Day 239 - Caterpillars and Butterflies.
For my friend PC...
I spent the first half of my life as a caterpillar...creeping around eating everything in sight. Well, in my case, drinking everything in sight. But you get the metaphor...
I was just a consumer...of people, places, things, booze, men. There was never enough of anything in those days. My survival depended upon my ability to consume. And in fact, that basic need, almost consumed me. Because like a caterpillar, what I was consuming actually turned out to be important...not just anything would do...I needed a particular substance (in my case, alcohol, not milkweed) in order to survive. Every drink I took helped me further prepare for the day when I would begin to change into what I was ultimately supposed to be.
In those caterpillar years, I walked the earth and wished I could fly. But caterpillars only flights are when they are suddenly flung from an unsuspecting passerbyer’s arm. Caterpillars belong to the earth whereas butterflies belong to the sky. I was mostly unhappy in my caterpillar form. Endlessly chasing the drink, overdoing it and wondering why I never felt sated. Felt full. It was as if I could not consume enough to trigger the inherent part of all beings that says, “ok, stop now.” I just kept going.
Then one fine day in 1995, I felt off. I felt terrified and slowed. And sick. I thought I was dying. My caterpillar life was coming to an end. I thought that I could not go on one more day as a caterpillar. And I was right. For me, my chrysalis stage became rooms of recovery, a safe place to affix myself to a chair and hold on for dear life. It was in these rooms that I was cocooned and loved and helped and saved. Like a child who finds a butterfly embryo and brings it home to safety. The men and women in the rooms watched out for me, cared for me, talking to me even though my chrysalis made it hard for me to hear. I became transfixed in place and was unable to move. I became comfortable there, the warm, inviting conviviality surrounded me and made me feel safe. I became complacent and resigned to being among these people but not really being one of them. I preferring their love overspray rather than learning to love in their way myself.
I spent awhile attempting to hold the present as a means to prevent the past from its perils and the future from its uncertainty. I just wanted to stay right there and lodged myself permanently in this change. Freezing it from its past, and thus preventing its future.
As we all know, the caterpillar isn’t really given much of a choice in its change. No one asks it if it is ready, or if it wants to change. It just does it because it is its course. Its destiny is to walk the earth in one form, go inside for a while, and then become something else. It literally cannot live any other way.
And like the caterpillar, I too, was forced to change. No one asked me to, and I certainly had no idea what was happening to me. I just knew that I was losing my grip on the chair I affixed myself to and I was terrified. My kindly caretaker in those rooms, always checked on me, whispered to me so that I could hear the message. It was hard to hear it because a caterpillar doesn’t speak butterfly. So I remained confused and lost despite my place of safety.
But almost as quickly as the chrysalis began, it was over. I could suddenly feel and see changes in myself that were not visible to me before. I reviewed my journey and realized that for a time, my compulsive consumption was over. It passed. I, the forever consumer of all things, especially booze, had been abstinent almost without my cooperation. I was just delivered to another place, free from alcohol, the poison that robbed me of me.
I am not going to lie, that time inside was incredibly painful. I did not enjoy the close quarters. I did not enjoy the journey into my own interiority. I did not enjoy all the defects I found. I will admit that I almost gave up a couple of times. But despite all I can say, I allowed myself to remain secured to this simple chair, in a simple room, surrounded by butterflies. I didn’t understand them but seemed to intuitively know that these people were my salvation. I needed what they had if I were ever to emerge into a different state of being.
And then one day, the walls, the fiber and the encasing began to fall away. I began to be able to move more freely. I began to see in real time that I was now, no longer a caterpillar, I was now a butterfly too. My change complete and full of remarkable grace. A gift, a moment full of undeserved merit. And I was forever altered.
Suddenly I understood all those butterflies were saying. I could magically speak butterfly. I never knew it before, but somehow my time within, gave me a new language. I have come to know it as the language of the heart. My life depends upon that language now. Perhaps it always did. I laugh today when I try to tell caterpillars anything because I know that they can’t hear me. They do not understand. They can’t. But if I am patient, I can be there for the moment when the metamorphosis begins. I can be a steward and sentry for their time within and if I am really lucky, like the luckiest, I can be there when they emerge and find their wings.
If you need help. Reach out. To me, or any other butterfly...There are far more of us butterflies than you think. It doesn’t have to be me...it can be anyone of us. We are in fact everywhere, your office, your community, in the houses next-door. We can speak to you with the language of the heart and help you cease your endless suffering. We can tell you things that only butterflies know...and you my friend, only have to believe that one day, you too can change. And you don't even really have to believe it. You can just believe that we have found a different way. You can be you in another form. A higher form. The sky is yours, the heavens your playground for the rest of your days. Your only tether to the earth is to fly close to those caterpillars and chrysalis and begin to speak to them with the language of the heart. They can’t hear you, but they will always know you are there. Because unlike caterpillars, we humans, have the choice to change. And so often, we choose to stay tethered to the ground, consuming rather than being. We are all meant to fly. And that my friends is something only a butterfly can know.