’t want to do so at the cost of my own needs, dreams and wishes. Yet all too often feelings of loneliness and guilt over who I was caused me to feel like I needed to be something else. With the criticism of others I slowly became what others wanted and did what others expected of me. I lost my voice, lost the ability to chose for myself and instead became unhappy and stunted.
I found myself too lost in the labels others attached to me; wife, mother and daughter. I became known by others for my struggles, my weaknesses and failures. Labels can be hard to remove and sometimes a little still remains despite how hard we try. For years I felt I had lost my identity, not knowing who I was, what I wanted or how to feel free. I felt like a caged bird, unable to spread my wings and fly and become who I really wanted to be.
We can all become like a bird in a cage trapped by the bars of other people’s expectations and demands of us. To follow our dreams can be hard and to be who really truly want to be even harder. However inside us we all have amazing unique gifts just waiting to be discovered yet to do so we need a environment in which to flourish and be surrounded by people that nurture us and help us to grow.
I’ve always loved people, loved helping them, and found peoples’ stories and experiences fascinating. I think you can learn so much from listening to people. You can see so many emotions in a person as they tell you about their life, see their eyes light up at memories of loved ones and happy days. So too when their eyes darken and fill with pain as they recall difficult times. People are beautiful in so many ways, our differences and gifts are what make us unique, yet we seem to cage people and not allow them to develop their true gifts and see the beauty they process.
We can also cage ourselves by trying to please others, bars of fear can hold us captive as we fear to chase our dreams. Especially guilt can clip our wings and cause us to doubt our worth. When I struggled for years with my mental health it became who I was, it ruled my life and took over everything. I felt guilt that I was suffering, guilt made me believe I was to blame for everything and that I was responsible for others happiness. Not only was I caged by my illness but caged by my view of myself. I felt I possessed no gifts and I felt lost, a burden and unloveable. Yet my illness did not define me or make me without anything to offer others, in fact, in some ways it gave me gifts that I could use to help others. I just needed to see them.
Sometimes it takes just one person to open the door of your cage to help you fly to freedom. Sometimes we need help to bravely step out from behind the bars and venture into the scary world beyond. It may take time to find our gifts and help them to flourish and grow. We need to surround ourselves with people that bring out the best in us, help us to believe in ourselves and encourage us to be braver, stronger. However the choice lays with us because even if the door of our cage is open we may falter and be hesitant to leave the cage we have known and step into unknown. To take the step and fly from the purch needs you to nurture your self worth, also healing the pain that may be lingering from your past and encourage the growth that is possible beyond the bars that seek to confine you.
Don’t let anyone or anything clip your wings and keep you caged from the beautiful world and its possibilities. Instead break free, spread your wings, and soar to the skies above. There are many sunsets for you to see and morning mists to navigate, let the sun catch your beautiful colours and reflect your gifts for all the world to see.