“Then wear the gold hat … it that will move her, if you can bounce high, bounce for her too. Till she cry, lover, high bouncing, gold hatted lover, I must have you.”
— Introduction to “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald
One word that never got its naughty due was “should,” particularly if preceded by “you,” as in you should be more serious, study more, lose weight, gain weight, stop wasting time. The granddaddy of should, an instant sinker of mood was: “You should be all you can be.” Freud named this should existence “the superego,” a bigger I than your known one, and an eye that both watched and judged.
My superego takes various creative forms; its favorite is an internal sour scorning face, pointing an accusing slowly moving finger under an in-sync, back-and-forth head judgment with pursed lips. If not corrected, a should legacy can lead to various forms of unpleasantness such as, inertia, insomnia, sadness and anhedonia, a suspicion of pleasure in general.
As I wrestled with these fun-stopping ideas, I was aided by the presence of my cat, Seventoes, who had followed me home from school one day, unconditional love at first sight. Even the darkest moments were softened by his accepting gaze and the rubbing of his soft Angora fur on my ankle, without invitation, saying in his feline tuneful purr, “You are enough for me just as you are.”
Seventoes’ help continued in dreams after his short life, but exhortations to excel seemed to multiply, until one summer I discovered a reliable help, the hummingbird.
A half-inch egg blossoms to a full-grown, single ounce. This wee creature fights visions of inadequacy by taking action, beating its wings up to 78 times a second, 200 times in moments of excitement, creating a loud hum that announce their presence. They can fly at 34 miles per hour. They consume half their weight in sugar each day, own the largest relative heart size of all flying creatures, take a 500-mile trip each spring from the Gulf of Mexico and return there in the fall. They are the sole bird that can both hover and fly backwards. They know the secret of relaxing, slowing that mighty heart from 200 to 50 beats per second, models of relaxing.
Their mission is looking for the sweet and the bright which they find in flowers, favoring red. The male is a gifted teacher on how to impress a female. He eschews shyness. On the approach of a female, he shows off his gymnastic dives, dances energetically and turns his red throat to a bright throbbing iridescent ruby chest. Females react.
There you have it, two small creatures using their pedestrian tools to teach us we are sufficient as we are. A lost cat, a wee bird, each with limited tools, looking for sweetness and passing sweetness on to others. Show all your stuff. Slow your production down. Trust your strength and assets. Treat the opposite sex courtly; show them what you have to offer. Do not be all you can be; be the small creature you are with gratitude. Look to the hummingbird before the summer ends.
If you miss the hummingbird this year, it will be back in May. And if you forget in May, be on the lookout for a feline friend, who can remind you that being just as you are is enough.
Raymond E. Lovett is a psychotherapist and writer in Dorset.