I feel like I had a “bluebird of happiness” moment during my last stay at the NIH. For those of you who remember seeing the movie K-PAX, starring Kevin Spacey, you may know what I am talking about. In the movie, Prot, the main character is either a legitimate patient in a psychiatric institute or he is genuinely an alien from the planet K-PAX. Prot tries to cure his fellow patients by given them tasks and one of them (Howie) was given the task to wait for the bluebird of happiness. After patiently watching the sky through the window for several days, Howie spots a blue jay perched in a courtyard tree and becomes euphoric and starts chanting “Bluebird! Bluebird!” along with all the other patients.
One afternoon while at the NIH, I decided to go for a little walk outside to catch a breath of fresh air. As the brightness of the sun and heat seemed to make my study drug induced headache worse, I decided to go back inside and find a place to sit and just chill. I found this quiet little place overlooking one of the courtyards. I sat comfortably and started typing away my next blog post. At some point, I took my eyes off my screen and saw this male cardinal on a rooftop beneath me. I had the feeling it was looking at me with its head to the side, kind of like when you are staring at someone you think you know but are not too sure if that is them or not. It kept walking towards me and I just had this feeling that it was coming specifically to see me and then it hit me! About one month earlier, as I was leaving the NIH after my week long stay, I was sitting outside on a Saturday morning, waiting for my cab. Everything was so still when typically the front entrance of the clinical center is always hustling and bustling. I was enjoying the warm rays of the sun and the crisp air when a male cardinal walked up to me. I had had the same exact feeling, as if someone or something was sending me a message but I just didn’t know what it was. I thought to look at the meaning/symbolism of the cardinal but then forgot. This time I knew I needed to and I started googling it right away.
I know we can find connections everywhere if we look hard enough but for those of you who know me, you know that I believe in the power of symbols. In general, the cardinal represents the spiritual values of hope, cheer, pride, love, and renewal. I thought I was off to a good start! Unlike most birds, cardinals do not migrate but rather brave and withstand the cold winters which demonstrates their vitality, strength, and resilience. According to other sources, cardinals remind us to hold our heads high regardless of circumstances and always exude humble confidence. They can remind us to “keep the faith” though circumstances might look bleak, dark and hopeless. Cardinals remind us to follow the hope in our heart on our upward journey through the cycle of life. Also, the call of a cardinal can come to cheer us up, or cheer us on. So I want to say thank you little cardinal for your visit. I will keep my chin up, I will keep the hope and faith, and I will keep finding strength and resilience from within. Thank you for cheering me on!
One more thing I found out about cardinals is that they are associated with the number 12. Cardinals are seen during all 12 months of the year and their eggs typically hatch in 12 days. Well… do you remember the name of the study drug that I am on???? It is called “Interleukin-12”!!!! Coincidence or not? you decide….
I’ll be looking for you next time I am at the NIH beautiful little red bird of cheerfulness!