The butterfly does not break free triumphant.
Once it claws through the chrysalis,
it stands there shivering, new wings aching
as they slowly fill with blood. It must keep
its tiny eyes shut tight at first against
the brightness and shimmer of a world
it has never seen before—not like this.
It must listen until the soul’s voice whispers:
The flowers are waiting. Leave the skin
of the old life far behind. Open your eyes
and give in to the blue air that will carry you
everywhere you need to go.
From Bluebird. Green Writers Press, 2020.
If you’ve ever watched a butterfly claw its way out of the chrysalis, you know that such emergence is not a gentle process. Once it has finally struggled out of the skin that has protected it for months, the butterfly must then consume it for strength and stand exposed while its new wings fill with blood. In the space of those few moments on a branch, it is never more vulnerable to threats from the natural world. A predator could easily swoop in and end this new life before it even began. So it is with us. We create protective skins around ourselves, and even if they begin to constrict and stifle us, even if the darkness becomes unbearable, still we resist leaving because the tight spaces have become both familiar and comfortable. It can be difficult to convince ourselves to give up the safety of our old skin, too, if we know that complete exposure and uncertainty await us on the other side of the work of becoming.
Yet risk is the only way we become who and what we were meant to be. There always comes a moment of reckoning too, when the pain of staying small becomes greater than the pain of true growth, and the soul whispers of a new life waiting beyond the known. We might ache for the old ways of life just as the butterfly, as it flaps its new wings for the first time, must wonder why it needed to go through such difficult changes. As we grow used to the feeling of being free, however, of having the space of the entire world at our disposal, instead of just the cramped room of the mind, we might then wonder why we waited so long to break through and seek the light of day. We might ask ourselves: why have I been crawling when I could have been flying the whole time?
Invitation: What protective skins have you created for yourself in the past? Try to be as specific as possible when you describe the places, people and situations that kept you small. You might also describe the moment when you began to hear the whispers of some new life calling to you from deep inside yourself.