At times you need the words of someone else, to better describe how you feel. Enter author Paulo Coelho, who despite not being everyone’s cup of tea, is someone with a true gift for taking the complexity of life and narrating them in his own magical and relatable way. One book of his that I particularly like, is Eleven Minuets, about small-town girl Maria (oh the irony), and the lengths she will go to in order to leave her home in Brazil and become ‘successful’. Without ruining too much, she does leave, and instead of becoming a famous model gets lured into the world of prostitution in the picturesque city of Geneva, Switzerland. I’d like to share an exert from the book, which although speaks highly about love, to me spoke volumes about something else.
So here goes..
From Maria’s diary:
Once upon a time, there was a bird. He was adorned with two perfect wings and with glossy, colorful, marvelous feathers.
One day, a woman saw this bird and fell in love with him.
She invited the bird to fly with her, and the two travelled across the sky in perfect harmony. She admired and venerated and celebrated that bird.
But then she thought: He might want to visit far-off mountains!
And she was afraid, afraid that she would never feel the same way about any other bird.
And she thought: “I’m going to set a trap. The next time the bird appears, he will never leave again.”
The bird, who was also in love, returned the following day, fell into the trap and was put in a cage.
She looked at the bird every day. There he was, the object of her passion, and she showed him to her friends, who said: “Now you have everything you could possibly want.”
However, a strange transformation began to take place: now that she had the bird and no longer needed to woo him, she began to lose interest.
The bird, unable to fly and express the true meaning of his life, began to waste away and his feathers to lose their gloss; he grew ugly; and the woman no longer paid him any attention, except by feeding him and cleaning out his cage.
One day, the bird died. The woman felt terribly sad and spent all her time thinking about him. But she did not remember the cage, she thought only of the day when she had seen him for the first time, flying contentedly amongst the clouds.
If she had looked more deeply into herself, she would have realized that what had thrilled her about the bird was his freedom, the energy of his wings in motion, not his physical body.
Without the bird, her life too lost all meaning, and Death came knocking at her door.
“Why have you come?” she asked Death.
“So that you can fly once more with him across the sky,” Death replied.
“If you had allowed him to come and go, you would have loved and admired him ever more; alas, you now need me in order to find him again.”
So Coelho is talking about the idea that we keep people close to us, even when it’s not right, because selfishly we need them to be there. For me, I had a different take on it, and instead of seeing the bird as a bird and the woman as a woman, I pictured them part of the same person.
It’s like this..
Some of us roll with growth, roll with prospering, roll with this notion of change. The rest of us fear things that are different, are afraid of what’s beyond the unknown and are unable to adapt.
That beautiful bird for me is the part of myself that I see so clearly soaring, with such potential to keep going that bit higher, but that I can’t seem to remove from the other half of myself.
The other half is negative and burdened with the threat of pure happiness. Whenever it see’s the bird with its marvellous feathers, it automatically wants to drag it down just so it can be in plain sight within that familiar ‘safe’ zone.
Perhaps more so this year, I have caught glimpses of this creature taking flight in the sky. Mostly due to forces within myself that I’m yet to take control of, I have trapped that bird time and time again.
As I get older, instead of mourning my young years I fear the loss of my own potential. There will only be certain amount of chances that will be granted to me, before that majestic thing that I try to possess gets caged forever.
Paulo, I want to change your story a little, if I may. I want to write my own version that allows the woman to release the beautiful bird.
..And she thought: “I’m going to let him go. The next time the bird appears, if he wants to, I will allow him to be free.”
Friends, at the risk of sounding like part of Oprah’s book club selection, the only thing that truly holds you back is yourself.