Early last summer, I was neck-deep in the therapeutic process of dealing with my childhood trauma. I was also in the process of dealing with the real-time trauma of my imminently ending marriage. It was during those darkest times that my “awakening” began. As I started to wake up, I realized there was a much bigger picture I was a part of. I began to feel in tune with nature, understand spirituality and realized the universe was more intertwined with everything in my life than I thought it was. I started to see “signs” almost daily. The synchronicities were too many to ignore. The most fascinating ones were the ones with animals. Deer and hawks, to be exact. I get that I live in an area where deer and hawks live, and understand there’s a chance I’ll see them from time to time, but this was something completely different…especially the hawks. They started appearing right in front of me. They would swoop right in front of my car as I was driving, several times a week. It was scary at first, but as I realized what was happening, I began to feel the peace in it all. Even though I wasn’t sure what everything meant, just knowing it meant something was enough for me.
My soon to be ex-husband thought I was crazy. He would make fun of me and my “signs”. He even got the kids in on it. It was hurtful to me. It wouldn’t be now, but back then…I was fragile. I would try to explain the significance of what I had seen, and he would often come back with, “oh, I see that all the time”, dismissing my enthusiasm. I would end up retreating to my room, feeling small and embarrassed. It got to the point where I no longer shared my “sign” sightings with him. Seeing them made me feel excited and hopeful, and those feelings were so easily ripped away with his off-handed comments. I don’t think he intentionally wanted to make me feel that way, but that’s just how he is. My feelings have never been a priority in this relationship.
One day, I went for a hike in the conservation land on our road with my youngest son. He had gotten in trouble at school and was not allowed to watch TV or video games for the weekend, so I used that as an opportunity to get him to walk with me. Boredom made him eager to get out and do something, even if it was walking with his mom. He’s 13… you know how that goes. Anyway, we had a GREAT time! We took paths we’d never gone down before…got a little lost along the way, and he enjoyed deciding which path would take us back out again. We came across no other people…just us and the woods. We enjoyed small talk about all kinds of things…school, relationships, careers…we created a heartwarming memory together on that simple walk. As we neared the end, I was really appreciating this one on one time with him…time with no distractions, no electronics….just me, my son and nature. On the final path out, something caught my eye on the ground. It was a feather. Off-white with brown stripes. I picked it up and called out to my son, “Look! A hawk feather!” I was amazed, yet not totally surprised, as the hawks had been making themselves known to me all spring. My son asked, “How do you know it’s a sign, mom?” He said it half sincere and half mocking. Almost like his automatic response was to make fun of me, like his dad did…but part of him was truly curious. I replied, “I don’t know it’s a sign for sure, but it feels like a sign. I know that when I look at this feather, I’m going to remember this kick-ass, quality time I spent with you. This day wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t get in trouble. It’s almost like the universe had you get in trouble so we could spend some quality time together. Every time I look at this feather, I’m going to smile, because I’m going to think of you, and I love spending time with you”. He paused for a second, smiled, and said “oh, I get it”, and led us out of the woods. I was glowing.
I pretty much floated home after that. I felt good. Moments of feeling good were fleeting back then, so I didn’t take it for granted. We walked in the house and my husband was in his usual position, in front of the TV. I was mindful of how I wasn’t sharing any of my synchronicity stories with him anymore. Actually, we had been barely talking to each other the past few days at all. He had been trying to, but I had been giving him the cold shoulder. I was miserably depressed most days, and I’d had enough of feeling unworthy to him… and the rest of the world. At that point, he was trying his hardest to not annoy me because he wasn’t ready to move out. Walking in that door, I felt so happy…so good…I figured I’d bite the bullet and tell him the story. Surely, with all that was going on, he would at least pretend to think it was cool. “We had a great time! Guess what we found on our walk? A hawk feather!” I was smiling from ear to ear. I showed it to him proudly. My son was smiling, too. That feather meant something to both of us now. My husband took a few seconds to change his gaze from the TV to me. With the slight condescending tone I’m used to, he says, “Are you sure that’s not a turkey feather?” My smile drops in an instant. “Don’t ruin this for me” I say back to him softly. He looks at me, shrugs his shoulders and says, “well, I can’t help it if it’s not a hawk feather” and turns back to the TV. I felt the tears stinging. My shoulders slumped. My son went up to his room, and I tossed the feather into the trash, went into the bathroom, and cried. He watched TV and didn’t think twice about it.
The next day, I went to a therapy appointment. I wasn’t sad anymore. I was angry. Not at him, but at me. I felt like such a baby for crying over a stupid feather. What the hell was wrong with me? There are worse things in life than finding out a hawk feather is a turkey feather, for Christ’s sake! My therapist could tell by my scowl that something was bothering me. I didn’t want to tell her. “It’s so dumb. I have no idea why I’m so upset about something so stupid. I don’t even want to tell you, it’s so ridiculous”. I really had no intention of telling her how childish I was being about a stupid feather. “Tell me”, she said firmly, with a protective yet nurturing tone. Reluctantly, I did. I finished the story crying, saying “I don’t understand why I’m so upset about a damn feather!” I was so angry at myself for having those feelings. In her typical knowing way, she tells me “I know exactly why you felt that way. He crushed your spirit.” I looked at her through my tears and asked, “But he’s probably right. It probably is just a turkey feather. He’s probably right about all of my signs.” My therapist is all about empowering women, and damn…she is good at it. “So what? All feathers are signs.” Really? I did not know that. “And who cares what he thinks? This is about you, not him”. She follows with, “Please tell me you kept the feather.” I told her I threw it away. She shook her head and sighed. As I said it, my head hung down and I felt a little ashamed. She was right. He crushed my spirit, but at that moment, I also realized…I let him crush my spirit. It was amazing how I could spend 2 days beating myself up for how my husband made me feel, and she can make me stop in 5 minutes, just by validating my feelings. I’m telling you….validating feelings just might be the answer to all the world’s problems.
I went home and immediately dug through the trash. I found the poor feather, covered with wet coffee grounds and some other substances I wasn’t quite sure of. I delicately washed it like a baby in the sink and let it dry. I never told my husband, and he never brought it up. I’m sure the conversation went right out of his head as soon as it happened, while I dwelled on it for days. That’s how we rolled. I’m not sure if he even remembers it when he sees the feather. I’m finally at a place where I really don’t care what he thinks. I have it in a small bud vase that I filled with sand from my favorite beach. It’s sitting right in my dining room, next to a picture of my son. I look at it every day and smile, thinking of that hike. That feather makes me think of how much I love spending time with my son, just like I said it would.
This post was written in response to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday.