There is an old adage that ‘birds of a feather always flock together’. Since I have lived in the bush, I have so much more opportunity to admire birds. I have realised that where you see a specific bird, there is a good chance you’ll see others like it there too.
Another thing I have realised about birds is that over and under those feathers, they are quite consistent in their behaviour. The little Blue Waxbills are among my favourite. They were our very first bird visitors when we moved into our new home. At first, they were shy and cautious, but slowly they began to trust us enough to invite their family and friends to our garden too. Then, they felt comfortable enough to remain in the Grey Raisin Tree, while we came out and replenished the seed in the teacup bird feeder. Now, I am convinced that they call me to come and remedy the empty status of the feeder after a monkey raid.
Other birds were encouraged by their confidence in us, and soon the Cut Throat and Black Widow Finches showed up too. The Guinea Fowls needed no second invitation and the Hornbills and Go-Away Birds soon had our number too. I have derived so much joy from familiarising myself with their calls, antics and their characteristic behaviour. Occasionally, I have been mistaken in identifying birds that look similar or are still wearing their immature suits.
I wish it was as simple with human beings. Over the years, I have often discovered that people were the complete opposite to what I thought. Feathers are thicker than skin, so I think it would have been more logical to expect that birds might hide who they are more effectively. Wrong. Evidently, you can hide a lot under a thin skin. Yes, sometimes you discover that someone is an Immature Lesser Spotted Moron, and there is always hope that can be remedied with time and wisdom. However, sometimes it’s hard to process when a Warm-Hearted Bestie turns out to be Fickle Feathered Fiend.
Occasionally, the opposite happens and you suddenly discover that a Pale Breasted What-What, is actually a Silver Winged Angel. My point is that human beings are so complex and for a myriad of reasons, they hide who they really are beneath layers and facades. It makes life infinitely more interesting and often much harder too. I wish humans could simply be themselves. I know we can’t because our fake layers and walls protect us from judgement, labelling and many other hurtful things. We joke that blondes can be categorised, but really there is no visual way of discerning what the moral fibre of a human being is. Just like the Waxbills had to trust me a little to see who I really was, we have to trust humans. Sometimes our trust is misplaced, but more often, it is rewarded.
I have come to realise that I cannot be responsible for what other people hide under their layers. I can be respectful of their layers and their reasons for hiding. When the truth is eventually revealed I do not have a responsibility to change them, but the choice to love them (or not). Twice I have even chosen to break ties with people I loved deeply. The reality is that I only have a responsibility for what lies under my own skin. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I am flawed, my feathers are not what they used to be, and I’m a blonde bird to boot.
However, I have a choice. I can choose to sing my song as authentically as possible. Yes, I have layers and I trust very few people – I own that. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be real. Frankly, it’s hard enough just being me – I don’t have the energy to be someone else too! That old adage rings true today – people do tend to associate with like-minded fellows. So, I can exercise my responsibility to be authentic under my skin, so that others feel safe enough to associate with me. Essentially, we are all flawed, and our humanness that we try to hide is precisely what I believe can hold us together.
I am not pretending that it’s easy. I doubt it was easy for the tiny Waxbills to trust the giant me at first – but they did.
So it is my hope, that under my skin others will find something that is real enough for them to identify with. Paradoxically, we are by definition all fundamentally the same, but at the same time so incredibly different. Courageous authenticity is the only catalyst for us to find common ground, yet that is exactly what we are most prone to hiding for fear of judgement.
So, I dare you – show your awesome, unique true colours, and aside from attracting like-minded birds, you’ll inspire others to feel safe enough to be themselves too.