Follow that Bird

Fullan July Blogby Rebecca Fullan

When I was a teenager, I wrote passionate letters to God, addressed to my Beloved. I wrote treatises to myself, and I swore I would always be an actress. I wrote stories that were layered with sex and extremity and, occasionally, Pontius Pilate. I laughed often and was sometimes overtaken by stark inner rage and astonishing terror. Things that frightened me included myself, asking for help, and that I might be found to be finally and fundamentally deficient.

Once, I looked at the stairwell and the shape of my hand and the other kids in the hall and I knew we were there with and for each other, in a perfect formation that was utterly intentioned.

I did not know my vocation. I would put my own flesh in my own teeth before speaking anger. Sometimes my parents were as close as my skin, sometimes farther than the moon. I had a stuffed bunny named Fluffer who was much braver than a lion.

One day, in the middle of the afternoon, I was alone in my room—a place full of towers and angles, a bed that used to be my mother’s, and, lately, a sheet with an old bloodstain instead of my yellow curtains. I heard a bird outside. An ordinary bird, twittering away.

I was struck with the sudden conviction that I must go outside to that bird right away. I was being called. Something magical would happen if I went. And if I did not go, I would miss the magic, and this missing would be a curse in and of itself. I hesitated—I was a little old for the headlong rush. But I kept hearing the bird, and the conviction kept itching at my underskin.

So I went. Both of my parents have more than a pinch of the obsessive-compulsive, and another sharp injection of the mystical, and I am not immune to inheritance. I went and stood outside. I walked around the side of the apartment building, listening, looking.

As far as I know, nothing noticeable occurred. I did not see the bird.

Now I am twenty-seven, and I write to you. My passion for God hides and leaps out at me at odd moments, and sometimes I try to keep it in a drawer with other embarrassing me-relics. I’ve grown a little shy about writing to myself—I can be such an exacting correspondent. I am afraid of being and not being an actress. I write stories that are layered with extremity and sex and quiet and tiny wiggling jokes. I laugh often and am sometimes overtaken by stark inner terror and astonishing rage. Things I am frightened of include myself, asking for help, and that I might be found to be fundamentally and finally deficient.

Sometimes, I do know that we are here with and for each other, in a perfect formation that is utterly intentioned.

I do not know my vocation. I have still not caught up with that singing bird. Perhaps it is not a thing to be known.

Perhaps it is something else.

I was walking across a parking lot a year or so ago, and these words occurred, they way they do sometimes: Nothing is lost. Nothing is retained.

I guess you could say a little bird told me.

God grant us all courage to be so ever-changing, as well as continuity that breathes and does not confine.

As an elementary school student, Rebecca Fullan wanted to be the first actress-who-writes-her-own-plays on the moon. Fluffer is still her companion, and is still the soul of courage.

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2 Responses

  1. This was a very enjoyable post, one that reached out and grabbed me because I find myself in a similar place. I related to your stories of childhood. When I was little, I was going to be a famous actress and be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson talking about my latest film project. Then, I thought, maybe I’d be on Oprah’s book club plugging my latest novel. I, too, am still struggling to find my vocation. I wonder if most people continue to search and the very lucky few find their vocations early on in life?

    In all honesty, I didn’t want to be an actress, I never did anything to pursue it but I’ve always been a writer and storyteller. My fiction, however, is still unpublished.

    I’m considering moving into teaching as that is something I believe I should have done and feel that I’ve been doing the wrong thing for the last ten years. It’s very frustrating sometimes. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Rebecca:

    Grace coupled with an encyclopedic mind, the spirituality of sharing, either with yourself or others, beauty of soul and skin and a genuine caring for all on the planet, regardless of species or economic situation. This is the Rebecca I know and have been privileged to be on the periphery of your life for a little over a dozen years.

    Growth comes in so many ways. I believe our brains are finite machines and could use a good defragging ever once in a while. However, our souls are like limitless hard drives with billions of terrabytes waiting to be filled with the wonders of the universe, truly God’s country.

    Many people never achieve the heights to which you have aspired and achieved. From a tour of the Vatican, relief for those in the wake of Katrina, two semesters in Spain soaking up culture and experience. You are a human PBS program.

    If your confidence has waned, you have hidden it well. You have allowed emotion to flow freely and not shackle you to irrationality even in the face of some obstacles you have faced and overcome with the grace that is in part genetic and part learned through your own devices.

    Rebecca, you are one of the finest people I have been privileged to know. Fluffer is one lucky bunny.

    Can’t wait for the bookto come out.

    Jeff

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