We love butterflies. Seriously, have you met anyone who doesn’t?
We love them because they are majestic, flapping gracefully through the air. We love them because they are beautiful, each one unique, so varied in color and design. There’s just something about them that captivates our attention, which is why the ancient Greek word for butterfly is psyche, which originally meant none other than, soul.
It makes sense. Something about these beautiful creatures reminds us of what is in each and every one of us, our true self, our unique essence, our colorful, winged, and graceful soul.
But here’s what we forget about the butterfly. Before the butter can fly, first the caterpillar must crawl. Before it is beautiful, first, how can I say this kindly, it is pretty creepy and gross (yes, I know all creatures are beautiful but as much as we ooo and ahhh when a butterfly lands on our shoulder, we’re shrieking even louder if a caterpillar crawls up our leg).
But here’s what we really forget. In order to become the butterfly, that caterpillar is gonna have to face the struggle of its life, enter into the chrysalis (cocoon). Although the transformation inside a chrysalis may appear as a little caterpillar retreat, a become-the-butterfly-day-spa experience, that is not the case. That caterpillar is going through a painful process digesting itself using enzymes triggered by hormones, and some sci-fi like stem cell regeneration which is ooey, gooey, and definitely not something you want landing on your shoulder.
Literally, during an 18-month process, the caterpillar dies at a cellular level and that not-so-beautiful caterpillar transforms into an oh-so-beautiful butterfly through a painful, dangerous, and extremely messy process.
This is why that butterfly truly is aptly named, psyche, or soul. It’s not simply because it is so pretty at the end. Rather, it is so resilient in the process. In order to reveal the soul, it takes time, it requires struggle, it entails suffering, and frankly, soul-revealing transformations are always messy business as we let go of what was to become to what could be.
So, if you are in the painful, struggle-filed, messiness of a divorce, grieving a death, mourning a lost relationship, suffering a betrayal, enduring loneliness, or a thousand other chrysalis-crises of life, just look to the butterfly. The pain is part of the process. The struggle is an essential step on the journey. And there is no way around it, the transformation you are enduring is necessarily a big, nasty, gooey mess.
And remember that they are all reminders that you are on your way from crawling like an earthbound caterpillar to soaring like a soulful butterfly.
So, face the struggle. Accept the chaos. Expect the pain. But most of all, just embrace the mess.