We have all heard the stories, quotes, sermons, and general warnings regarding the struggle of the caterpillar. The theme, of course, is that the struggle is necessary; metamorphosis is difficult; and (as the sign in my office states) just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. I will only speak for myself, although I imagine that I am not alone, when I say that these themes established a belief that if I am feeling earthbound, if I am struggling, if life seems difficult, or if it feels like my world is ending, then I am still in my caterpillar stage. Moreover, it means that I have not yet graduated to the perfection and bliss of the butterfly. After all, butterflies evoke feelings of joy, lightheartedness, freedom, rebirth, and a carefree lifestyle. Certainly, once you have suffered through metamorphosis and escaped your caterpillar stage of life, you will not have a care in the world. Right? WRONG!
I have experienced struggles over the past two years that I would not wish on my worst enemy. I am not yet in a place where I am willing to write about the specifics, but it is sufficient to say that every aspect of my life came under attack. At the age of 49, I wondered why I was still a caterpillar and how long I would have to wait to become a butterfly. I longed to feel free and be able to rise above this temporal existence. I wondered when I would finally “arrive” and how long it would take before I felt like I was living the life for which I was born.
This past June, I was walking outside when I noticed two yellow butterflies flitting around the flowers. I was unfamiliar with their particular species, but they were clearly the same type as each other. However, I could not help but notice that one was flying differently than the other one. It was difficult to pinpoint what the difference was because of their speed. Upon closer examination, I realized that one of the butterflies was not completely intact – for want of a better word, the butterfly was broken. It appeared that part of at least one wing was missing, but it was difficult to clearly see due to the butterfly’s speed. I observed this broken butterfly happily flitting around all of the flowers, seemingly without a care in the world. This broken butterfly was beautiful. This broken butterfly was doing what butterflies do. This broken butterfly, with a slightly altered flight pattern, was not missing a beat in its happy life. I was fascinated.
Two days later, I arrived home and noticed two beautiful yellow butterflies dancing around the flowers. I wondered if it could possibly be the same pair, so I looked closely and there it was…the same altered flight pattern. Both of them were landing this time, so I was able to get a closer look. It became clear to me that the broken butterfly had survived a predator’s attack. The bottom portion of both wings had been torn. It appeared that something had literally taken a bite out of this beautiful creature. My money is on my neighbor’s cat. I envisioned that moment. After the drudgery of being a caterpillar and the struggle of metamorphosis, the butterfly finally emerged and was flitting around some flowers when suddenly…SNAP!!! The butterfly was earthbound, it was struggling, and it seemed as if its world was ending! However, my broken friend did not give up or wait for another metamorphosis. My broken friend did not wonder if it would ever be a butterfly. My broken friend did not let its world end. Instead, my broken friend moved on and it did what butterflies do…with a slight alteration in its flight pattern.
At that moment, it struck me. I am a broken butterfly. My flight pattern has been altered. The world now views me differently than it views my peers. I carry the scars of my past. However, I AM A BUTTERFLY! I soar above the mundane, and I flit! I am neither waiting for a metamorphosis nor wondering when I will “arrive” because: I AM HERE. I may be broken, but I am not destroyed. My life does not look the way that I expected it would, but it is still beautiful. Better yet, it is completely unique. Although I am not sure what the future will bring, I plan to flit through it with joy and freedom because that is what we butterflies do. I may appear broken, but I recently edited a blog for a client, and I prefer her language: I have unbecome myself, and I am unbroken. https://www.albany.com/albany-on-the-spectrum/2019/01/unbroken/
Note: The photo above is a picture of the actual broken butterfly. At first glance, you may not notice the damage because of the flowers, but if you look closely and compare it to the photo below, of an intact Tiger Swallowtail, it will become clearer.