Three years ago, we were given an amazing opportunity to watch the birth of a monarch butterfly. It was such a cool experience! I had almost forgotten about it until it popped up on my feed in Facebook Memories this morning.
I remember bringing the chrysalis home in a jar. It was attached to a twig with a few leaves on it, and my friend from whom I received it had given us some basic advice on care over the next week or so. Basically, leave it in a sunny, ventilated area, and LEAVE IT ALONE.
My daughter and I watched him every day (we don’t know if it was a “him”, but Girly decided he was to be called Terence, so a “him” he became). It was tough because I had no frame of reference for how he should be developing. I Googled the heck out of “monarch chrysalis” and “monarch emergence” and any other variation of “monarch _____” you can think of. I adjusted the jar daily and then put it back where it was originally. I made sure it was getting enough light, but not too much…enough air, but not too much. Was it too close to the air conditioning vent ?(No, it wasn’t.) Was it in too direct sunlight? (No, it wasn’t.)
Then after about 4 or 5 days, we woke up one morning to find that the green chrysalis had turned transparent! I could see the little black and orange body of the butterfly within!
We DROVE LIKE WIND to my dad’s house (he has a garden, we do not) so that Terence would have flowers to feed from upon his emergence. I watched that damned chrysalis from 5am. I didn’t move from the dinner table where I had placed the jar. And I waited. And waited. And waited. And then Girly needed a snack. So I got up from the table FOR TWO MINUTES. And I came back to this.
In the two minutes I took to NOT watch him, he decided he would emerge.
It took another couple of hours for him to inflate his wings enough to decide to fly. So we let him just chill in his jar, on his twig, until he was ready to go.
In the end, it was an absolutely lovely experience. Even though I missed the ONE THING I had been waiting to see for over a week, it was truly an amazing opportunity, to see nature do what it does best: JUST BE.
And I learned that no matter how much I fussed or fretted, Terence just got on with the business of being. As do most of us when you think about it.
It got me thinking…
No matter what I worried about (too much sun, air, positioning, do I watch him, do I feed my child, do I move the twig, do I help him out…) Terence did his thing and he emerged. And he did it without my help. And he did it without the intervention of anyone on his behalf. We LET HIM BE, and he BE’d.
I remember my dad telling me the story of the man who helped the butterfly emerge from his chrysalis once when I was a child. The man saw the butterfly struggling to emerge, so he helped him along by helping pull him from the chrysalis. He thought he was doing the butterfly a favour, not realizing that the butterfly NEEDED the struggle in order to thrive. Without the struggle, he would not have had the chance to inflate and strengthen his wings, for example…and as a result, the butterfly died.
Butterflies and life
It’s an interesting reflection on life. Each of us goes through struggles at various time. And we FIGHT LIKE HELL to avoid them. We bend and twist and deny and negotiate and reinvent and do all sorts in order to avoid being uncomfortable. We do it for our kids (how many helicopter parents intervene on their child’s behalf at EVERY opportunity so the child doesn’t have to struggle?). We do it for the people we care about…and sometimes even the ones we don’t (“I’ll just do it so I know it’ll get done properly.”) We go OUT of our way to avoid hardship, to avoid discomfort, to pre-plan and plan and post-plan and control every aspect of our lives because that is what we have to do in order to have lives worth living.
We cannot deal with anything that makes us uncomfortable. We cannot deal with the unknown. We have forgotten that “we” (collectively) have been in the business of living life for several years (haha) and we’ve (for the most part) survived. We’ve learned, and we’ve moved forward.
We can’t wait. We must have everything NOW. We must do and be and have and experience. We’ve forgotten that there is an ebb and flow to life and that when the time is meant for something to be, it will be. (More on that another day.)
We make such a big deal out of hardship and struggle. The reality is…struggle is reality. Hardship at some point is inevitable. We will all have challenges we have to overcome. But like the butterfly, emerging from that struggle will make us infinitely more resilient. And isn’t that what we ultimately want? I mean, strength is one thing…but resilience is what gets you through life… being able to struggle and still thrive.
So it was a lovely reminder that the illusion of control is just that: an illusion. We can only really respond to what is happening in the moment. We can only really trust our gut and that moving forward, taking every step is really a leap of faith because we DON’T have any idea what is coming, or how it’s going to turn out. All I know is that it’ll turn out…whatever that “out” is meant to be.
It never ceases to amaze me the effortlessness with which life exists. You can intervene all you want, nature is still gonna do whatever the heck it wants to do. Everything has a time within which it grows. Everything has a time to rest, to emerge and to take flight. Everything.
So just be.
Why do we make life so complicated when it isn’t? It just isn’t. Why do we hang onto angst and drama? Because it makes us feel important? Or somehow “more than”? I have no idea. I really don’t.
Life is so perfect. We should let it just be. We should trust that everything unfolds as it should. Not because we want it to be this way or that, but because that’s how it’s meant to. Trust more. Worry less. Just live.