Once, I was a falcon, or at least I tried to be. Fast and focused, I was quick to act, quick to think, never a moment wasted. I wanted to fly the farthest and be the most ruthless. I carried with me always a sense of urgency, as if to say, “Look how much I care.”

I thought the hard and hurried in me was my strength. I didn’t want anyone to know how soft I really was. Or how scared.

But it’s exhausting to be a falcon when you’re not.

Years into this performance, I longed for something more tender, to live like no one’s keeping score. I wished to experience more of the moment and take truly inspired action, even though it scared me.

Sometimes I tried to be the tortoise, resting in the light and waiting with patient gladness at the world’s altar. And sometimes the butterfly. Gentle and courageous, living in devotion to evolution and expansion.

I pictured myself feasting on fruit and the sweetness of time, drinking in air like honey. I imagined I’d offer my song to the steely dawn, sharing generous blessings of joy and compassion to all who crossed my path.

My offerings always seemed more of the forceful kind, though, equal parts pleading and commanding. When I tried to slow down, I found unrest. You know, that moment of edginess that carries over from a breakneck life.

In tiny, restless sips, I’d catch myself in my own thoughts. It took only a second to feel the worries and stories pulling at my sleeve. “Listen to me. Listen,” they seemed to say in their breathless way. They’d remind me then, “You’re no falcon, nor butterfly, nor tortoise. You’re just you, and you’re not fooling anyone.”

I thought something was wrong with me. My hands were too heavy to let go of my burdens, my eyes too dark to see the light.

Caught between fighting and running, I wished I could just find a way out.

“Listen to your heart,” they all say. But, if my heart knew where to go (which I wasn’t sure it did), I doubted it would want to tell me after all I’d put it through.

No matter how many ways I tried to outsmart the restlessness, to bypass it or push through it faster, it always remained. But it always settled, too. Even when I was certain that this time it wouldn’t. It was in this practice of being present with the human in me that I remembered what the heart was made to do. 

I know. It’s always a love story, isn’t it?

Love is the temple, the altar, and the blessing. It’s the mother ingredient in every remedy I can name.

Cooled by love, we can step into the real real world, the one beyond this place we’ve crafted from hurry and hardness. And we can let it all drop. All the pretense and posturing, the expectations and urgencies, and we can find our clear mind and good heart once again.

Even when I don’t know what to do, I believe this now. We can always show up and keep trying, always dedicate ourselves to something we believe in, and always have our backs.

Be focused when the moment calls for it. Or so, so gentle. Channel the butterfly’s delicate grit, the tortoise’s elegant groundedness, and the falcon’s burning tenacity. And no matter what, be heartfelt in your actions and loving toward yourself.

Leslie Ralph is a psychologist, writer, and artist who hopes to leave the world a little brighter than she found it.  Her people are creative, sensitive spirits who crave love and peace, inside and out. Leslie is the author of There, I Might Find Peace: Poetry and Prose, Mantras and Meditations for Peace, Love, and Strength. Download her free gift, a ritual for receiving, a daily ritual for bringing more love and light, clarity and confidence, meaning and connection to your life. You can follow Leslie on Facebook or Instagram.

Image courtesy of Dmitry Berdnyk.