Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Blue Jays have never been my favorite bird. They appear to bully smaller birds and they toss perfectly good seed to the ground. They make a mess when they show up at my feeder and I wish them away hoping for "better” or gentler birds like cardinals, hummingbirds or woodpeckers to appear.
But something about Blue Jays recently captured my attention. I noticed they had unique markings, tend to work in pairs, and travel in groups called a party or a band. And like some rock bands, they are loud and obnoxious.
The Blue Jay band is a lot like my family -- they've gotten a bad rap because they are misunderstood.
I have four sisters and a brother, and our childhood was loud and messy. We weren't bullies, but we were competitive. Some would describe our family as high energy and unconventional.
We played in an old milk delivery truck instead of a tree house; and a giant tractor inner tube instead of a trampoline; and at any given time, our house was full of temporary guests. It wasn't unusual to come home from school to find my uncle Curt or my dad's brother's family had moved into the basement for reasons only my parents understood.
We also had a locked cabinet where my mother kept the Hostess snack cakes. Our Catholic primary school didn't have a cafeteria, so we took a cold lunch every day. My mom kept our pantry full of lunch necessities, but we couldn't be trusted not to devour the delicious cupcakes, Twinkies or Ding Dongs. Living on a budget, she wanted to make sure they lasted all week.
When we fought, it was loud and physical. When we played cards or board games, it got heated. But when it was over, it was over and wasn't given another thought. We had daily chores like taking out the garbage and washing and drying the dishes; and we couldn't leave the house on Saturday morning until we had finished cleaning.
My dad was intense, too. I have a scar on my leg from the time he threw a bag of garbage at me for neglecting my chores. The garbage contained a piece of broken glass that tore through the bag.
There were plenty of scenes when his temper and frustration ended with us cleaning up thrown gallons of milk or broken dishes.
I knew our family was different than those of my friends and around age twelve, I decided to adopt myself out and vicariously live as a member of my best friend's clan. I had dinner with them often, spent the night regularly, and went on vacations and family day trips with them. I thought their family was "normal" and I wanted to feel like I was, too. I did not see the upside to being labeled different, loud or crazy. I didn't want messy like the Blue Jays. I wanted clean and simple like the Cardinals.
When I met my now ex-husband, he reminded me often throughout our marriage that my genetic pool was damaged and whacked. For the longest time I believed it to be true, too.
It took what feels like a lifetime of reflection and self-work to come to terms with my family dynamic. I sought to understand my parent's path and choices and discovered they genuinely did the best they could. They grew up in dysfunctional homes and drew harsh criticism from those on the outside looking in.
My mom's parents divorced in an era when it was sinful, if not criminal for the mother to leave her kids with their father to move on to live a life more aligned with her free spirit. My dad was 1 of 14 kids whose temper and speed literally kept him alive. He told me he once jumped through a plate glass window to avoid a whooping from his dad.
There is so much more to their stories, but they went from living with their parents to immediately being married with 3 children all before they were old enough to legally purchase a bottle of wine.
They aren't perfect (nobody is) but I can say with sincerity that I wouldn’t change a thing!
My family is loud and occasionally obnoxious, but any one of them would give the shirt off their back to anyone in need. They speak truth -- hard truth — and their work ethic is second to none. Their life experiences have taught them to be empathic and accepting. They have more love than hate and they are intelligent, forgiving and their energy makes them great teachers, parents and leaders.
True to our roots, though, when we gather, it is mayhem. We bounce off of each other's high energy and resort to the survival strategies we used as kids. It has mellowed, but if there is a game of cards, bags or darts, you can bet it will become competitive.
Like birds and most things in the natural world, there is an upside to our nurtured and natural tendencies -- they teach us to adapt and survive.
Ornithologists (bird experts) suggest that Blue Jays persist no matter how hard the situation seems and they are a sign of confidence. As a spirit animal, they symbolize determination, communication, intelligence, endurance, and energy and they show up to remind us
that we should not try to fit in when we were born to stand out.
Like the Blue Jays, my family has persisted and endured. We have overcome the labels granted to us by those who don't understand; and we have embraced our own brand of crazy.
We've learned to stand out instead of longing to fit in, and in doing so, have accepted that there is enough space at the table (or the feeder) for all kinds to shine.
A Blue Jay may not bring me the same level of joy as a Cardinal or Hummingbird, but I've come to appreciate that when we suspend judgment and seek to understand, the beauty and majesty in the misunderstood becomes clear.
We see the Blue Jays (and the family) for the beautiful birds they are.
Judgment and criticism are energies that exist below the line in our ego. Acceptance, forgiveness and appreciation are energies above the line in the Powerful Perspectives -- a model of decision-making that leads to balance and understanding.
To learn about the Powerful Perspectives, connect with me on Instagram @PowerfulPerspective_coach or on Facebook at Powerful Perspectives.
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