by Steve Clem on July 11, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI stared at the bird on the ground. Was it dead? Napping? Having a seizure? As the bird fluttered back to consciousness, the answer became clear. Not dead. Not napping. At least, not napping by choice.

I watched as the bird shook its wings and flittered away a few feet, only to turn around and fly back toward where it came from.


The bird hit the window hard and fell to the ground below. Back to its “napping” state. We’ve all seen this happen before. And we look at the bird and think, “How fucking stupid is this thing?”


That stupid fucking bird is the perfect metaphor for the last five years or so of my life. Now, six years ago, mind you, I was being mauled by a house cat, only to escape and spend about a year healing from my wounds. So to be flying into a plate glass window at full speed over and over again — well, that was still an improvement over the cat-mauling episode.

But just like the bird, I kept smacking into the glass. Doing the same thing over and over again, thinking I’d somehow make it through the invisible barrier to the safe confines on the other side.

And I could feel the stares. Nothing was said, but I know what the passersby were thinking. “How fucking stupid is this guy?”


I found two small, flat pieces of cardboard. I stood to the side of the bird and the window and waited for the next round. By now, the bird was lying still and dormant for longer periods of time between each quixotic attack.

As the bird plummeted yet again, I carefully moved in, put one of the pieces of cardboard on the ground, and used the other piece to scoop the bird onto it.

I scurried with the comatose bird a few hundred feet away from any plate glass windows and carefully laid the cardboard on the ground. Then I backed up and waited.

The next few seconds felt like hours as the bird lay there, not moving. “Shit,” I thought to myself, “did I wait too long? Is it finally dead?”

Just when I thought it was too late, that this bird was going to become a meal for a hungry outdoor cat somewhere nearby, it began to flitter its wings yet again. It did its dizzy little air dance, and then flew off into the distance.

Turns out the bird wasn’t stupid. The bird just didn’t have the proper perspective to see the glass was holding it back from moving forward. It just needed a little bit of help.


I’ve absolutely been better off during the last five years than I was when I hit my bottom, and though I have no complaints about being gainfully employed and acquiring skill sets I didn’t have prior to my current job, I know that I lost my perspective a bit in that time.

I’d wake up each morning and stare at the glass, thinking that was where I was supposed to focus my energy. I’d end each day exhausted, but maintaining the status quo. I still moved each day. I just wasn’t going anywhere.

It’s not as if I actually believed flying into the window was my life’s calling. But I also wasn’t thinking about anything other than getting through that damned sheet of glass.

So I’d exert all my energy and have it end in a loud THWAP! Rinse, repeat.

In the last month or two, a number of things have happened that have helped me regain my perspective, not the least of which was that a group of alums from my college, some anonymously, banded together to help me out — to find a few pieces of flat cardboard to help me. Whether it was career counseling, reading my resume, or keeping my head above water, the help was there out of nowhere.

Still other friends, unrelated to this group of alums, reached out to me independently. They talked to me about various job opportunities they knew about. They offered their help to me in my job search and in figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

And while I’m not yet soaring free in the distance, I’m definitely waking up from my dizzying actions, blinking my eyes, and looking for which direction to fly.

Turns out that I, too, am not that stupid. I just needed a little guidance and a bit of help with my perspective.


It would have been easy for me to leave that bird sitting on the ground, letting it repeat its actions until it ended up brain-damaged or dead. The bird’s fate, when it comes down to it, doesn’t have much impact on my own day-to-day life, other than perhaps providing me with its song, reminding me of the beauty of life.

But it felt good to know that I helped the bird find its way.

Not helping would have been fine. But helping felt awesome. And I’m guessing the bird would agree.


Too often in this world, we become so isolated in our own journeys, our own day-to-day doings, that we don’t reach out to help the people around us when they are stuck in a rut, hitting the window.
I’m fortunate – no, I am blessed — to have people in my life who chose not to walk by and leave me to my own devices.

And as I regain my own perspective, I vow to make sure I keep my eyes peeled, and whenever possible, to help others in the same boat. I will resist the urge to walk by and say, “How fucking stupid is this person?”

And I challenge you to do the same.

* * * *

Steve Clem is a divorced dad, a recovering Republican, and a Prisoner in the Tundra. He is in The Guinness Book of World Records for being part of the largest Hokey Pokey of all time. He was the founding editor of the Iowa City weekly The ICON and is a contributing editor of The Spleen.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sparky July 12, 2014 at 1:27 am

Yes. To all of this. Beautiful, my dear friend. Xo


Mike Grause July 12, 2014 at 1:33 am

Thanks Steve. Awesome writing. Wish you the best my friend.


gina July 12, 2014 at 2:56 am

You never fail to move me and you are still my favorite author.


lynne dubois July 12, 2014 at 3:38 am

Nice analogy. Sounds like you’re making it through to the other side…scathed, but much wiser. Welcome.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: