Cardinals and New Beginnings

A few days ago, there was a rare moment when Mario and I were getting home at the exact same time. We parked our cars, gathered our belongings, and walked up to the front stoop together. And as I looked toward our front door, and the railing to our front steps, I saw it. A big, plump, vibrant red cardinal was sitting right by our front door on the railing. We live in the city. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bird perched by our front door. And for it to be a cardinal, that meant something. It felt like a message for both of us. Like many, I believe that cardinals are messengers from our past who’ve come to bring us comfort and love. Every time I see a cardinal, I can’t help but smile and wonder if it’s my dad or mother-in-law who have come to let me know that everything is going to be OK and that I am loved.

This particular cardinal felt explicit. This cardinal showed up in the exact week what I was wrapping up a previous job and anticipating a new one. It seems that cardinals shows up for me in full force when I am in transition as a way to say, “You are doing the right thing. Trust yourself. I’m proud of you.”

I’ve gotten pretty good at talking about my dad without getting emotional in conversations, but there is one thought that makes me tear up every time. The thought that my dad is proud of me. I choke up. Without fail. Every time.

I recently saw an image about grief. Often, we talk about grief as something that gets easier with time, but the graphic below doesn’t show our grief getting smaller. It shows us growing around our grief. I wish I know the creator of this image. It’s powerful and important.

Rajani Surendar Bhat on Twitter: "A discussion I've had often with bereaved  family members of my patients , about #griefandme This image says it so  simply. #palliativecare #grief #bereavement Tagging @BhavanaIssar  @caregiversaathi…

The truth is that I wanted to write about something else this week. Anything else. Because feeling these feelings uncomfortable and hard. But here we are, and the whole point of this blog is to write about the human experience, so that other people know they aren’t alone. So that even if writing about my experience helps just one other person, it was worth it.

So, back to idea that my dad wants me to know that he’s proud of me. Or that my dad might be sending me birds, haha. No matter what age we are, we need encouragement. As Jon Acuff writes in his book, Finish, “We don’t ever age out of needing someone to believe in us.”

I’ve written about being an encourager. About being a bit kinder than necessary because people are fighting battles we cannot see. But what I haven’t written about as much, is being our own champion. Being encouraging to ourselves. Talking to ourselves in the ways we would hope other people would talk to us.

And perhaps that’s why the thought about my dad is so tender. Perhaps that’s why I got emotional on my beach vacation with two friends when they gave me a compliment. I haven’t been very generous with myself lately.

We need to learn to clap for ourselves. We can’t wait for the approval of others. Not when we have a fire burning within us. Not when we have big goals. Big dreams. Aspirations for making this world a better place.

Go. Do.

Encourage yourself.

Be relentless.

Not everybody will understand or care. That doesn’t mean it’s not important.

That doesn’t mean you are not important.

How might you make a bit more space for yourself? Space to notice how you feel. Space to notice your thoughts. And space to speak affirmations into your life. Imagine how the world would change if we all learned how to encourage and motivate ourselves.

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