Sunday, March 18, 2012

Life Lessons from a Red-Tailed Hawk

Yesterday, while riding in the car, I happened to see a red-tailed hawk soaring majestically over one of the local cornfields. Now, where I live is rural enough that I'm no stranger to seeing wildlife in all forms: we've had everything in the yard from chipmunks, squirrels, and foxes to deer, coyotes, and black bears; avian visitors have included the occasional hawk, barred owl, and flock of wild turkeys along with the more commonplace blue jays, crows, and woodpeckers. In fact, a red-tailed hawk dive-bombed me in my car once, and only just managed to avoid becoming a hood ornament. But as I watched the hawk yesterday, I learned a valuable lesson about life. The hawk, as I said, was gliding over the cornfield, when I noticed that he had just extended his talons. If you're familiar at all with the flight of raptors (or birds in general, for that matter), you'll know that they tuck their talons under their bodies while in flight to minimize wind resistance. So the act of this hawk extending his talons in flight, while being something I had not seen before, told me that he was homing in on dinner. Sure enough, he went into a dive. But his prey must have figured out what was about to happen and bolted, because halfway into his dive the hawk tucked his talons back under, regained altitude, and flew off to the woods on the other side of the field.

So, what sort of life lesson did I learn from this? After all, the hawk was just trying to find some dinner, and he failed to do so. What can one learn from that? Well, as the Rolling Stones once said, "You can't always get what you want." What this hawk taught me is that, when you don't get what you want, the best thing to do is simply move on with your life. When Mr. Tasty Tidbit escaped and the hawk came up empty-taloned, did the hawk throw an aerial tantrum and whine and scream about how unfair life is? Did he spend the next hour (or day, or week, or month, or year) of his life lamenting his failure and saying "If only?" No, he simply regained his altitude and momentum, and moved on. Oh, I'm sure that for a split second, the hawk equivalent of an f-bomb crossed his mind, but the important thing is that he did not allow regret to linger. Now, I know that, as humans, our lives are a bit more complicated than our friend the hawk's life is, and we are much more prone to letting our disappointments rule our lives than a hawk would be. And yes, grieving is an appropriate emotional response to loss, especially when the loss is momentous and earth-shattering; trying to move on from a significant loss without taking the proper time to grieve is practically impossible and can lead to disastrous results, and I would no sooner try to rush someone through the grieving process than I would tap-dance in church wearing stiletto heels and a thong. But there comes a time when "grieving" becomes "wallowing," and that is when the lesson of the hawk comes into play. This lesson also teaches the element of perspective: grieving when a loved one dies, or taking time to come to terms with a significant life-change such as job loss or chronic illness is appropriate; throwing a tantrum and/or wallowing in misery when you break a nail, or blow a tire, or you can't use two coupons because the policy clearly states "one per customer per day" is just a stupid waste of time and energy.

Thank you, Mr. Hawk, for helping us out on our journey to enlightenment. I wish you good hunting, and may the wind be ever at your tail.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting Back Into the Habit

You know the funny thing about therapy? When you go see someone once a week to talk about all the stuff that's bothering you, you end up not having any material to blog about. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! :-)

Seriously, though, it has now been over a year since I last posted, and I could make a number of different excuses as to why I haven't taken (or made) the time to do so. I feel like I really should give this another shot. After all, sometimes it's nice to be able to get these thoughts out of my head, rather than just leaving them to swirl around in my admittedly over-full (and increasingly forgetful) brain. So I will try to post on a regular basis again. Who knows? It might end up helping me as much as (or more than) therapy did!