“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. ” –Maya Angelou
Butterflies are amazing creatures and even just looking at them gives you a sense of wonder because they are graceful and majestic as they flit from one area to another. Their colors differ and each one seems to be perfectly painted that it’s impossible to understand how they came to be that way. I never really knew the life cycle of a butterfly until I was in trauma therapy trying to sort out why I was facing so much pain in my life. My therapist had butterflies everywhere in her office (which I thought was just a touch too “happy feels” for a long time). Eventually I asked her why she was so obsessed with butterflies that she would have paintings, sculptures, mounted butterflies and other artwork covering her space. She told me it was all about the path of pain that butterflies take to become their true reality. I had no clue what she was talking about because I knew that caterpillars ate a ton, created a chrysalis and out came butterflies… no big deal. What I didn’t know was what actually happens within the chrysalis to take the caterpillar from one form to another. Once the caterpillar is inside the chrysalis an enzyme is secreted that literally causes the caterpillar to dissolve before the transformation can really begin. That can’t be painless or easy. Once broken down, the cells begin the process of transforming into those of the butterfly and it regrows itself as an entirely new creation.
But the journey doesn’t end there. The butterfly still has to get out of the chrysalis which is another painful process. Within the chrysalis the newly transformed butterfly is soft, tender and pliable while the chrysalis is still a hard protective layer. So to break out the tender butterfly must wiggle and push and force is soft flesh against the hardened shell. It fights for its freedom into the new life it has painfully built. This last painful journey is key to the rest of its life because it’s through the battle to freedom that its wings are strengthened and its will to live is set. So you see, our pain is just part of the journey to the freedom we seek and the new transformation we are becoming. Without the pain of the journey we can’t become the creation we are meant to be. The caterpillar literally transforms every cell in its body and becomes something entirely different. Recovery is that for us. We start as something grounded and vulnerable but through our painful recovery journey we transform into something beautiful, majestic and free.
Sarah Deats is a Behavioral Health Technician at RI International and the Hope Inc. Stories Inspiration Engineer.