Through the looking glass: Nest building

Several years ago my parents made the bittersweet decision to move to Alberta. They packed up their entire lives, well a fraction of it at least, and traded the rugged coastline of Newfoundland for the expansive Alberta fields, the salty ocean for the musky aroma of canola, the extended family they grew up with for the immediate family they nurtured and longed for. The level of strength and fortitude this endeavor required was not lost on me, and I aspired to make them feel as at home as I could. I couldn’t have known that something much simpler than I would succeed in this task.

As if the Robins knew my parents needed a new focus, they reconstructed an old nest in the eave of their deck. Each day my father presented me with updates of the construction, production, and general progression of the robins and their nesting. I giggled as I watched my father climb awkwardly on a chair, mirror in hand, performing reconnaissance on the nest. Stumbling down, he gleefully declared there were three eggs in the nest! He continued to observe and report. At the same time he also noted that another nest had been meticulously and diligently weaved at the base of our Internet tower. Another pair decided the wheel well of my father’s pick up truck would be a happening place to raise some young. Apparently robins aren’t the most clever of the aviators. After a brief contemplation of parking the truck in place for the duration of the nesting, Dad decided to move the ‘truck’ nest to the Internet tower. Those robins must have been hippy birds as the tower was way too advanced for them; they abandoned their nest. The other robins, clearly comfortable with technology, continued faithfully sitting on their eggs until they hatched. The robins on the deck hatched around the same time. We watched in awe as the little beaks peeped up and the parents carefully and lovingly puked into their mouths. Yeah, it’s hard to go ‘aaaaaawe’ after that! Dad solemnly strolled in the house one morning to advise that two of the babies from the tower were on the ground dead. My grandmother would say “I told you that Internet was bad.” *Deep breath and sigh*

Several seasons have passed and I find myself perched awkwardly on the examination bed in my doctors office. I try not to squirm in a futile attempt not to tear the paper underneath, exposing my naked rear end to all manner of evil. I envision ending up on an episode of ‘1000 Ways to Die’. The paper gown sticking to my sweat covered skin fails to portray any type of ‘Flashdance’ remake and instead exudes an air of ‘What not to wear’. My doctor cheerfully enters the room and immediately senses my state of mind. My physical exam suddenly moot as he connects with my red, watery eyes. Fortunately my doctor speaks slobber babble and after a few moments of catching up I find myself desperately trying to cling to a reason not to go back on medication. Don’t most people thrive for this time of year? The sunshine vitamin courses through our veins helping to stimulate everything that feels good. The extra production of serotonin and dopamine bring with it a sense of productivity, creativity, growth and the all essential mood stabilizing qualities. I start to wonder if my body even knows how to make it. Interesting side note: Close to 90 per cent of the body’s serotonin is found in gut where it helps regulate your intestines. Should I be surprised that not only do I suffer with depression, I also have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Probably not. At this rate I likely have ulcers too. Wait for it. Serotonin is also metabolized by the liver. I have a fatty liver. This is my shocked face.

The remainder of the serotonin lives in the central nervous system. Here it regulates mood, appetite and sleep as well as memory and learning. It baffles me that such a small part of it helps with mood and that seems to be my biggest sufferance.

Following some hand holding, tear wiping and peeling bits of wet paper off random places to get dressed, I leave the clinic with a script in hand. Why does it feel like such a failure on my part? Why can’t I get a handle on this? I quietly curse society for its antiquated ideas and projections of what is deemed ‘normal’. This box that society thinks we should all fit in? I kind of want to blow it up!

Sitting back on my parents deck, I quietly stroke a cup of tea and listen to a friend share with my parents the recent chaos in his life. He talks of deceptions and fallacies. Platitudes and pretentiousness. My mind drifts off as I watch a new couple. Two Eastern King birds flit around the nest, squabbling as each one comes near the other. Chirping and chattering between them, they are apparently guarding and nurturing a single egg in the recently abandoned robins nest. The species of bird and quantity of eggs are known to me only by way of my father’s reconnaissance. I revel in the simplicity of the scene before me as I half listen to my friend.

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Slowly a realization seeps into my pores. Perhaps by osmosis, I have pulled a certain strength and fortitude from my parents, a certain acceptance and guilelessness from the birds, and most certainly a candid surrender from my friend. I realize that my fears and perceived inadequacies are somewhat assuaged by the forthrightness of my world around me. The people I hold close. In all my exertions to provide a reasonable facsimile of home to my parents, they had already found it. And somehow, they have imparted it to me. The birds don’t care where they nest. They pragmatically look for safety, shelter and sustenance. The simplest things.

So I take my medications to keep my head safe. I fill my life with things that bring me joy to keep me sheltered. And I surround myself with people who are kind, loving and genuine to provide me sustenance. I may not be able to abandon my nest of depression, or toss the emotions out in the grass, but I can enjoy the world around me. Even if I have to sweat through a paper gown to get there.

Life may not be the party we’d hoped for,

but while we’re here, we might as well dance! 

Jen Barry is a writer for The Spectator Tribune.

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