Years ago, I was outside pulling some weeds in my courtyard when I heard the faint chirping of a bird. My property is surrounded by lush trees, and it’s not unusual to hear a symphony of whippoorwills, bobwhites, and mockingbirds . As I edged closer to my sliding glass door, the chirp got louder. And then, I spotted it. A little grey mockingbird was gasping for air, hanging onto life with each breath. My guess is that it had tried to fly through the sliding glass door. Knowing nothing about saving birds, I scooped it up in a towel, placed it in a box, and took it to the closest animal hospital. I handed the bird over to the receptionist and was told to go on my way. It was not up to me to save or know the fate of that bird. I walked away, heavy hearted, hoping that somehow that little bird might survive.
Fast forward ten years later. After my divorce, I flew back out into the dating world, fluttering around in my newfound wings of freedom on a wild goose chase for love.
Julio and I met while we were both waiting for our cars at the mechanic. After chatting for an hour, he asked me for my number. Later that week, he took me out to dinner. That date was followed by many others and we casually dated for a few months.
Julio was a good man, a newly arrived immigrant taking care of his father who lived with him. During the brief time we dated, I spent a lot of time helping him navigate life here in the U.S. I cooked for him, gave him massages, and often ended up being his chauffeur because he frequently had to loan his car to his father. I didn’t mind doing this because I saw how hard he worked, but I grew tired of his incessant cawing about his situation. Julio lacked empathy and could only focus on his life and his woes.
One day, I was recovering from a stressful day, and I reached out to him for some comforting words. He continually ignored my call for affirmation, claiming to be too busy. He even had the audacity to say I was pressuring him, pecking him for attention. Julio had always been quick to come to me for solace for his problems but was suddenly unavailable when I needed emotional support.
I knew it was time to migrate and continue my journey. No words I offered could cajole him into seeing my side. There was no need to waste any more energy on this man. When Julio and I finally talked, I told him that I couldn’t see him anymore, that I deserved better. He thoughtfully responded, “You are charming and kind, and I know that you are worthy of something or someone that makes you happy.” We graciously moved on and decided to remain friends.
Feeling disheartened by another dating fail, I reached out to a friend for advice. She said, “You did everything for this man, but he couldn’t give back to you. You seem to be drawn to men who need a mother, men who need help, broken birds. As much as you want to help, you can’t fix them, and they are incapable of fulfilling your needs.” Her words rang true, and they were a pivotal point in how I approached dating and relationships. I had been married to a broken bird and had a pattern of finding other birds who needed rescuing. But, I couldn’t fix them. Just like that mockingbird, I had the desire to mend their wounds, but it wasn’t up to me to save them.