Please Release Me!
Once, in the distant mists of time, I read this fairy story. I've forgotten who the writer was, but the story itself has never left me. And frankly, I'm amazed it is not better known. For if it was, then many of our relationships---and not just the romantic ones---would survive and flourish so much longer. This I truly believe.
I cannot find a copy of the story to hand, so let me tell it to you in my own words. You can then decide whether I am right or wrong.
There was once a king. He had most of everything, but that did not stop him from wanting to find that one elusive something that most of us need to find at some point in our lives. So, at last, world-weary and bowed under by the weight of his duties and responsibilities, he sickened and took to his bed.
His physicians could not find any illness that they could treat, so the king rid himself of them and resigned himself to that lonely journey we all have to take, sooner or later.
Every day the king grew weaker, until at last he sensed the end was near.
One evening he was lying alone in his bed chamber, drifting in and out of consciousness, when he heard a sound. He listened. It was like no other sound he had ever heard. He opened his eyes. A bird sat on his windowsill, and it was singing the most beautiful song he had ever heard. The king's heart was filled with joy. His exhilaration was immense, so much so that he could actually feel the strength flowing back into his limbs.
After a while the bird stopped singing and flew away. The king's family and courtiers were dumbfounded by the sudden change in him, all in the space of a single evening.
The next evening the bird appeared again and sang to the king. And once again this made the king so happy that he recovered his health even more. And so it went on for several days until the king had just about regained his former good health.
At this point the bird, one evening, after singing as usual, said to the king, 'Your Highness, I've given you all I've got. You are now well. I'll come back and sing for you one more time tomorrow, and then I'll have to say goodbye.'
The king was appalled. 'But why do you have to go? Why can't you stay? I can give you anything you want.'
The bird just looked up at the blue sky outside and said, 'but I am a creature of the air, and I need my freedom. To go where I want to go and do what I wish with my life---that alone is what can make me happy.' And so saying, the bird flew away.
The king thought long and hard. He could not see any future for himself without the bird. Nothing could ever make him happy the way it did.
So there was only one solution.
Next day the bird appeared to sing its farewell song. And as usual, the king listened. And when the bird's song was over, out jumped the king's courtiers and quickly captured the bird in a gilded cage. 'I'm sorry, but I can't let you go,' said the king to the bird. 'You are everything to me. Without you I cannot live, so I must have you to myself. I can only hope you'll forgive me.'
The days passed, and gradually the king noticed a change in the songbird. Something was wrong. Although it was trying its best for the king, the song is sang did not sound as good. 'I told you, O king,' the bird said. 'I am a creature of the air. I am not suited to the life in this prison that you have placed me in. Much that I care for you, I cannot be with you while the blue skies yonder beckon to my soul.'
'Well, it's either you or me then,' replied the king. 'I cannot do without you, that's for sure. So you have to stay and do your best and--- well---that will have to be good enough for me, I suppose.'
However, it was now the bird that went into decline. Day by day it grew weaker, and it hurt the king deeply to see this, because in all truth he loved the bird dearly, more than anything else in the world, for only that bird could nourish the soul. To witness its painful deterioration simply tore the king apart. He could not bear it. Finally he knew what he had to do.
The king went to the cage and opened the door wide. 'Go,' he said to the bird. 'Fly away and be happy, for I cannot stand to see you unhappy any more. I would rather die than make you unhappy.'
And the bird flew away.
The king missed the bird. He hungered for its song. The sight of it sitting and singing to him, it's wonderful presence in his life. And slowly he fell sick again and took to his bed.
The days went by until there came that fateful day which was to see the end of his life. With all his courtiers and family surrounding him, the king was ready to breathe his last. This time, however, there was a fierce contentment in his heart. He was happy he had let that the bird go even though he could not do without it. Because he knew he had done the right thing. As his eyes were closing, the king whispered, 'oh, sweet bird of mine, be happy. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy. I've loved you so much for the song you gave me that your happiness meant more to me than my life, and by keeping you against your will I had already lost you.'
Just then there was the soft flutter of wings. Everyone looked around. The bird had reappeared on the windowsill out of nowhere. 'Sing for me--- just one more time?' pleaded the king. So the bird sang, sweetly and strongly, in all the glory of its beautiful voice, and thus the king died a happy man. For he knew he had done the right thing. He had let the bird go. Given it the freedom it craved. Even if it had meant his own death. So much did he love that songbird.
To keep someone to yourself, to try and change them by forcing them to live in your environment, by your rules, away from their natural desires---this will make them unhappy. Which is why you must accept whatever love someone is prepared to give you and not ask for more. And if you cannot live without them, so be it, for if you really love them you will allow them their freedom, to choose their own life and destiny even at the expense of your own. Don't try to change people. Let them be who they really are. And, above all, never try to keep them all to yourself. For verily in this lies the test of true love........
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