What Have I Done?
On May 19th 2014, at approximately 11:30 AM, my mother’s pet bird got away from me and flew into the trees of our backyard.
Today, May 20th, she returned to us and was safely in the house by 4:00 PM.
Those words sounds rather unexciting when you read the final outcome of what happened. They fail to convey the pure guilt, fear, despair, and wretchedness I have felt throughout the entire ordeal.
My parents clearly told me not to take the cockatiel, named Francisca, outside. They had conceded to not clipping her wings anymore, and I had been helping her learn how to fly better.
Full of the foolish pride of my own stubbornness, combined with wishful thinking that I am in control of everything, led me to disregard my parents’ words and take her outside with me.
It was something I had been planning to do for some time. It is one of my worst traits that I listen and agree to someone’s wishes, then go behind their back and do what I please.
It is an even worse thing to do when it concerns another person’s possessions, or pets. I cannot even say how angry I would be if the roles were reversed, and I was the victim in the situation. I would absolutely lose my shit, more than likely.
A Toxic Sense of Self
I’d like to say I handled the situation well for a few hours, but there were so many mistakes I made after the fact.
Eventually, my mother came outside to give me my birthday money, as if I didn’t feel bad enough, and I told her what happened.
She was on her way to work, so she left and I was once again alone to deal with the problem.
I felt so guilty then, I had been hoping that maybe the problem would have been solved by the time she woke up from a nap, that I finally began to cry.
I prayed and I cried, and I felt terrible. For five hours I neglected everything else and ripped through brush and thorns, attempted to climb into trees, and whistled myself hoarse from trying to keep contact with the bird.
Eventually, I lost sight and sound of her. Conceded, I lay in my bed feeling absolutely worthless, crying, and hating myself. Punishing myself with food. In other words, letting the ego take control of me.
My family came home, every one of them asking me what possessed my to do that, rightly so, and telling me how disrespectful I was.
My mom at least understood how bad I felt, my father and brother were just angry. I relapsed into all my old ways of thinking, eating, and sleeping. They looked for her into the night, but it was no use.
My body was exhausted from the abuse, my mind all fucked up, and I was weak from withholding food. I slept and dreamed about birds all night long.
A New Day
Waking up in the morning, I felt almost as bad as I did the night before. I realized I was being selfish and not helping anything by lying in bed and hating myself, at least.
I got up, took a shower, all the while listening to the birds outside, trying to extinguish one exotic voice from the multitudes of native ones.
I closed the window to the bathroom, wrapped in my towel and feeling cold. I was flossing my teeth when I heard her. My heart skipped a beat and I yanked the window open. It wasn’t my imagination, it was really her!
I ran into my mother’s room adjacent, woke her up from her afternoon nap (this was about the same time as I lost her the day before) yelling that I heard her, and out onto the balcony, where I attempted to locate the flyaway.
My mother and I tracked her to a tall tree in our neighbor’s yard. We went over to investigate.
A Tall Order
Once again, my mom left for work and I was in the same situation as yesterday. I resisted the urge to mope and instead kept praying and calling her.
I took up residence on the balcony, about twenty feet away from the bird, with the cage, and plenty of seed to tempt her.
She was quiet for hours, but I played clips of other cockatiels singing through a speaker set to keep her company. I checked once to see if she was still in the tree, and she hadn’t moved.
Finally, she began to chirp again. It was around 2 PM, I kept calling to her, shaking her seed bag, and trying to get her over to me.
My brother came home and I succeeded in getting her to fly to our tallest tree in the backyard by whistling back to her over and over.
The Final Push
I called my brother upstairs to help me spot her in the tree. I could see her but not hear, and her grey plumage perfectly melted in with the trees behind her.
He spotted her almost immediately, and we began calling to her and trying to coax her over. She was high, and we were about fifteen feet lower. Cockatiels can’t fly well vertically, so she would only leave a tree if she really wanted to.
We kept trying for about a half hour, but she just kept chirping at us. Then my brother had a great idea. In front of her, we pretended to eat her seeds and enjoy them, and it actually worked!
She flew down close to the roof of our house, on a branch not much higher. I was so scared to lose her again, I was showing her her favorite millet and calling and whistling.
My brother went to get the ladder to climb up to the roof. It was now or never. We succeeded in dragging it up to the balcony, when she flew again, behind me.
My brother told me she was right there, and I looked in the trees but I couldn’t spot her. Then I saw her, sitting on her cage. I was momentarily stunned, then I rushed to her, grabbed her with both hands and ran inside, holding her to my chest, shaking with relief.
Gratitude Beyond Measure
Francisca is a member of our family, and one of the things I love most in this entire world. I was devastated to think I might be responsible for her loss or, even worse, demise.
Before it happened, I was relatively stable. But after, my mental capacities were fully drained. All my old shit came back, and the urge to just melt into my bed was so tempting.
I wanted to hurt myself, to kill myself, to just give up on life. It scared me just to feel that way for a few hours, and I used to feel like that all the time.
I punished myself with food out of instinct, and had to talk myself back into eating, even though the very thought made me want to be sick.
When I really confronted my character defects of being irrational, foolhardy, and pigheaded, and ignoring the feelings of others, I wanted to hide away forever.
I couldn’t bare looking my mother in the eye after what I had done. I couldn’t take the words of others telling me I was wrong. I hated myself again, and I sank very low last night, thinking about what I had done.
But I rallied, I really did push myself, and it turned out alright in the end. But it scares me: what if we did never find her? Would I be able to forgive myself? To love myself again?
I think the answer is yes, but I can’t shake this feeling of relief that I didn’t have to find out. I fucked up badly, and was fortunate enough to have a happy ending, this time.
What Did I Learn?
Well, what did I learn? I learned to respect other people and their wishes.
I learned to accept myself when mistakes are made, but also acknowledge that it is my own responsibility to fix them.
I realized that some things can never be taken back, and prevention is better than trying to fix something after the fact.
I learned how awful it feels to disappoint others and myself.
But I also realized that hurting myself is not the way to fix the hurt I inflicted on others.
I also learned that Francisca will never, ever accompany me outside again.
I got lucky, because it could have been so much worse than it was. Fortunately, I learned the lesson I needed to, and someone was watching over me and her.
I learned gratitude is the greatest feeling in the world, only second to the warmth of little bird feet on my shoulder.