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Yesterday, while on the phone, I noticed the bush next to me shaking and rustling. Finally, a very small blue jay emerged and shook itself out, looking side-to-side and sizing me up before hopping away. While I am no ornithologist, I do enjoy birdwatching and am quite amused by them. I’m particularly entertained by the blue jays and cardinals who frequently squawk at, tease, and battle one another.
Seeing a blue bird of any kind reminds me of the tales of the Bluebird of Happiness. Did you know that a tale of a bluebird associated with happiness has existed in several cultures since 1650? Russians, Chinese, Japanese, and Native Americans all have ancient tales, songs, and artwork depicting the association between glee, love, and blue birds. More recently, we can recall Disney’s happy lyrics of the bluebird on my shoulder for the song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. Or the Wizard of Oz’s lyrics for Somewhere Over the Rainbow where bluebirds fly.
Happiness is important to us, and it should be. Verily, we bid one another farewell or greet one another by saying, “I hope you are happy.” Today, many are struggling to feel happy and/or feel guilty if they are happy. The present environmental politics, economy, educational challenges, health challenges, and compliances are confusing. Decisions we make seem more serious now. Ethics come into play more often than before because everyone has an opinion and voices it even if they shouldn’t. Boundaries are pushed, people are scared, frustrated, and angry. Employees who fear losing their jobs do not know what to do about mandatory vaccinations. Moreover, our children are suffering emotionally, socially, and physically. When will this end? How will it end? Will happiness ever return?
With all this uncertainty, perhaps the questions should include, “What can you and I do to help improve our existence to feel happy again?” Immediately, you and I can create a new attitude and perspective. If you are a parent, you can help your child to see that change; even uncertain change can be good by modeling awe and curiosity. Our perspective and attitude influence how we navigate crises, challenges, and everyday living. Awe is a powerful emotion that may humble one’s sense of self and allow one to feel connected and grafted into something bigger. Researchers from the University of California at Berkley define awe as: “The feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world.” Though we may feel small, this sacred feeling does not diminish our sense of purpose, power, or esteem. Right now, we can practice childlike wonder and model awe and curiosity by disconnecting from electronics for extended periods of time. We can take walks or sit outside and take note of the sounds and sights of the micro and macro elements we normally do not pay attention to. We can feel the breeze and temperature on our skin. We can then ask questions about what we observe to increase our sense of pleasure even when facing incredible challenges. For example, if you find a penny on the ground, you can pick it up, feel the temperature, notice the color, the date, the wornness. We can wonder who dropped it? What kind of life did the person have? How many places has that penny inhabited? If it could talk, what would the penny say? What can that penny be used for? Happiness should not rely on things returning to what they once were.
Born in 1831, author Olive Thorne Miller tells the true story of her pet Blue Jay she named Jakie. Jakie had to remain indoors, captive from the outside world, as he was injured as a fledgling and could never live in the wild with his flock. Jakie had all the instincts of other Blue Jays and needed to create ways to fulfill his natural hierarchical and pesky social inclinations in his unnatural, safe, but unideal environment. For instance, Blue Jays choose one soul mate for life, and as there was none for him, he chose Olive as his true love and would feed her and sing her sweet love songs. Jakie would tidy up the room and use creativity in utilizing the buttons and matches Olive intentionally spilled to occupy him. To satisfy his need for sensationalism, Jakie would repeatedly tease the other wild birds Olive had as rescued pets.
There are similarities between Jakie’s life and many of ours today. Like Jakie, we have expectations, habits, and natural inclinations that are being disrupted. While the false sense of control we so desire is being usurped, we can choose to use creativity, curiosity, and awe to enlarge our vision, uplift our emotions, and deepen our everyday experience. Periods of challenge have beginnings and endings. The time in-between is vitally important. Let’s not merely suspend living life until we have some corporate resolve. Resolve now to elevate, be curious, live in the awe of the life God has given you. There is a quote that says,
I think this is a lovely symbol and verse to remember as we enter into the season of Autumn.
Until next time!
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernandez-Seltz is the founder of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has spent the past 15 years studying self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, and the effects of environment and culture on the individual.