Why we need to stop looking for the other magpie

I live in a semi-rural area and have been taking my lockdown walks in the various fields and open spaces in the village. On every walk I’ve been on, I’ve spotted a magpie. Just the one, every time. Instinctively, I’ve scanned the fields and the sky looking for another, so ingrained in me is the saying, “one for sorrow, two for joy”.

Yesterday, I paused when I started looking around for the second one and questioned myself. Why am I so afraid of sorrow? Why is it so important to quickly find the second magpie, to have the reassurance of happiness?

We have been taught that sadness is a bad feeling and that we need to fix it at all costs. We have a whole, multi-million-pound pharmaceuticals industry designed around numbing pain. Sure, sadness can hurt and be a very uncomfortable feeling. But it’s often a very appropriate one. We all experiences losses. Some are the loss of a person through death or a relationship ending. We may lose our job or our hair, our children leave home or an experience we had badly hoped would happen doesn’t come to fruition.

In these circumstances it’s normal to feel sad. In fact, it’s important that we do. Grief needs to be felt, and if we suppress it or don’t let it run its natural course it will just stay stuck inside us.

So yesterday I decided to stop looking for the other magpie. It felt like an important message – that I needed to grieve my losses and let myself feel the sadness. So, I stopped and thanked the magpie. And then the funniest thing happened. Another one swooped down next to it.

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