0018 – A Caged Bird Doesn’t Sing – On Instrumental Relations

Bus stop in Dale, January 2020

I’m going to fumble my way through this one because I have a lot of feelings about this but not much thought. So let’s write our way from feelings to thought and see what comes out. 

A caged bird doesn’t sing. 

The right way to approach people is to see who they could be and where it could go. There can’t be forcing. I think we can create mental cages for others with our expectations. This happens all the time in relationships, or let’s say, a first date. We project our hopes and dreams onto someone. They can finally be that ‘thing’ for us, the missing piece. No, you don’t know that. Maybe you can get along but you can’t expect someone to fill you out. That’s your job.

Sometimes we begin to create the expectations as things develop. I know people who begin to imagine their partner as the potential parent of their child. It has happened to me. Maybe we have that imagination in our private thoughts but it leaks out in words and actions. If that person isn’t ready to share in that imagination they will notice and flinch at the perceived cage closing slowly in. 

A caged bird doesn’t sing.

The same happens for parents and kids. Love cannot be conditional. There’s murky area here where there are certain things we have to expect from each other: kindness, attention and responsibility. Defining things like ‘responsibility’ gets tricky because one person’s financial prudence is another’s doomsday prepper mentality. There may be a further discussion regarding status and the appreciation of that – but that’s for a further discussion.

In my experience, knowing the bounds of acceptability and living outside them (for my own specific case) is difficult and painful. It limits the kinds of conversations I’m able to have with certain people. I understand in the smallest, most minute degree, how it must be for same-sex couples not being able to introduce their spouse to their parents. Something so good, right and inalienable becomes a source of shame and disappointment. Holding that contradiction in one’s heart must weigh a lot. 

I remember being on a train once in Norway in a ‘quiet’ cabin. There were two men sitting next to me, a standard Norwegian man in his fifties reading a newspaper and opposite him a Brazilian speaking kind of animatedly on a phone. The Norwegian man glared at him and I guess he was in the right but the smile that the Brazilian had was worth the disturbed peace. It became clear to me that they were couples and the Norwegian was pretty fed up of the Brazilian’s antics.

The train pulls up at the station that was covered in banks of snow. They exit and greet two elderly people standing outside a running car. The woman throws herself into the Brazilian’s arms and the Norwegian rubs a tear away from his eye. I think about this a lot. 

I think about children quite a bit these days. I think about what it is like to have them and to not have them. How a life could change. One thing I think about a lot is when people say that they weren’t ready to have kids until they met ‘the one’ – or someone they wanted to take on that project with.

I wonder about the flip-side. What if you meet ‘the one’ that you’re ready to take on not having kids with. I think that’s a more adventurous approach. There’s a strong social pressure to have kids and maybe that’s not what we really need.

I think of people who have designated their partner as a bearer of their children. What if one of them is infertile and IVF or other treatments don’t work? What then? Are you meant to leave that person? I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that with the right person, you will live the life that is right for you. 

With the right person, you will live the life that is right for you.

But then again there’s the other side where you are able to choose the people? I knew I had to leave Tromsø no matter how good the people there were to me and for me. It’s strange, making choices. You’ll regret and celebrate either one. I guess the only thing is to actually just do it. Accept the regret for it will come. We can only do the best in each moment.

I guess that’s a good way to wrap this up. Just as we have an ability and tendency to foist a projection onto others whether it be romantic or familial or even friends, we also risk wrapping ourselves up in a cage of expectation.

Let yourself be free. See where life is taking you and ride the wave. I want to write about the ‘streetfighter stance’ next. This hesitant back and forth motion that is so prevalent in life. 

Be bold, be free. You will regret it so own the regret. Do sanity checks with the ones closest to you and if they give the all clear, jump. You have to jump with everything and only then you give yourself a chance to get anywhere. Treat yourself like how you treat others. Be open enough to see what could become of that relation and be open enough to see what will become of your relation to yourself. 

Embrace yourself like that old Norwegian couple. That weird foreignness that doesn’t quite make sense but definitely belongs. I’m a bit short of a thousand words but I think I’m done singing for today.

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