By Lavinia Plonka
I call him Joe. Every morning during my meditation, he begins his ritual. He flies to my living room window and stands on the clothesline hook, staring at his reflection; his arch enemy, his evil twin, looking out at him from the glass. Then he begins. Bang. Bang. Bang. Pounding his head and his beak against the glass, determined to destroy his rival, who amazingly bangs at him at exactly the same moment. “Ow,” I mutter, still pretending that I’m trying to meditate. “Ow, ow, ow.” Eventually, he settles into a rhythm that suits us both. Joe’s morning ritual becomes a background to my own. Then he flies off.
He’s the only one left of his gang. Last year, they perched on the picnic table, the chairs, the umbrella, taking turns, bang, bang, bang. Like cardinal zombies trying to break down the house, they relentlessly attacked the ghost enemy on the other side. I had read that strips of aluminum foil taped to the window distract aggressive cardinals. It worked for a while, and they were a great conversation piece. But then they returned in force to battle what they must have labeled the evil force field. They tore at the strips in a frenzy. Perhaps to their bird eyes, they saw a distorted reflection in the foil that, evil alien cardinals.
Strips shredded, they continued their onslaught. So I gave up. This year, there’s only Joe. I guess maybe the others grew out of it. Or found a better window.
My husband Ron says that’s because Joe’s a bird brain. He can’t understand that he’s only seeing a reflection. And now, fighting himself has probably become a habit, like a morning workout, or making your morning cup of, well, Joe. His habit is to bang his head into a window. Or perhaps Joe’s a little OCD, so that now this habit has become a compulsion, the way people have to touch a wall when they reach it, or check their email every 30 seconds.
Because he appears just at the moment when I’m trying to sit quietly and be more aware, Joe makes me think about my daily routines. How much of each day is driven by habit? How often am I in battle with my own reflection? What are some of my useless, repetitive behaviors that might make me and Joe kindred bird brains?
1) Talking to cars. Really. The drivers can’t hear me. The cars certainly can’t hear me. Yet there I go, commenting, cursing, berating. “What’s the matter with you, your signal’s broken?” “Oh, nice, why don’t you drive a little slower in the fast lane?” “Who taught you to drive?” “Stop talking on your cellphone when you’re trying to make a left hand turn in traffic!” No. They can’t hear me and I can’t stop.
2) Locking the door to my office. I’ll already be in the car, pulling out of the parking lot. “I locked the door, didn’t I?” “Of course you did.” “I can’t remember.” “That’s pathetic, it was just 30 seconds ago.” “That’s it, you’re losing your mind.” “I did lock the door, I’m sure.” Then I stop the car, get out. The door is locked. Except once it wasn’t. So now I say out loud. “I am now locking the door.” Maybe this would be a good moment to stand in silent meditation and practice awareness instead. Hmmm.
3) Picking on Ron. Pick up any relationship book and you’ll read that your mate is a reflection of yourself. The things that irritate you about him or her are the same things you can’t bear to see in yourself, or that you are afraid of. So when you attack your lover, you are banging right into your reflection. After 34 years of marriage, I should know this. And yet I can’t stop. Some good fire starters: “Um, I was just wondering how long this T-shirt is going to stay draped on the kitchen chair.” “You DID say you were going to make a trellis for the raspberries, when was it, three weeks ago?” “I told you the show STARTS at 8, not that we’re leaving at 8!” Really, it would be so much smarter if I just went and banged my head against the mirror a few times. (Lest I paint myself as villain, some of Ron’s choice lines are, “Did you really fold this shirt or just bunch it up and throw it in the closet?” “Your toothbrush is dripping all over the sink. How hard is it to dry it off?” and my personal favorite, while standing in front of a full refrigerator, “There’s nothing to eat in here.”)
Speaking of zombies, I’ve been mystified by the current craze: zombie books, movies, even a TV series. The CDC created an emergency preparedness site on what to do in the event of a zombie invasion. It got so many hits the website crashed. Sociologists and pundits theorize that we want an enemy we can run away from (most zombies are SOOOO SLOW!). Soulless, mindless creatures stomping across the planet, only concerned with perpetuating their species, longing for real life. Perhaps this sudden appearance of zombies is really just a wake up call for the rest of us. Pay attention, stop banging up against the same wall, remember what it means to be human. In the words of the immortal Pogo, “I have met the enemy and he is us.”
When not talking to cars, Lavinia helps others change their habits and improve quality of life teaching the Feldenkrais Method and The Creative Body. Laviniaplonka.com. Want more cosmicomedy? Visit cosmicomedy.com.