Bird By Beautiful Bird

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Bird By Beautiful Bird

"Bird" by David Williss

I am peering out over an intense six weeks. A period that includes travel to Georgia, Missouri, New York, Texas, and Illinois, and more than a dozen workshops/speeches/presentations among them. These trips are ripe with opportunities for continued and expanded partnerships, and even room to spread the good word of Wings & Whimsy.  This on top of all the other life stuff that goes on every single day. It’s exciting. I’m excited.

And if I think about ALL of it, I can also start to feel that urge to run and hide under the covers until summer.  

What if I can’t pull it all off? What if nobody likes it? What if I forget something? What if I let them down?  What if it doesn’t work? What if my children feel neglected?

When I start to feel my chest tighten under the weight of the What If?s I always remember this, one of my favorite stories, from writer Anne Lamott:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

The story that was the inspiration for her book by the same name, taking it “bird by bird” is advice that I’ve passed along to countless others, and frequently remind myself. Because that’s just it, isn’t it? We can get completely overwhelmed at the thought of the whole thing.  But if we just look at the next thing… well, that makes almost anything more manageable.   

Approaching life “bird by bird” has a physical effect… I literally feel my heart rate slow and my chest relax when I stop holding the entire next six weeks in my head and instead just think of what’s on deck for today.  But it also has a more intangible, and even more powerful, effect. Because when I am truly taking life bird by beautiful bird, I am so much more present and aware. I allow myself to be fully in the current thing without my mind already heading over to what’s coming. Meaning… I’m not just writing this post in order to write it and get it done and move on to the next thing I have to do because I have SO MUCH TO DO in order to get ready for all the other things!!!! ….. no. I’m writing this post.  This post is the beautiful bird and I’m giving it my full attention.  I’m enjoying the time I’m spending with it.

Right now it is Monday morning around 7:30 am. I have music playing softly… The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isakov just came on and I really like that song. I have a really big cup of coffee, and I’m drinking out of a mug I bought at Parnassus, the bookstore in Nashville, TN owned by another writer that I like, Ann Patchett.  I appreciate how many writers have inspired and influenced me in one way or another. I am sitting in the sunroom in my house and looking out the window and there is a beautiful dense fog enveloping the back yard. I can hear the literal birds singing, the morning birds that start to welcome the day as nature moves toward spring, which is one of my favorite things on this earth. Yes, this bird is beautiful, indeed.  

So, whether it is life in general, or a specific task or project that is looming, or a next move, or a dream you’re trying to put into action… if there is something that has you overwhelmed at the all of it, remember what Anne Lamott’s father said all those years ago and ask yourself:

How can you approach this bird by beautiful bird today?


Wings & Whimsy Challenge: Unfold

Challenge: What, when you think about it, overwhelms you
to the point of inaction? What aren't you starting because
you can't imagine how you'll ever get to the other side of it?
What feels impossible? Can you stop looking at the WHOLE
thing and just look at the FIRST thing? What's the first bird?
Start there... and then tell me about it in the comments
below, or tweet it to me @ErikaPetrelli1


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“Bird By Beautiful Bird”, The Leadership Program, 2017


Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.