I’m sure you’ve all heard the analogy of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. It is a perfect analogy, a very good metaphor for us in our lives. The caterpillar goes about it’s business and then one day, change begins. It begins to build a cocoon, and then inside the cocoon, becomes literally mush, a messy gooey lump of mush. This process continues, until one day a beautiful butterfly bursts forth to fly and frolic in the breezes. The caterpillar does not fight the process, nor does it try to rush it. And if someone, in their misguided compassion, tries to help it, the caterpillar will die. It needs to be left alone to do the process it was meant to do.
There are many lessons for us there.
- We can only live as a caterpillar for so long. Sooner or later, we will be called to change.
- When that happens, don’t fight it.
- When that happens, it is going to be messy for a while.
- When you emerge, life will be more beautiful than you could have imagined, but only if you allow the process to complete and don’t fight it.
- If you are observing someone in this process, do not attempt to help them.
Let’s examine each of these lessons a bit more.
- You might be moving through life thinking things are pretty good. And then, sometimes suddenly, things aren’t so good. This isn’t a call to resist change in any of the myriad ways in which we do so. It’s a call to move into something greater. This may look like a diagnosis, or the death of a loved one, or a divorce. Or it may be something a bit more subtle: an inner feeling that something is missing. Or, it may be a realization that the way you’ve been doing life up till now is no longer working. I see this a lot with people who are so busy doing doing doing that they haven’t had time to be, and they have absolutely no idea who they are.
- Whatever it is, it is a call. Call it what you want: a message from God, a soul’s calling, a particular alignment of the stars and moon, a gift, an opportunity, a huge inconvenience that really isn’t appreciated right now. Whatever you call it, don’t fight it. Fighting it will only delay the inevitable.
- Know that during the process of becoming a new you, it will be messy. It’s a bit like a grieving process. You may go through all those stages of grieving: anger, bargaining, denial, acceptance. You may finding yourself in tears at the most inconvenient times. You may find your body is demanding more rest than you’d like. You may experience some sadness. Do not confuse sadness with depression, by the way. Depression is clinical, a chemical imbalance that can and should be treated. Sadness is just a feeling. During this process, it is important to listen to the signals your body is sending. Do not deny yourself rest if you feel tired. Use the opportunity to explore who and what you are. Do some writing, or find some good books to read which will allow you to explore different ways of being. Do not get so busy that you have no time to honor this process. Doing so will only postpone it, and it will likely make you sick. Think about getting a counselor or coach to help you through this process.
- When you emerge, enjoy! Enjoy the newness, the light! The opportunities to fly! This will be a time when perhaps a new career might emerge, or a new relationship might begin. You’ve done the work, allow the newness to unfold and move you to the next glorious stage of life.
- If you are witnessing someone in the mess, I can’t stress this enough: do not help them. This is called enabling, not help. I’m not talking here about giving someone aid in a crisis. We all need help in times of crisis. I’m talking about interfering with someone who is in a process of changing for the better. If you don’t know the difference between enabling and helping, get some help. Al Anon is good for this. Or a coach or counselor. Enabling is more about you than them, only when you enable, you harm others. Consider if you are enabling that it is your own call to change and go through this process I’ve just described.
If you are feeling like something is missing, or perhaps have just experienced a major stress factor in your life (divorce, job change, life threatening illness), welcome to the mess. Honor it and know that when the process is complete you will feel gratitude and peace.