How to Be Your Truest Self
Sunday August 26, 2018

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“That we go on, the world always goes on, breaking us with its changes until our form, exhausted, runs true.” —Joanne Kyger, excerpt from a poem

In the spring and summer of 2014 I hung for the first time a bird feeder outside the window of my great room in my home in Pendleton on a low branch of my Japanese maple. The birds came within weeks of providing the food, and more than a few times would I find myself sitting next to the window (as quietly as I could) watching with simple delight. 

The next spring, the birds returned again and the food was quickly enjoyed and needing to be refilled frequently. The birds were petite, and at that time, I couldn’t tell you a breed, but I knew they were happy (and so was I). 

That summer, I moved, and that meant, the bird feeder would be moving too as I hoped to feed my neighborhood birds in Bend; however, I felt guilty that I couldn’t communicate to the birds why their resident feeder would no longer be where they had become accustomed to dining as I didn’t know if the new owner would feed the birds as I had (don’t worry, I understand they would be more than likely to find food elsewhere, but nonetheless this thought entered my mind). 

The truth was I had become quite at home in my house of nine years in Pendleton (maybe not the town itself which is why I sought out a job in Bend, but most certainly my home), and it hadn’t happened quickly, as work and investment on a home never does. The arrival of the birds, the accessory of their feeder in my yard, was a finishing touch so to speak, that signified in my mind I had ‘nested’.  And such a feeling was something I hadn’t felt before. 

The last three years in Bend have seen me beginning with my first attempt to feed the birds from the branches of a juniper tree. The squirrels quickly had better ideas, and their many excursions to the feeder (no birds had been seen enjoying the fare I provided) caused it to fall from the limb and break into pieces. That was the first summer in Bend. *humpf* 

My second summer in Bend (2016), I hung a humingbird feeder outside my kitchen window, naively assuming that immediately the air-for-wings birds would arrive. Not one sighting. Late that summer I purchased a new bird feeder and hung it in the deciduous tree in my backyard rather than the juniper. Gradually birds began to arrive, and realizing that birds would enjoy food in the winter, I continued to fill the feeder through our snowapocoalypse that took place in town that year. And to my amazement, they continued to dine! (See below) 

The next spring and summer, a few more brave souls would visit, dine, flutter about in the nearby trees or sit atop the fence and then come back for another course. The squirrels too would come, and while sometimes Norman would spot them and race to scurry them away, I didn’t have the heart to stop feeding all of my resident diners. When the squirrels caused the base they rested upon to eat to fall off, I decided to let that be so that the only perches left were for the birds. I figured it leveled the playing field for more bird than squirrel meals.

Oh, and yes, the hummingbird feeder was hung yet again, but without a single nectar lover stopping by for a quick drink. Filling the glass container with the same simple sugar mixture my mom has for decades with great success, I was perplexed.

That September, I packed the feeder away temporarily, dismissing my failed attempts and moved on with the fall and winter, all the while continuing to feed the birds and the squirrels with my lone feeder.

Unbeknowst to me at the time, having stored my bird food in my kitchen’s pantry (which is in my kitchen), I was also feeding some hungry mice. This revelation made for a, shall we say, entertaining winter but only in hindsight as it was the battle of me and the dogs versus the mouse, and then another mouse, and yes, another, and I believe there was one more (btw – the dogs didn’t help at all, except to look at me like I was crazy when I asked them to act like a cat if only for one moment to eradicate the mice). But eventually, the situation was solved (and no more is bird food being stored in the house – now, it is in the garage, is a tightly sealed storage container).

Summer 2018 – The bird feeder now entertains more than a handful of birds from time to time, and always a few birds each day. From many different species of Wrens, along with sparrows, doves, quail, blue jays, woodpeckers, and even now, small chipmunks stop by from their arrival underneath the neighbor’s fence (and yes, the squirrels are regular patrons as well), the backyard is a lively spot to enjoy animal watching for a quiet moment on the porch. 

But what about that hummingbird feeder, you may be wondering?

Upon arriving home in July after traveling, I began to do some thorough cleaning of my cupboards in preparation for TSLL’s new project. I found the hummingbird feeder, where I place it each winter. I was undaunted and immediately filled it and placed it outside my kitchen window where it had always been situated. 

The next day, a hummingbird whizzed up to the feeder, thought about eating and then zoomed away upon seeing I was about. Okay, I told myself, be very, very still. The bird returned, had a few sips and zoomed away. The next day, Norman and I were outside on the porch for a late meditation session, the hummingbird approached and after a long hesitation, enjoyed a treat.

Since mid-July, the hummingbirds have been regular visitors, and I have had to refill my feeder for the first time in all of the years I have had it. Two hummingbirds have danced about, and just yesterday, Norman and I were sitting underneath the kitchen window as we sometimes do, soaking up the sun, when the hummingbird came to our level (about two or three feet below the feeder), and just hung in the air looking as if it was just a body making its distinctiving buzzing sound, surveyed us for about 15 seconds. Then as swiftly as it arrived, it flew away, but then quickly came back and had a long drink of sweetness.

It took three years for the hummingbirds to arrive at my home in Bend, but each summer I continued to put out my feeder, patiently waiting while going about my business. Respecting that perhaps in this instance, Mother Nature was assessing whether I could be trusted as a resident feeder. After all, my track record for up and leaving after two years of feeding in my previous home was known. No Mother Nature does not exactly keep score like a sport analyst, but maybe the Universe does. Maybe the universe hesitates before giving us something we would love to have in our lives if we didn’t fully appreciate it the first time or fully appreciate the small morsel we had to begin with. 

I was in my yoga class this past weekend and was reminded by the instructor that with regular practice, the exercises that seem impossible or excruciatingly difficult become easier.  Having practiced for two years at this particular studio, which for me the class difficulty level has been for some time very challenging, I recognized that now some (not all) of the poses are possible for me without hesitation (i.e. crescent lunge is far simpler, but side plank is still quite difficult). And I knew she was right. 

The truth behind progress is regular attention and practice. The key is make sure what we are doing is indeed a potential pathway to delivering the results we seek. 

You may be wondering at this point, why I began the post with the quote from Joanne Kyger. I have been thinking about this quote for a while now.

Acting against our sincerest self’s inclinations, interests and authentic truths is exhausting. It is fatiguing to put on a mask each day of someone we feel we have to be to either fit in, do our job or move about society. Eventually, we stop, but it is in how we stop that makes the difference.

On the flipside, when we are adhering to our authentic self, when we are following our passions and curiosities, the fuel doesn’t reside in the success, the fuels resides in the doing. And so it is within the two instances shared today – yoga practice and feeding the hummingbirds. My interest was and is sincere in both of these pursuits. Having spent time not involved with both for a short duration, I discovered my life to benefit and be more enjoyable with them. I persisted slowly, but consistently. 

All other hobbies or interests or athletic pursuits that did not align with my sincere interest fell by the wayside (i.e. golf and pilates). And this is the good news. 

If we keep following what speaks to us, what interests us, what piques our curiosities, the parts of us that are not authentic and rather worn or welcomed into our lives out of assumption or to fit-in begin to lose their grip on us. Much like an ill-fitting pair of shoes or the wrong size pair of jeans, we want it removed and the discomfort becomes more and more apparent the more we come to understand ourselves and discover what we do enjoy, what is a sincere interest. 

Back to the statement that it is how we stop or remove what no longer suits us that makes the difference for a successful move forward. How we stop must be done with self-awareness. If we are not aware that a particular way of life, a particular behavioral habit, a particular anything that is not who we truly are, then we become angry and agitated for reasons we cannot explain. We are so uncomfortable and ‘squeezed’ into a box that is not who we are, that we wish to wrangle free and in so doing may cause destruction. But, if we are aware that something is not in alignment, and recognize why, generally so, it is not in alignment, we can take it off (remove it, or let it go) gently, thoughtfully and with as smooth of a transition into the life we wish to lead without causing harm to not only ourselves, but others around us. 

As I sit here typing, a small sparrow sits perched upon the feeder and has for more than a few minutes. Having already enjoyed a meal, it sits in calm contemplation (or perhaps enjoying a nap). As I type, it is still perched (10 minutes in full). This is the first time I have seen such a occasion. And now a hummingbird has zoomed in just above my right shoulder and is devouring a long sip. 

Neither of these instances would have happened or been so deeply appreciated without regular persistence, attending to the problems (in the case of the accidential mice feedings), but not letting my interest be dismissed. 

Mother Nature can teach us much about how to move about our days, years and therefore our lives, and in this case, the lesson is to let what doesn’t ‘fit’, what isn’t you, fall away, and keep regularly doing what does. Perhaps it may feel as though at times, as Joanne Kyger shares, we are being broken down, but really, aren’t we being freed? Freed to just be ourselves. 


~Examining the Benefits of Self-Awareness, episode #143

~Authenticity: The Courage to Be Yourself, episode #6

~Give Yourself Permission to Be Awkward, episode #185

~View The Simple Sophisticate’s fifth season schedule, week by week, here. The season begins on Monday September 3rd!


7 thoughts on “How to Be Your Truest Self

  1. Wonderful post Shannon. It is exactly how i have been trying to think lately. I interviewed for a similar role last week, and while the people were nice, it feels all of a sudden that i am trying to find an external thing to make myself happy. When all along there are things in my life that i should turn back to, like my needlepoint, my birdfeeders, (same squirrel problem, same entertainment for my dog Addie), my blog. I sat at my tapestry yesterday and lost myself in the flow of it. And reading this post has been a wonderful validation that i am on the right track. Thank you!

    1. Nancy, Thank you for sharing your journey through this ‘editing’ and recognition process. It really does require, as you have demonstrated, being aware of ourselves, why we are doing something and how it honestly makes us feel. Thank you very much and happy bird watching (to your dog Addie as well :)).

  2. It is so easy to take wildlife and Mother Nature for granted, until we miss them or need them. As a birder, I enjoyed reading about your feeding experiences with the various birds (and the infamous squirrels and chipmunks) very much, Shannon. I also enjoyed seeing them make their appearances on your IG account periodically. 🙂

    1. Thanks for saying hello Natalie! Yes, you make an important point, to be appreciative of them before we miss them so hopefully we will not reach such a point. Have a lovely week. 🙂

    2. Yes, as a fellow bird enthusiast I enjoyed the analogy. As with finding your true self, creating a relationship with your local birds takes time, patience, and attentiveness.
      Side note (because I truly am a bird enthusiast!) Anna’s hummingbirds are year-round residents of Bend and most of Oregon, so keep that feeder flowing throughout the seasons! In the winter, I take my feeder in at night to avoid the freeze, and I have two on rotation, as they will freeze throughout the day when temps dip down around freezing.
      Winter is when our Anna’s appreciate us the most, and I get so much joy knowing that I am nourishing them through the lean months, nectar-wise.

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