Expressing My Hummingbird Nature

Third in a series on Mind-Body Healing
In the first post, I am confronted with my doctor’s prognosis and hear The Magic Words that galvanize my resolve to heal. In Part 2, I am guided From Outer Space to Eden in a Single Morning in my journey of understanding the roots of my thyroid disease.

photo by pippalou
photo by pippalou

“THYROID PROBLEMS: Humiliation. Feeling repressed or put down. Feeling as if you never get to do what you want. Affirmation: I move beyond old limitations and allow myself to express freely and creatively.” – Louise Hay in You Can Heal Your Life

Thursday night 8:30 p.m.
My partner is watching a video of Elizabeth Gilbert talking about “hummingbird” people. You know, the ones who flit from thing to thing, sipping nectar in a thousand ways, the ones who don’t have a particular passion, but a series of them. The curiosity driven people.

Gilbert talks about how being encouraged to find your passion can make the “flitters” automatically feel inferior, like they haven’t made it. Hopeless, like maybe they never will. She herself is one of the people whose success has the effect of bringing up all my feelings of not only inferiority but panic that I will, in fact, never “make it,” never figure out the magic formula of my life that will make it all make sense, never get to do what you want, because I may not ever know what it is.

Clearly, I’m a flitter. So, what’s the issue?

Besides the fact that every one of the New Age spirit-preneurs and self help authors (It’s not just you, Liz!) has been telling me to find my passion – which, now that I understand that I may be a visitor from outer space, can be summed up like this: I’m passionate about learning all I can about human life on Earth, from the earthy side where there are particulars and minutiae, where our bodies and physicality are what we deal with, to the watery realm of feelings and intuition, to the fire of motivation, relationships and passion itself, to the subtle places of consciousness, consciousness exploration, and human potential, to the magical places where those things intersect.

Besides not being able to identify a single passion and express it in a one-sentence elevator speech, I can never see myself as a success at any of the things I end up exploring. Mostly because I stop pursuing them before I get very far. Because I find out what they are, and they aren’t what I thought they were, and, my curiosity satisfied, I’m gone. (Which, come to think of it, is how I approached getting involved romantically with people for much of my 20s.)

Reflecting on why I see my hummingbird nature as a failing, I’m suddenly able to articulate something I’ve felt for years but have never expressed: the belief that I’m not successful unless I’m a successful business person. I must have an innovative service or product, a thriving business, a stellar reputation. I must be in demand and confident. I must have business suits. I can even feel the fabric of my business suits. I must have heels, but not too high. I must have “on” time equal to my “down” time.

Instead, I have lots of time and work only occasionally. I actually don’t like to work hard, and although I have a lot of great ideas, I’m thrilled when someone else wants to put the effort in. I can give anyone a run for their money on the sheer number of jobs I have had over the years, simply because they fit some “other” criterion, such as not being too taxing, or fitting into my band rehearsal schedule, or giving me a weekday in order to start a “side” business, by which I mean I am ordering business cards and offering a workshop because I’ve found the answer to what it is that I really do.

“From 14 to 26, I had 250 jobs.” – SARK
from The Answer is Yes by Becca Costello for the News Review.

And my businesses have been many: Macintosh Wizard, Inner Peace Professional Organizing, estate house triage artist, face painter, sandwich delivery person, countless personal growth and counseling businesses. I’m not motivated by money, what other people think of me, or any sense that I have a finite amount of time in which to achieve a definite financial (or other) goal. I am motivated by having a one- or two-word answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” and the person’s face lighting up when they hear the answer. I’m motivated by not making too public a failure and the possibility of making adequate money being myself, packaged in some kind of acceptable, comprehensible package, clearly labeled.

For a while it was enough that I had an answer to the question of what I do, even if that answer ignited a furious battle inside me as I struggled to keep myself from say, “But that’s not really what I’m into….” Followed by the realization that I really couldn’t articulate what I’m into.

And the other reason I’ve conditioned myself to be ashamed of who I am is that I got into the bad habit of lying about it. The first, most healing thing a flitter can do to begin to claim the power of their way of living in the world is to be honest about it. To learn how to say, “I’m trying this,” or “I’m just hanging out learning about that,” or “I don’t really know.” As a matter of fact, “I’m really intrigued by you and want to find out who you are,” is a pretty nice pick-up line.

It’s a personal triumph that I allowed myself to write, to claim the title, to work at the craft, to follow this at times embarrassing path to coffee money. It’s a miracle that I listened to myself that day of my 45th birthday, in the act of – of all things – closing the door of the dishwasher, when I stood up and announced to the two people present: “This is ridiculous! If I get to be 80 and haven’t written a book, I’ll be so pissed at myself!”

The discontent had to get loud. The trance of my own spiral dance had to be broken in order for me to begin to hear myself. After years of errors in judgment and short-sighted decisions, of being under-employed and under-earning as a lifestyle in the interest of having tons of space and freedom to find out what really motivates me, it’s easy to get trapped in reaction mode, clean-up mode, the eternal triage of the unsettled life.

I’ve been moody, addicted, financially strapped, stuck and a victim. I’ve also made great discoveries. I’ve gotten off drugs and into recovery. I’ve learned to trust my gut, now that it’s functional. I’ve learned to listen to what’s being said inside and have committed to honoring my creativity by taking it seriously. And while I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my professional life in healthcare, I find I’ve outlasted a lot of people and am now the person with the longest and most varied experience in my workplace.

Suddenly, I’m an expert. And what am I an expert on? Human beings. Human nature. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. Redemption. Miracles.

Where I got the idea that being a successful business person is the only thing that will make me a success is beyond me. Maybe I unconsciously, masterfully and perversely picked something as far from who I am at heart as I could imagine.

Because who I am – the mistake-making, misguided flitter, the recovering druggy and chronic under-earner, the innocent kindergartener who just wanted to speak up, who just wanted to fit in and be part of the group but had never been in a group, the person who writes but isn’t exactly sure who I’m writing for and what I do for them, that person is embarrassing to be.

But “feeling as if you never get to do what you want” especially if what you want is so totally not you that if somebody handed it to you on a platter you’d pass it up – That’s okay to be, because that’s who I am, right?

Which is a relief because success sounds stressful, doesn’t it? Success means long hours and hard work and taking time away from writing and making music and cooking from scratch and staring out the window at bright snow and watching the north wind pulling at the Christmas swag on the front door.

Success means being catapulted into the limelight and asked a bunch of dumb questions on social media and articles in the local paper, where your name will be spelled wrong. Success means wearing a bra and heels. And worst of all, success means being locked into something I may not want to do tomorrow.

To finally be able to identify, name and see that central driving discontent of my life was such a moment of glory that I’m still breathing out the relief several weeks later. I keep hearing Elizabeth Gilbert calling herself a “passion bully,” and thinking about Adam the schoolyard apple thrower (who did go on to become a bully), and smiling to myself.

“Now that you know about it, what do you do with it?” asks my ever-practical partner.

The first thing I think to say is, “I forgive everyone. Especially me.” But I know that forgiveness is more than saying words, that naming the wound is just the beginning of healing. The best thing I can do is to make sure that every time I speak I’m representing myself honestly, with pride and abandon, because who the hell else is going to?

And for the record, I still have lots of growing edges, including learning how to support myself abundantly. And while I’m at it, I’m going to heal my thyroid. In case that wasn’t obvious.

So, how about you? Are you a “failure?” A flitter?

How would you like to redefine success so that stepping into it feels light, natural and fun?

0 thoughts on “Expressing My Hummingbird Nature

  1. Beautiful post, Phyllis! Loved it. I heard that TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on NPR and was so relieved to hear her say you don’t have to have a passion, just curiosity! I too would rather spend my day cooking, doing yoga, meeting a friend for coffee, reading a good book or two or three, all at once (which I do!). You’re perfect the way you are.

  2. Interestingly I find myself a combination of flitterer and steadfast. A flitterer to try new arts and crafts, circle dance, bellydance, my musical instruments, exercise, In these I’ve often said “I’m a Jill of all trades and master of none.” (Though fairly proficient.) I’ve been steadfast in job, marriage, ACCBand member. Success or failure? Only each of us can truly judge ourselves….or just accept who we are without the judgement!

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