“It isn’t what you did in the past that will affect the present. It’s what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future.”
- from The Aleph by Paulo Coelho
During Christmas, my family and I visited Balboa Park in San Diego, California.
It was there that I had the pleasure of meeting a curious new acquaintance.
He was light pink and the feathers on his head formed what looked like a spiky-pink pompadour. The first time I saw him, he was perched on the arm of a young female volunteer who was asking the passersby to adopt him.
Near him were other abandoned souls of his kind: saddened feathered beings with beaks that were rusted, and feathers that had grayed, and eyes that hung with a dark loneliness. Each of them were perched on their own eager and young human volunteers.
My sister, who was with me, walked over to the pink bird and asked the volunteer what kind of bird he was. The volunteer said that he was a pink cockatoo. My sister then asked to hold the bird and the volunteer allowed it.
The bird was immediately elated when it found itself on my sister’s arm. (I could’ve sworn it purred like a cat when my sister petted it.)
As she held the bird, my sister noticed something on him that I had just noticed, too: the feathers on his back were all grey and short, as if someone had viciously–and erratically–plucked out his longer and more beautiful pink feathers from his back.
My sister asked the volunteer what had happened, and the volunteer explained: after the cockatoo’s owner had passed away, the bird had started to pluck out its own feathers due to the anxiety the tragedy had caused him.
Saddened by the story, my sister mentioned to me that she wished she could adopt it, but she just couldn’t afford it at the moment.
Finally, reluctantly, my sister gave the pink cockatoo back to the volunteer.
At that point, my sister and I left the our new friend, and headed to a different area of the park together.
But even though I left my new friend, the pink cockatoo, that day, his story did not leave me.
My Friend, The Pink Cockatoo
I met a kindred spirit that day.
I don’t know why, but hearing the cockatoo’s story made me feel less alone.
I felt like I understood him, and I felt like he understood me.
We were like brothers for a moment.
Like me, that bird knew what it was like when tragedy visits us unexpectedly, and how our anxieties can take over from that point on, causing us to do unimaginable things to ourselves: like plucking the very wings off our backs.
I felt like this pink cockatoo knew me, and I knew him, and we both knew, too, that our stories were shared not only by the two of us, but by everyone.
You see, I may just be one man who has been alone in his room these past three years writing his story, but all of us, in our very own way, have been writing our own stories these past three years, too.
Some of us are at the part of our story where everything is going wrong. (Chapter One.) Some of us are at the part of our story where everything isn’t going wrong anymore, but it’s still not getting much better, and so we have to learn how to put up with it. (Chapter Two.) And some of us are at the part of our story where we finally get to rise from the ashes of a past tragedy, and transition into a new phase of life, one that is not necessarily better or worse, but just different from the old. (Chapter Three.)
And then, there are some of us that have entered a whole different kind of chapter.
This chapter we will call recovery.
Three years ago today, I started this blog, and on that day I made a vow to finish the first draft of my novel.
Today I renew that vow: I commit to finishing the third draft of my novel by January 1, 2014. (This time, I meant it for reals. I promise.)
I vow to finish what I started, and to follow-through on my promise to myself.
Today, I also vow to recover the parts of me that I left behind, or threw away, in the earlier, more dramatic parts of my journey–when I was in such a rush to move on. Today, I vow to recover the parts of my story that I edited out too hastily in the earlier, less-experienced parts of my writing process–when I was also in a rush to move on, and wasn’t being very careful.
Today, I stop plucking out the wings across my backside, and I allow those wings to grow out once more, until they are as strong and as fresh as they are meant to be.
Today, I begin the process of recovery so that, when the hour comes, and it’s time for me to take flight, I am ready.
Here’s to the beginning of my recovery and yours; and here’s to our sad friend, the pink cockatoo, too.
May he find the wisdom to realize that the only way he’ll take flight again is if he stops damaging the very thing that can help set him free:
Chapter Four of Courage 2 Create begins today.
>>>Blog Update: due to new time constraints, I will only be posting once a week from now on–on Mondays. I will be explaining why I’m making this change next week. This explanation will be tied to a big announcement about my personal life that I’m excited to share with you all! So stay tuned.