“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” ~ J.M. Barrie
Dear Beautiful Being,
You are not broken.
You have not lost your wings.
No, indeed, you have merely lost your trust, and thus gravity feels terribly, unbearably heavy.
But don’t fear, I will tell you what to do. No magic required—really.
For what are wings, in truth, but trust? What are wings but an unwavering faith in the absolute primacy of your heart?
Now that that’s settled, let’s proceed.
You want to fly again?
Here is what you must do:
First, find a hat. Yes, a hat. The hat that has sat forgotten a year, at least, on the top shelf of your closet—without even the grace of a glance. The hat that renders you—through sheer brainpower—the “woman (or man) in the hat.”
Yes. There you are, taller already. Walk with power, now. If you cannot walk with grace, you certainly cannot fly. Good.
Now, find something feathered—a piece of jewelry, a (magic) ring perhaps, something discarded on the forest floor; anything—something to remind you what you are made of. You are not this body—so heavy and numb—you are not this sadness and you are not this fear.
You are lightness and air, and freedom. Carry your feather with you, and each time you wear it, remember who you are.
And if you should forget, look at me in the mirror—right in the eye—and let me remind you:
You are not weak. You are not strong. You are water—unbreakable.
You are not dark; you are not light. You are air—indefinable.
You are not broken; you are not whole. You are earth—unshakeable.
And you are not empty; you are not full. You are fire—primal.
Listen to me. You are strength; you are truth. The rest? It hardly matters.
First, remember. Remember your pain, your fear and your sadness. Remember your truth. Grasp it in your bloodied hands and feel its searing heat. Let your heartbreak drip down your chin as you taste its harsh acridity. Speak, write, think and express as much as you need. Rationalize. Use every word in your arsenal to try to comprehend. Remember, beautiful one. It’s okay—remember.
But then, forget. Yes, forget.
Find empty spaces—deserts, mountaintops, forests or fields—and know yourself (or, if you do not know, tell yourself you are) as vast, as limitless as they.
Spend days forgetting. Forget who you are, what you have suffered, the fear you hold and the pain you carry. Forget everything you know and simply allow yourself to feel. No need to find the right words; the wind will be your voice—the stars your tears, the clouds your thoughts, the sunset golds your prose.
Then, my darling—then, take risks. Adorn yourself in your hat, your feathers, your silk skirts and soothsayer’s shawls; your crystals, rings, bells and paint—all the lovely trappings that tie you, wrap you, root you in the most brilliant version of your beauty—and go into the world.
Pack a bag—or don’t. Walk, run, swim or crawl out of the place you are sitting right now, and put yourself on the line. Cross the street on reds; take off your helmet; close your eyes and let go of the brakes; eat scorpions and drink starlight; flirt with disaster—why not? Yes, beautiful one, open your arms and your heart wide, and invite in calamity.
Why? Because calamity is already there. If you don’t open the door, he will never leave.
Take great risks, and feel the rush of wind in your hair as your reward. You are almost there. Do you feel that current? Do you feel that stirring at the center of your back? Those—those are your wings, remembering the sharp steel scent of wind they had forgotten.
Pause, yes. Begin to realize: You are not broken; you have not lost your wings.
Now. Now—take off your feathers and shawls, your skirt and hat. Strip down to the bare, silk-strong essence of yourself, and with the shimmering threads of those lovely trappings (and indeed, they served you well) release too the memories and pain and sadness and fear that chain you to the ground more surely than any iron.
Climb naked to the top of the jagged cliffs at the edge of your mind. Flare your nostrils to the sharp steel wind. Bathe in the molten sunset.
You are not broken. You have no fear. No pain. No burden, now.
You are lightness, and you are air.
Open your arms wide and face me squarely—
Author: Toby Israel
Photo: Used with permission from Paula McHenry Barkmeier