Bird on the Wire

Posted on 27 April 2012

Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free

I am at home in Castelnau, thinking about my time in Canada, about the people I visited and upon my return, the people who visited me. The other evening, I played Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire” and the lyrics keep playing in my head. What resonates most is the line “I have tried in my way to be free”. I interpret this in several ways including my resistance to take action, to try something new that might make my life more pleasurable. Why is this so difficult, I wonder. This thought leads me to lines from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

The idea of freedom, to be oneself, has played a large role in my life. Why have I danced on tables? I believed that if I was willing to play the fool, I could free myself from the “slings and arrows”, from the harsh voices in my head that criticize and ask “who do you think you are?” For a long time, I believed that every table I danced on would make me freer.

I am an agnostic. My eldest son dismisses this and says that one either believes in god or not. To perch on the wire is wishy-washy. He is much freer than I am. So are my other two. I believe that every generation is a leap forward from the last which pleases me and yet, there is this thought by Carl Jung that haunts me: Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent. What I do and do not do affects my children. If I tend to my own happiness, they can tend to their own.

I wonder if my parents know that their happiness or unhappiness affects their children deeply. After my last visit “home”, when my siblings and I gathered, all hoping to help our mother and father, to come up with a plan to make their old-age easier, more comfortable, we found them resistent. They did not want us to “mend” their lives though both find aspects of their living arrangement unsatisfactory. The big problem is that what my mother would like at this time is not what my father would like. (This is a common problem for couples of all ages.) In our naivety, we thought if we couldn’t help both, we could help one. This didn’t work. “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”, they are a unit.

I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
He said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
She cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”

I have always been confused by this issue. If I settle for what I have, then I am not living my dream. I stagnate. I am accepting what is and “what is” is not always acceptable or good for me. My dreams push me to ask for more, to be more, to be truer to self, to use the gifts that I’ve been given, but my psyche (or is it my ego?) keeps me in check. I fight it. Sometimes I win. Sometimes the inner voices win. I know in my heart when I should have fought harder but sometimes the pain is too much for me. (“The roots of all our neuroses lie here, in the conflict between the longing for growth and freedom and our incapacity or refusal to pay the price in suffering of the kind which challenges the supremacy of the ego’s demands.” – Helen Luke)

If I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.

If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.


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