What we can learn from geese…

Okay, y’all. I’ve already messed up the post sked, but that’s alright because I’m going to share something with you that has changed my entire life perspective. The last two weeks I’ve been spending my days at a Partial Hospitalization Program for those struggling with depression, mood disorders, and other mental health issues. There. I said it, and I’m not freaking out (yet).

When I found out it was all group therapy, I thought it’d be the biggest waste of my time. What could I possibly get from spending time with a bunch of loonies? One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest came to mind. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I got more from it than I’d ever dreamed. We were there for very different reasons, but I could relate to all of them on the most basic levels. Well, I guess we all are human!

I want to share something I read last week during one of the sessions. It’s called Lessons From Geese by Milton Olson, adapted by Angeles Arrien.

As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock. 

I got goosebumps–heh, no pun intended–when I read this. I recognized that I’d felt that drag and resistance at one time because I’d been alone for so darn long. Then I realized I hadn’t felt that drag for a long while now. My flock is comprised of my author friends and my book ‘ho friends. My flock is the most warm, encouraging group of people I’ve ever met, and I’m privileged to know each of them.

We all need our flock from time to time. We all need to figure out who will be there for us and who we will be there for in return. It could be your family or even the family you make on your own, but we all need a little support, no matter how we may resist the notion.

How about you? Have you found your flock? What do you do when you start to feel alone or discouraged to break out of it? Have you seen other examples in the animal world that we should follow?



  1. Mary Roya says:

    Very interesting, it can be difficult to find and cultivate a group in which they would to that watch your back. It seems (just to me) giving involve with the local chapter has been hard. Either its too small and the ladies are set in their ways or the group is just too large. It’s strange you can feel lonely in a crowd of people sharing the same goal. So no I have not found my group or my place. But I haven’t given up. I do have a great support system at home.

    • I’m so sorry it’s worked out that way for you. I was in the same situation in a couple of general writing groups. I got a lot of poor advice, too. I’m now in three RWA chapters, and I love all of them. They’ve each given me something different (plus, no one thinks I’m nuts when I talk about my characters like they’re real, lol). I’ve ran into this in churches as well. Went to one and loved it, but after I moved to a new state, the morale at the new one was disheartening. The good side is you’re getting support from at least one source. To find a writerly source, you may have to try out other groups before you find the right fit for you. It took me nearly a year to find where I was most comfortable. Just keep open and be welcoming to the new members. Maybe you can create the kind of environment you’re looking for 🙂

    • Josie Matthews says:

      Mary…I think your place is right here with US! I always look so forward to your warm, funny insightful additions to our blog!
      I do know what you mean though…many groups in all forms of interests can become shortsighted and narrow viewed given time. Stick to your guns and be the change…You have so much to offer.
      Love J!

  2. Ang,
    Just last week my husband and I saw a flock of geese as they moved in V formation south. They were honking so loud they drew our attention. It was an amazing thing to watch, but even more fascinating now that I’m aware of why they fly as they do and how they support one another. Your right, we can learn so much from this small passage. We all need support, at different times in our lives, whether from family, friends, or sometimes even those we know for a very short time. Loved your first post, it’s an important one, with a great lesson.

    • Thank you so much, Renee! I never knew geese were so socially nurturing in this way. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever seeing a goose by itself in the wild. I think we’re taught most of our lives to expect a lot from ourselves, to handle everything on our own. It’s good to have high standards, but we can’t be perfect all the time. A little encouragement or help now and again when we need it most doesn’t make any of us a lesser being. It makes us human 🙂 LOL–or geese!

  3. Great blog Angela!!!

    I tend to have “island” tendencies and it’s tough for me to admit when I need help, but having a supportive group and knowing they have your back when you need it makes HUGE world of difference, even for an island like me! LOL

    So glad you’re part of our RWASD flock!!!

    Lisa 🙂

    • Thank you! And I’m glad, too. And you, Lisa, have always been one of the greatest supporters of everyone in the chapter, always there with good advice and encouragement. I think writers have a tendency to lean toward the ‘island’ kind of life, but it really does help to know people who’ve walked a similar path. It can be hard as heck at times to reach out to others, especially when you’re feeling down or worried about something. No one wants to burden friends, but to a true friend, reaching out is no burden. Plus, we know you’d do the same for us 😉

  4. Hi Angela *waving* Congrats on your new blog home 🙂

    I love having a flock of writer friends. It’s made all the difference in my life. I wrote alone for 3 years before discovering my writer *home*. And I’m so grateful that I did!


    • Hi Melissa *waving wildly back* So glad you could come by! And geez, I thought a year was harsh, lol. It’s difficult to get so excited over something and have no one to share it with who truly feels the same excitement. My family’s supportive of my writing, and they’re fantastic with the big news. It’s the little triumphs and trials they don’t understand as well. It’s not monumental when you reach the end of the first draft or work out a particularly tough scene or run into writer’s block.

      Of course, this doesn’t just apply to writing. It could be anything a person is passionate about–which, for me of course, happens to be writing and reading 🙂 We’re basically social creatures who need to find a way to connect with others in some way. Most people seem at their best when they have a supportive element in their lives.

  5. marsharwest says:

    This is an old story, Angela, but I haven’t heard it in a long time. So glad for the reminder. Yes, it’s definitely a chill bump kind of moment. Don’t you kind of think we’re seeing this in the northeast? All those poor people suffering. All those people being helped by others around the country.

    • We’re definitely seeing it in the northeast. Natural disasters tend to bring out the best and a little of the worst in people. But mostly the best 🙂 I love that about us, that when it counts the most, we’ll pull together for people we’ve never even met.

  6. Ellie Nystrom says:

    Try 5 years of writing as an island, a perfectly isolated, socially inept island. I tried a few times to reach out and find a “flock”, but it didn’t work out and I lost courage. My family tries to be supportive, but they derive a ridiculous amount of joy from teasing me, reading out loud love scenes from books I’m reading, asking if my manuscript contains words like “thrusting” and “throbbing” (well, duh, those are my favorite parts), and giving me that skeptical eye. With you guys, however, I do feel like maybe I’ve finally found my place. And it feels really good.

    Thanks for the post, Angela.

    • It really bites that they aren’t taking your work seriously. That seems to be a common theme among writers, especially for unpublished writers–as if it’s just some kind of hobby if you aren’t published! Well, I have some news for them. ALL published authors were unpublished authors first, lol.

      I’m fortunate that my family doesn’t make fun of me, but I get lots of it at work. Tons of “lady porn” comments and other such things as you described. I’ve decided to leave it at their lack of comfort and maturity in their sexuality 🙂 I’m more than comfortable with reading about, writing about, and talking about sexy things and emotional things. Therefore, I’m better than them. Kidding–really, I’m just kidding, rofl.

      Ellie, you will always have the ear of supportive people here. Your family likely doesn’t realize that after a certain point, all the jokes can become hurtful. Sometimes you just have to tell them when they make comments like that all the time, you feel like they don’t have faith in you or they don’t see your passion for writing as meaningful. I honestly joke a little as well (because I’m a perverted, immature Sailor, of course), but the positive support needs to not only be there, but outweigh the ridicule. If they can’t seem to stop, find your support with us writers and readers because we won’t let you down 🙂

    • Ellie, tell them that a healthy sexual relationship begins between the ears!! Reading romance is good for women because it massages our imaginations and fires our libido. And no, it isn’t creating unrealistic expectations..we’ve all watched Disney movies and no one has a problem with separating that from reality. Tell them your hubby’s a very lucky man, and make sure you have a lot of sass in your voice when you tell’em! xoxo 🙂

    • Josie Matthews says:

      Ellie, your post really ‘hit’ me! I too find I live on that island at home. Everyone always asks me ‘you done with ‘that’ book yet?’ Like its a big joke that I even thought to try something so ridiculous. Thats why I love and look forward to blogging with all you girls so much. It gives me that warmth and support I need to ‘keep on going’ in spite of the jokes and snickers and eye rolling at home. Sometimes I wonder if my drive to get this right is for me?…or just to prove them all wrong! I’ve never attempted anything so challenging in my life as writing a book. It may look like a hobby to them, but it’s been a life changing process to me. I may never succeed and become published, but the journey has changed my life for the better. Reach out when you need support and know all us Chicks here at Chickswagger ‘got your back’!
      Love Josie

      • Ellie Nystrom says:

        Thanks Angela, Misty, and Josie for the support! You guys are awesome. So cool to find other writers willing to share their experiences and hear mine too. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  7. Hi Angela, great post. I’d read about this once and have always loved how smart those birds are and how they have a system of order. Everytime I see the birds on the water, working on their initial lineup for the v formation to set to flight, I think….it’s time to get moving girl and follow those intelligent creatures to the South for the winter!

    • LOL! Thanks, Kylie. I think I’ll search the net to see what that looks like. I mean, I’ve seen the formations, but I bet the set up would be interesting to watch. Somebody has to have posted video or pics somewhere on it. I wonder if some geese have the ‘glory-hog’ or Type A personalities and end up in feather-pulling fights to see who gets to take point first…

      And I’m very lucky to live in a place those honkers would want to winter in: So Cal. It’s always either spring or summer here.

    • LOL, Kylie! I always feel the same when I see the geese and ducks heading south! I’m like…”take me with yoooooouuuuu!!” Never seems to happen though. 🙂 Glad you’re at the point where you finally can!

  8. This is great, Ang! I love animal lessons! I’m kind of obsessed with horses right now. Thanks for the reminder – I’d heard that story, but had also forgotten it. I love that! It’s funny, but my man and I were just talking about how women usually live longer than men, and the general idea that they do so because of their social networks. Fascinating.

    It’s taken me a while to find my place because where I live, there isn’t even a state RWA chapter. I know, sad, right? But I think that’s why I live so much online with regards to my writing…I’ve found an incredible network of other writers who are supportive, funny, sensitive, and encouraging. But like anything…you get what you put into it.

    i absolutely love that the geese honk to encourage the ones in the front. And that they each take their turn. Awesome, awesome lesson!!

    Soooo sooo happy you’re one of the chicks, Ang!! Thanks for joining us. I’m excited about sharing the journey with you and the rest of our posse!! xoxo

    • I’m super happy about it, too! Thank you for inviting me 🙂 It does suck to be in a place where there are so few writers to connect with. Online is great and pretty convient, but sometimes you need a little face-to-face time. I moved from San Diego to Oxnard, so now it’s at least an hour and a half to get to the nearest RWA meetings. I chose to keep my San Diego chapter, despite the distance, and to drive the three hours each month for the meetings. To me, it was worth the extra hour or so to be with a group I knew and loved. I still get plenty of online contact from RWASD and FTHRW, but the weekend meetings were like a “writerly recharge.”

  9. Love the blog, Ang! When I joined my local RWA chapter I felt the same way. Finally, I’d found “my people”, LOL! There is so much support and the lessons other writers share dealing with similar struggles has changed my life. I try not to miss a meeting because it is my monthly therapy 🙂

  10. Rachael Slate says:

    Great post, Angela! I love geese. Must be the Canadian in me, you know, Canada Goose, right? 🙂 I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from animals. Adaptation, perseverance, teamwork. No wait, that’s Dora. Gotta stop watching t.v. with the kids 🙂

    Humans are animals at the core, and too often we’ve just forgotten to listen to our instincts. Like in this case, reaching out to others. It’s an important lesson and an awesome reminder. Thanks Ang!

    • Just don’t take the bad examples, rofl! I volunteered at Project Wildlife when I lived in San Diego. I learned that during mating season, we’d get a lot of female ducks because the males were commonly into ganging up on a single female. Poor lil things! I never knew ducks were into mass menage O.o

  11. Chick swagger, do chicks have swagger… Hmmmm

  12. Inspiring post, Angela. One of my favorite movies of all time is Fly Away Home. The one where Anna Paquin raises a flock of baby geese and then with the help of her eccentric inventor father (Jeff Daniels) teaches the young geese to migrate…inspired by a true story, as well.

    • I don’t think I’ve seen that one yet. Darn you, Jillian. Now I have to watch it! I’ve missed you lately. When I see you next–this month maybe?–I haz books for you to sign 🙂 Huuuuuge congratulations to you for your RT nomination. Go Jillian!!!

  13. Josie Matthews says:

    What a great post Ang! Just love the warm fuzzies and this topic is so timely with the holidays coming. So many people have feelings of loneliness and despair during the holiday season even though they may be surrounded by crowds of people in their lives. Ellie’s comment of feeling like an island sometimes is so poignant. It’s those inner feelings of real acceptance that mean the most to us…when we can be at our worst (bad moods, shitty writing submissions, embarrasing behaviors, moments of insanity…) yet still feel loved and accepted by those who mean the most to us, the ones who ‘lift us up into the wind’ and get us back into the game.
    I think thats what chickswagger is all about. A place to be real…and always be accepted.
    Thanks for sharing your story and wonderful insight. I don’t know what I’d do without you guys for support!
    Love Josie…

    • Thank you, Josie! I agree. It’s more than just being around a bunch of people. It’s more important to find meaningful connections, a true support system, even if that’s just a person or two 🙂 Your flock doesn’t have to be huge, just enough to take turns on point, lol.

  14. Wonderful post Angela! I loved the story of the geese, and the reminder to keep in formation (which I take too= mean- keep in contact with our flock!) It’s easy to get caught up in our lives and forget to reach out to others.


    • Absolutely, Marie!!! And I, personally, forget to do that from time to time, and then I’ll see something in the loops or Twitter that remind me that we all have so many shared experiences. We have a lot of avenues to relate to each other and provide or accept support.

  15. Erika Hanson says:

    Great story! I just have to remember to find other “geese” and not some “foxes” and try to run with them. That never works out. I’m supposed to be flying!

  16. Angela, so glad you’re part of FTHRW. Thanks for sharing.

    • Me, too! Thank you so much for coming by and chatting. I find it tough to consistently comment on the loops because I get soooo many emails every day to get through. I can tell already with my first post that this’ll be a great way to connect with and get to know everyone. I’ve been a FTHRW member for going on two years, but I’m sure a lot of people have no idea who I am, lol!

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