Butterflies and Dragonflies, facing my ego and finding love

When I dove head first into birding it became a borderline obsession pretty fast. A way to put my troubles in check and get satisfaction in becoming better at something new daily. I chased birds up and down the east coast like a man possessed. Possessed by that deep need inside me to be good at something, anything, to take the sting out of what I felt I wasn’t very good at, LIFE. Every time I saw a new bird it was like a dopamine shot and it brought my pride back up to the surface where I thought it belonged. Hyper Manic, maybe. Scared to truly deal with my ego, probably. Was this a disaster waiting to happen, or just a chance to get back up to the surface before the real work began?

I’ve always done a fair job of taking control of my life narrative. It’s my life damn it, I’ll tell the story please. Not a loved one, friend or acquaintance making some half assed assumption about what’s going on in my brain. I would tell stories of chasing birds like Hunter S Thompson talked about chasing drugs. I was starting to feel happy again, important in my own mind. Problem was, there was something inside that I kept hidden from myself, that I didn’t want to deal with, and that was just fine to me. I was done hurting and I wasn’t going to let me or anyone else hurt me again.

As my bird count started to rise, and my photos got better, I started interacting more with other birders. I also kept going to therapy. One day my therapist told me the way I was handling my relationship with my wife was the worst of the three options I had. The options were: work on the relationship, leave, or bottle it inside and try to ignore it like I was doing. I respect my therapist and took this advise to heart. The next week my wife and I had a therapy session and it was an anxiety rave in my brain. The night of that session I tried something new. I’m not to the point where I want to share what that was yet, but something amazing happened. I was able to confront my ego head on and realize how much I loved my wife for what she is instead of what I thought she needed to be. You see, before I lost myself I was the most in love man I knew, I just wasn’t doing a good job of showing any body that, especially her. After my experience that night, I realized to have that love again I needed to create an environment for her where Gray can be Gray. Just like the woman I fell in love with, and a love like I always thought we had, but had never truly done my part to nurture.

Early on in my birding someone said wait until you notice the butteries and dragonflies. Now I understand what they meant. Instead of obsessing about a bird count I’m noticing the butterflies and dragonflies. Gray has always been my butterfly. I just had to let go of chasing birds for a minute to be able to notice that again.

I’m still chasing birds, but now it’s without a need to accomplish anything but balancing my life, connecting with my wife and daughters, connecting with people, with nature, and sharing my ups and downs with others.

-Tom Ferguson