Last week, while out gardening, I found a monarch butterfly chrysalis. This beautiful light green and gold accented shell hung inside an empty container in the midst of its transformation. Being the nature geek that I am, I did a happy dance. I’d never seen one out in the wild (The wild being an urban backyard.).
My goal was to photograph it every day to document its metamorphosis, but alas life got in the way so I only took the one photo above. But I did check on it daily. Then, a couple days ago the bf and I were in our front yard and saw a monarch butterfly flitting about. We admired its beauty and grace as it flew around us for a minute and then took off for Mexico. We immediately sprinted to the backyard to if it was our butterfly. And sure enough, the chrysalis was gone! Of course, it could have been a cousin, but neither of us had ever seen a monarch at our home before. So we’re convinced it was our butterfly saying thanks for the visit and goodbye.
This whole experience got me thinking about many things. The magic and miracles in daily life. How blessed we were to have witnessed this transformation. And the idea of transformation overall.
Essentially a caterpillar metamorphosizing into a butterfly is its transition into adulthood. I’ve never had a conversation with a butterfly or other animal about their experience adulting, but it appears effortless and natural. This is in stark contrast to the stories I hear (and experience) about human adulting.
Human adulting can be freaking rough. And we often make things more difficult on ourselves. Many humans believe they’re superior to other living organisms due to our advanced brains. Yet, I’ve long suspected these brains are often what get in the way of our instincts.
Life is an ongoing transformation. Every moment provides us with opportunities to grow and change and align ourselves with who we actually are. Too often we fight this transformation because of fear (Usually thanks to the billions of myths fed to us by other fearful adults.). I get it. Change is uncomfortable. I can’t imagine breaking free of a chrysalis feels particularly good, but I’m sure spreading your wings and soaring through the air has got to be amazing. And while we don’t physically grow wings, there is something about truly adulting that feels incredibly freeing.
By truly adulting I don’t mean finally figuring out the perfect method to food, clothe, and shelter yourself. Although there is certainly relief when you don’t have to worry about those. True adulting is the commitment to fully going within, pushing past the barriers, honestly looking at yourself, and taking complete responsibility for your life.
Sure, people effed up in your childhood (And will continue to for the rest of your life. As will you.). Your parents, teachers, coaches, religious and community leaders, whoever else, are human freaking beings too. That doesn’t give anyone a free pass for horrible and abusive behavior, but no matter what’s happened to us, as adults it becomes our responsibility to parent ourselves in the way we need to be taken care of.
So how do we do that? Especially if we haven’t had the best role models.
We’ll get this go-to practice out of the way first. You know what to do. Be present with whatever is. No matter how fantastic or unpleasant. Be there. Feel things. Think things. Don’t judge. Let it all pass through. Create some space to know yourself and your individual needs. Not what your family or friends have told you. Not what your company or boss have told you. Not what society or advertising have told you. Only what your soul tells you.
With yourself and others. Speak up for your wants and needs. No one can know what you want and need if you don’t say something. Say no. A lot. Your time and energy is precious and you don’t owe anyone anything (Well, unless you’ve signed some legal document you can get out of.). Know your values and stay aligned with them. Know your worth and advocate for yourself. This isn’t always easy. But it’s absolutely necessary to protect and care for yourself.
This is one I struggle with. For me what gets in the way is the habit of being a people pleaser. As well as the belief that I’m super human and can do more than I actually can (or anyone really). I didn’t want to accept my limitations for a long time so I struggled, but as I’ve become more accepting and aware of my tendencies, I make different choices and setting boundaries becomes easier and easier.
Fun Instagramy buzz word. Everyone has a different idea of what self-care is. Manicures and pedicures. Shopping spree. Vacation. A bubble bath. An exercise routine. Chocolate. Church. Hiking. The key is to find what actually helps you to feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Many times what we think is self-care is actually a bandaid. Does buying things actually feed your soul or do you feel empty a few hours later? Are you eating to nourish your body or to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions? Asking the tough questions and being present enough to receive the answers, is true self-care.
Self-care activities are easy for me. I have a lengthy list of things that bring me pure joy. I could easily retire now and entertain myself for centuries. The thing that can get in the way, though, and this ties into boundary setting, is making sure I set aside time for these activities. I have a list of short self-care practices that I go to when I notice the urge to do something I know isn’t particularly healthy for me. I don’t always do this, but when I do I instantly feel better. I also incorporate self-care into my daily calendar/to-do list. I check them off just like work tasks. And I try to intermix them with work as much as I can to create more balance. Where I’ve struggled more recently is with self-care that requires more time, such as travel. So it’s always a work in progress.
Highway out of the Comfort Zone
I’m stretching the 80s Top Gun song reference here in case you aren’t hip. To truly grow and transform you have to consistently step outside your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean you have to immediately highway to the danger zone (Seriously listen to this song if you’ve never heard it.). You can step into the zone next to your comfort zone. Ease into it if you’ve gotta. The idea is to push those edges bit by bit in order to expand your world and comfort with the uncomfortable. No one actually likes feeling stagnate or stuck even if it seems less scary than venturing into the unknown. But we’re wired to venture into the unknown. Sure, there might be danger out there. Sure, things might not turn out the way we’d like them to. But there’s a satisfaction in trying and seeing that we can’t get if we remain safely on our couch.
I know just how scary it can be. It seems like since I started my own business, I haven’t been in my comfort zone at all. Professionally and personally. I don’t even know if I have one anymore. And it’s exhausting. I feel all the emotions none of us particularly want to feel. I’ve “failed” more than I ever have in my life and I’m hard on myself at times. I feel like giving up way more often than I’d like to admit. But I don’t. Partly because I’m stubborn AF. Also because I know I can’t. I know pushing myself is good for me and at the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror and be proud. No matter how much I may have “failed” that day.
It might be cheesy to use a butterfly as a metaphor, but I’m a cheese ball so there’s that. Also, it really is the perfect illustration of transformation. Butterflies don’t fight their metamorphosis. Of course, they can’t fight it. Maybe if they had more “advanced” brains they’d fight it. But since they don’t, they simply do what they have to do to grow and change and live out their life. And that is life. So as you contemplate your own fears and areas for growth, notice all the spring butterflies and use them as inspiration to go through your own transformation, whatever that may look like.