Have you ever felt like the outsider? The one that is different? Who doesn’t fit?
For me, there is a stack of irony in the telling the classic Ugly Duckling story by Hans Christian Anderson.
A beautiful swan born to a mother duck, who is ostracised by her family for being different.
The tale follows this creature, misunderstood, on her journey through exile to her joy at finally finding her home amongst her own kind.
Notwithstanding the obvious connection, this story resonates for me on so many levels.
As someone who thinks, acts and behaves differently; my road has been far from simple.
But, in Clarissa Pinkola Este’s interpretation of this classic story in ‘Women who run with the Wolves’ we are reminded:
See to it now that you spend less time on what they didn’t give you and more time on finding the people that you belong to.
Today, I was lucky enough to unpack this story with my very own Cantadora and Story Teller, Dr MJ Clark. In our first ever podcast ‘Wolf Mothers’ we chatted about what the Ugly Duckling meant to us.
For me it was a real lightbulb moment when I realised that I had spent a fair chunk of my life trying to herd cats and encourage hens to swim.
Meaning, you might remember, that while the ugly duckling is on her pilgrimage she calls into a farm house and is teased by an uncombed cat and cross eyed hen for looking different. Worse, the ugly duckling doesn’t sound like them and is of course, by their measure, ugly.
Over time, the uncombed cat and the cross eyed hen make fun of the ugly duckling for her inability to lay an egg or hunt for mice, denigrating her as stupid and of no value. The duckling, frustrated, leaves feeling misunderstood and like an outsider.
Importantly, for me, the uncombed cat and the cross eyed hen remind me simply that a duck is a duck, a hen is a hen and a cat is a cat. Or more simply, that we all have our unique qualities and that no talent is more important than another.
So, teaching a cat to swim is probably futile and encouraging a hen to chase a mouse similarly stupid.
So too, is asking a Swan to drive a bus.
Or as Este summarises beautifully:
We don’t see the world as it is;
we see it as we are
Therefore, for me, today, my real challenge is to embrace the unique nature of a Swan. In more ways than one.
And, my personal challenge to you is to find your own unique nature and embrace it with open arms.
Because on the day that you do, you will most likely find your own pack, or like in the Ugly Duckling, your pack will find you.
The alternative is a life spent herding cats.