Today, October 23rd, is my daughter’s 20th birthday! What a beautiful day.
As I have set the pieces in place to begin my private therapy practice, I myself am challenged with moments of self doubt, and times of anxiety. This is normal for me, and for so many of us. So, what am I doing about it?
Well, let me tell you about my little avian therapist – Rupert. As an African Grey, Rupert is a very emotionally sensitive bird. Grey’s are inherently anxious. This is because in the wild they are flock birds, living in flocks of several hundred. That is how they are safe, and they are birds that form life long bonds. For Rupert, if he does not feel safe, he is anxious. It is important that I understand and remember this.
When I adopted Rue two years ago, he was in a large space with 30 other parrots. They were very well cared for, with skilled and empathic volunteers – each able to feel and empathize and communicate. Before his rescue, Rue had been living in a very small cage for months and maybe years. He was quiet, but keenly focused; gentle, but you knew he could hold his own if he had to. To this day I still do not know why, but he chose me when our eyes met. Of all the possible human companions passing through, he came to me and began a bonding ritual. Others noticed, commented briefly but then gave us our space. After 45 minutes of my gentle words, Rue put his hand on my vulnerable fingers. They had been inside his cage for a long time. This was an emotional and spiritual experience, and Rue entered and joined our family in that moment. After three more visits, I brought him home.
Two years later we have such a spirited bird! I have a few very small scars on my hand…hardly noticeable, but memorable. Rue has a wild side, and this is normal for a parrot. Every couple of months he reminds me with a nip or an unexpected lunge….and there is a balance.
Rupert, as an empathic and emotionally sensitive avian companion, is often a reflection of my own energy. If I am stressed, upset, or anxious, he notices and feels it. His behavior changes. He will begin picking his feathers, he will become agitated, and even be aggressive. He gets a certain flare in his eyes that shows he is feeling unsettled. When Rue displays these behaviors, usually it means he is perceiving something about my energy. So I listen and do my best to take care of myself and him.
I deliberately make use of many of the strategies I teach others. I am practicing mindfulness, especially before I sleep. In my approach, this is interwoven with prayer and centering in the context of my Christian faith. This helps me regulate my body, think more realistically, and feel confident that I am safe. I am taking care of myself physically – deliberately working out every other day. I try to eat dinner at 6:00 and not later, because my anxiety is physiological and tends to kick into gear at night. I am also talking directly with others in a wonderful support network, so I am not isolated in this venture. Of course, I also spend time talking with my Rue. A beautiful part of my family!
Stay tuned! I’m excited to have lined up for this coming week an interview with my friend, John Hermanson. We have much in common: he is a musician, a frisbee golf superstar, a deeply spiritual person, and a person who cares sincerely about others. We’ll be talking about how both his faith and his music have played an important part in his self care over the past year.