As I was weeding in the garden the other day, a bumblebee that was moving awkwardly caught my eye. The bee was crawling along the stem of a plant, but in a jerky, uncoordinated sort of way. As I watched, it fell from the stem to a lower one; its inability to maintain purchase on the higher stem startled me. When was the last time you saw a bee fall?
It seemed clear that there was something wrong with the bee since it showed equal difficulty maneuvering on its new perch. As I peered more closely, I realized the problem—the bee was missing its right wing.
Perhaps its struggles on the plant were the result of efforts to launch itself, doomed to failure by the missing wing. Or perhaps the poor creature was in the throes of some kind of bee agony, throbbing in pain and restless to find some movement or position that would make that pain go away.
I think the first explanation is the more logical one, though. First, the bee probably wanted to fly to its hive, its home. That’s what we all do when we are hurting, right? Whether we scrape our knee as a child or are abused by a boss at work, we think of home and family, of the comfort we hope to find among those who love us. Or perhaps we simply want to snuggle into our nest and nurse our wounds. Either way, home is the haven, the refuge. Bees being social animals, like humans, might well find a similar solace in their fellows.
Secondly, I think the bee wanted to fly because flight is a well-known action. How many times, when we face obstacles or experience hurts, do we resort to accustomed behaviors, comforted by the familiarity of the action. We do this even if that customary response is not the most appropriate—falling into habit because the familiar is reassuring. Perhaps that struggling bee was simply trying to fly out of an instinctive feeling that if he could do so, everything would be okay.
In the same way, we fall into familiar patterns not so much in the hope that those patterns will resolve a problem, but out of an unconscious wish to restore normalcy—to replace whatever vexes or perplexes us with the familiar, which we find easier to accept and understand.
Sometimes that strategy might work. Following the familiar path, we can recharge our batteries, regroup and be better prepared to tackle the problem head on. Often, though, this approach simply means we are ignoring the true dimensions of our current situation and turn our faces from whatever is actually at play. In our desperate grasp for normalcy, what we achieve is to escape our real problem—which simply leaves it to linger, perhaps to fester.
In the end, such a response is as doomed to failure as the dream of a one-winged bee to fly. We simply bounce around, falling from one situation to another, awkwardly trying to escape a new situation by calling on old tricks, unable to get off the ground.
Words and pictures © 2009 AtHome Pilgrim.
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