The Feel Institute
October 14, 2018

Daily Archives

  • One for sorrow. Is single bad?

    Single = bad

    For as long as I can remember, I knew that seeing a single, solidarity magpie was bad luck.

    As a child, the nursery rhyme was both superstition and fact. I believed it to be true, and why wouldn’t I?

    For those not familiar it goes like this:

    One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy…..

    I didn’t understand the three or four, nor the 5 or more magpies, but that one for sorrow stuck. It was bad and undesirable. For the next 40 years, whenever I saw a single magpie I nervously, anxiously, scanned for another to break the curse of sorrow. If I didn’t I was fear that something bad might happen.

    Lived experience of being single

    A couple of years ago, my quest was to further understand the words we use, what they mean, and generally how to communicate better. I realised how divisive a request for the alone time could be. When I wanted to spend some time by myself and voiced this to others, all too often it seemed to land as not wanting to be with them, rather than me wanting to have some alone time with me.

    I changed the, ‘I want to spend some time alone’ to ‘I need Sue solo time’. The difference was huge. It turned out a whole new dialogue was available around the importance of spending time with yourself and this vital act of self-care.

    The magpie connection

    What the fuck has this got to do with magpies?

    Well, earlier this year, I’m heading out from home on a beautiful late morning and I spot a solo magpie. For the first time, I asked myself why is this not ok?

    If me being solo was an essential part of living a healthy life, why was it not ok for a magpie to be solo?

    When I am wandering around doing my solo thing, 99% of the time, I am not sad.

    There is no sorrow.

    There is integration, relaxation, enjoying, being nosy, people watching, following impulses. The list goes on.

    Single = precious

    I realised, that seeing a solo magpie might be this precious, dying earths way of saying, ‘Sue, keep doing what you are doing’. Sometimes it’s, ‘Sue, how about some solo time to get back in touch with yourself?’. Over the next day or so, every time I saw a solo magpie, I smiled and felt a wave of connection with it and myself.

    A couple of days later, a pair of magpies arrived on the roof of the building directly opposite my living room window. I’ve lived in this home for 11 years. They’ve been based around that roof every since.


    I couldn’t help but think that acceptance and awareness of the beauty, and necessity, of our solo time, allows us to be in healthy connection with others.

    I wonder what impact, that myth of one being for sorrow, has had on me and others brought up with this way of thinking.

    I also noticed that the version of the rhyme that predates ‘three for a girl, and four for a boy’, was ‘three for a funeral, four for a birth’. I will save my thoughts on that for another article…to be continued.