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Being Still in the What Now

In the moment we recognize that change is imminent, that what once stood as the status quo in our lives no longer aids us but suffocates us, we are forced to take action. I’m not talking about the smaller day to day changes I’m talking about the big changes in our lives, the ones that take courage to confront our false beliefs, examine our relationships and get honest with ourselves about who we are and what is really important to us. I don’t know which is scarier; the moment we recognize change is imminent, or the moments that follow after the change has been made.

When all is said and done this deeply personal house cleaning we’ve just undertaken leaves us standing in a void of “What now?” There are plenty of unknowns in the “What now?” Vision is 20/20 when looking back at who we can no longer be, but what we will become is far less clear. We are left with very few answers and it’s tempting to rush out and find them as if having all knew answers will help us justify to others why we have made the choices we have. I don’t know if there is a right way or wrong way to deal with the “What now?” moments, but a lot can be gained if we will just allow ourselves time to stand still in the “What now?” Sometimes the right changes come about in the quiet waiting periods of our lives if we can just be patient.

Instinct drives a caterpillar into a chrysalis. Something tells it that it’s time for change and rather than just waking up one day and saying “I think today I will be butterfly.” it goes into a period of isolation and waiting. It really doesn’t have to do anything for changes to come about in its “What now?” phase, it just waits.

This waiting period is where I am at in my own transitions. I worry that I will just stay dangling in this self-woven chrysalis from one season to another; never growing, incapable of change, just isolated watching as the seasons pass by only to end up the same person I was when I wove this chrysalis. Right now I am neither caterpillar nor butterfly.

The caterpillar doesn’t have the capacity to contemplate the future, or failure, it just is. It hangs there, oblivious to the possibility of change never taking place. It’s completely in the moment. What didn’t exist in its form yesterday exists today; the past is gone. Today it has the nubs of what will be wings. It doesn’t think about what it will be tomorrow. It doesn’t worry how big it’s wings will be, what color will they be, what if it’s not strong enough to break out of the cocoon. What if a strong wind blows it off its limb down on to the sidewalk and someone steps on it? Maybe it should have spun its cocoon in a safer place. Isn’t it time yet? How much longer will it have to wait? What if it misses that window of opportunity? What if only a few hours after drying off it’s its wings a bird swoops down and eats it… what if… what if… what if?

Shhh-the caterpillar just is. It hangs quietly in the sun, wind and rain. It wants for nothing it struggles against nothing. It simply lets nature take its course.

This inability to dwell in the past or worry over the future is probably why butterflies don’t come out of the chrysalis completely neurotic, flying aimlessly about while worrying how much time they have left, is there a bigger flower out there somewhere than the one they are currently on… Instead they bask in the sun until their wings are dry. They gently exercise them opening and closing them to a slow rhythmic cadence. Once in flight they are quiet, gentile creatures with no worry of what’s next, they are just grace in its present moment. Tomorrow it may be a gross display of butterfly anatomy on your windshield. Today, it just is.

So far I have learned that the best I can do is wait out my time in this chrysalis. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is only what my imagination hopes and fears it will be. Today is the best thing I have going. There is a lot to be said for counting your blessings; it forces you to focus on today. If you find yourself in one of life’s major transitions, count your blessings, focus on what is good right now. While we are busy doing that rather trying to find quick answers in an attempt to avoid our discomfort, Spring will come.

When I finally transition out of the “What now?” phase of my life I won’t miss the waiting, the self-doubt, the uncertain future that surrounds me. But I would like to think I will look back on this period and see it as a necessity, as valuable to me as the chrysalis is to the butterfly, that without it flight would have been impossible.

Now about that windshield; I probably won’t see it coming. The only thing left after impact will be a pair of wings swirling in the airstream of the passing car until they fall unnoticed onto a hot Arizona highway in the middle of nowhere. But at least I didn’t die a caterpillar.


Angela Felsted said...

Love this! I am so stuck in a cocoon right now.

Jay said...

I love this - thanks for sharing it.

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