My 18-year-old parrot (cockatiel), Pearl, is my world. He is my soul bird.
When I look at him, I see my whole life – our life together – flash before my eyes.
I see strength, and resilience. I see weakness and fear. I see dependence and interdependence and independence all wrapped into one messy love-soaked, snot-nosed package that represents every day before we knew one another and every day after he (one day) passes before me.
I often look at Pearl and tell him, “Your job is to be immortal.” Some days I really think that if I believe hard enough that this is possible, he will live forever, because that is what I need him to do.
(For the record, to date the oldest living cockatiel is 34….so for starters we are aiming to beat that goal and then we’ll take it from there.)
But what blows me away isn’t any of this, believe it or not. Because I have other beings in my life – my family, my friends, my shells (Malti and Bruce), my mentor. I have other beings I can turn to, lean on, count on.
Pearl has me. And me. He has ONLY me.
And here is what REALLY blows me away.
Even though I have other beings in my life to turn to, I still often feel like I should have even more. Backups, so to speak. Do I have enough friends? What if my mentor isn’t available when I need her? My best friend moved away and now I need to make more friends (even though I can still call her whenever I want to).
Pearl has me. ONLY me. And for him, that is enough.
I am enough.
I mean – doesn’t it just stop your mind for a second? If you don’t have an animal companion for whom you are their world, their WHOLE world, this might not be making a lot of sense. But if you’ve ever had a baby to care for, you can still relate that way. To that infant, you are their WORLD. They rely on you totally. A little baby can’t even hold their head up on their own without your help!
And if you have any animal companion who is paired with you for life, I mean – it takes my breath away to look at Pearl and realize I am everything he has. And I am ALL he has.
Pearl is a “special needs” parrot. He can’t fly because of a left wing injury early in life. He is missing three of the eight claws on his toes (again, because of sibling nest bullying). He has trouble navigating and grasping things. If he gets startled and launches into the air, he will land on the ground and wait for me to come get him. He is really, really dependent on me in a way that even most pet parrots are not.
But not only does Pearl not let this define him, but he doesn’t let it limit him in any way. Whereas I sometimes let my inner mean critic tell me I am worth less or undesirable or whatever because I don’t have a zillion friends and hang-out buddies and this rich and rousing social life that sweeps me up into a million exciting adventures (each of which I can post on Instagram for others to swoon over if I happen to be craving further enriching self-esteem boosts).
But Pearl doesn’t even know Instagram exists. He has never even seen a wild flock of cockatiels, let alone experienced being a part. For him, from the tender age of 5 weeks old, I have been his everything.
I am humbled, honored, wordlessly grateful, for the privilege.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you or have you ever had another being (human or non-human) in your care to whom you were their everything – their total support – their world? What was that like? What did it feel like? Did it change how you relate to others, to yourself?
P.S. A rare (frequent) plug for my awesome soul bird…. Afew years ago I got so concerned about how I would survive Pearl’s eventual passing (if the immortality plan doesn’t work out for some reason) that I began writing down stories about me and Pearl. Those stories became “Love & Feathers: what a palm-sized parrot has taught me about life, love and healthy self-esteem.” Writing the book didn’t really ease my fears about losing Pearl, but it was fun and turned into (I am told) a great read! 🙂