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The Plight of Flight: Seeing Our Challenges as Cheerleaders

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

"Come on little buddy, you can hop up the stairs, I know you can. The big man's coming with the leaf blower and you're not going to like it if you're here on the ground. Come on, you can do it. Come on." This was my best attempt at Ace Venturing a baby mourning dove who was already having a tough day only made worse by the untimely arrival of the weekly gardeners.

I was first startled into the realization that the baby had even left the nest when she attempted a short flight and instead bounced right into my window before falling to the ground. Not the most impressive first day of flying I've seen from a new dove, and I've seen a few because they've gotten into the habit of pro-creating right above my apartment door.

Now she was grounded, seemingly a little shell-shocked by flight trauma, and becoming disoriented by the sound of the approaching lawn mower.

By the way, she's too young for me to know for sure she's female, but in any case I named her Valentía which is Spanish for courage, because when she let me get close enough to her, I could feel at once her fear and her ability to respond to that fear.

So that's when I approached. Because I figured I could be a gentler presence sans landscaping equipment and coach her up to a somewhat higher, safer plane. Her parents were there, too, seemingly in total panic mode. They saw me approach, they saw me persist, they flew around to different corners of the yard to get a new glance of me. I knew I was frightening all 3 of them but it felt like the least I could do.

Valentía let me get too close to her and I hope she learned not to ever do that again. But like I said, she was afraid. She also would have attacked me if she needed to, I could tell by her body language and the occasional snapping of her beak. But given all her options, she chose instead to trust her own natural abilities to get away from me. She flapped her wings long enough to make it on top of the porch, a place sure to be safe from the leaf blower.

"Yay!! You did it! I knew you could!" I yelled, with enthusiasm that likely didn't translate to my avian friends. "Stay there until the machine sounds stop, okay? And then you'll be safe. Unless the cat shows up and then..." I persisted in smacking human words toward the dove in case she could, at least, understand my energy.

When I left for work, the gardeners were done and Valentía remained on the porch relaxing next to mom and dad.

I thought man, those doves have had a tough morning. Life as a creature in the food chain seems awfully stressful, it's just one thing after another. And I included my interactions with Valentía in that stress, because even though I was trying to help her, she didn't know that. From her view, I was merely another threat, even though I wasn't, and even though I was trying to mitigate an actual threat.

And then I thought about how many times that happens in our human lives, when we feel attacked by something or misinterpret assistance and inspiration as a threat. When we respond with fear and overwhelm and can't even see that this added pressure is, in fact, there to help us; there to force us into making the choice about how much faith we have in ourselves. We hardly assume our adversity has good intentions. Instead, often, we feel punished, alone, like someone is waiting for us to fail. What if our adversity was waiting for us to succeed? What if our adversity was, in fact, very much rooting for us to fly?

There are different types of adversity, of course. Some threats do need to be avoided. But if you look at it through some kind of universal energy or the makings of a higher power, you are not being set up to fail. The whole of the experience may very well wish to see you flourish. I was someone's adversity today and I can tell you that it filled me with immense joy to see Valentía own her birdness in all her glory.

And about that faith! In our scariest times, those overwhelming moments when we think this is it - this is what destroys me in the end and our bodies flood with fear and responses to that fear, we can -- always -- choose to trust ourselves. Even if our abilities haven't been proven. Even if we just flew into a window a few minutes earlier. Even if we doubt we can flap our wings at all, it's a better option to try.



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