Barnacle Goslings and Heartbreak

I’ve been watching Life Story, a BBC mini-series, on Netflix.  “Life Story” follows a variety of animals from birth to adulthood and documents the animals’ struggle to survive and thrive from birth through adolescence, adulthood, and parenthood.  I love it so far.

One of the first animals profiled in the first episode, “First Steps,” is the barnacle goose.  Barnacle geese live primarily in the Arctic, and they feed on grass.  Despite this, they make their nests high up on rocky cliffs to protect their eggs and chicks from predators.

What this means is that shortly after the chicks hatch, the whole family has to leave the cliffs, where there’s nothing to eat, and head for home.  The chicks are so cute, all tiny and fluffy, but they can’t fly.  They haven’t fledged yet, and so when the parents decide it’s time to leave for water and food, the chicks have to jump off the cliff and fall what looks like at least 100 feet to the ground.

Y’all, it is so stressful to watch this.  These little chicks fall so fast, and their wings flap so hard to no avail.  They ricochet off various outcroppings and tumble down steep inclines while their parents wait below.  Out of the five chicks that hatched, three survived the jump, and it was such a triumph to see them shake their little stunned heads and bodies and then toddle along behind Mom and Dad to the river.

I fell in love with someone last year, and I’ve referred to him as the wrong man, but that’s not a precise description.  He wasn’t the wrong man because of anything he did that was mean or unkind.  This one was wrong because he didn’t feel the same way about me or want the same things.

So my heart is broken, and it feels like the level of brokenness is out of proportion to the relationship I had.  Very wise friends have gently reminded me that the amount and depth of love a person feels doesn’t depend on the amount and depth of love that person receives and that maybe I should give myself a break.  The only thing I’m worse at than giving myself a break is ironing, but I’m working on it.

When you’re a Type A who spends a lot of time in her head, or maybe even when you’re not, you spend a lot of time looking back, trying to figure out what went wrong.  How could I have avoided the heartbreak?  What magical fact can I remember that will make the heartbreak go away?  Because heartbreak feels wretched, and I want desperately to be done with it.

I haven’t found that magical fact.  What I have discovered, though, is I have a tendency to ignore or deny my feelings when they seem inappropriate or inconvenient.  I started feeling more for this man long before I admitted it to myself, and I waited too long to have the “what are we doing” conversation.

Barnacle goslings can pretend they’re not falling, that they’re flapping their little, featherless wings and are actually flying, but it doesn’t make impact any less jarring or dangerous.  One of the things I’ve learned from all of this is to stop denying my feelings.  I hope I get a chance at this with someone else.  It won’t make the heartbreak any less or any easier, but next time I’ll enjoy every minute of the beauty and pleasure of the fall.

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1 Response to Barnacle Goslings and Heartbreak

  1. Hugs to you. BTW, I got a professional-grade steamer years ago and cut the time I spent de-wrinkling clothing by 75%. Rarely iron anymore. ⌛️

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