flight.

I accidentally felt happy. For days and weeks after the visceral, physical breaking out of the cocoon I was bound up in, a feeling kept flitting in my side view. Brief and effervescent, blue and bright and entertaining. What was this? It was familiar and fleeting and then swooped back up and out and I laughed, a lot. Smiling in my kitchen alone, at the sun in the window I realized this was happy.

It was so long since I felt something similar to this—so many shedding skins ago, that I kept quiet. I didn’t want to shoot back into a caterpillar skin or reincarnate into trying and testing again if I spoke it out loud.

A few weeks ago I went to D.C. on a work trip, flying into air I used to be afraid of, settled in with a movie and few hours of silent shuttling sky, sitting in tandem quiet with a kind-souled fellow traveler. I wish I could explain what happened then, maybe someday there will be words for what it is when two people who have both found themselves as butterflies find the same draft of air. For now it is enough to know that while the cocoon may feel lonely, newly winged flight is not.

I spent the next five days waiting on couches in hotel libraries, trying on hats and wandering new streets, running to keep warm and crying from the cold. I came home and talked on the phone, met people in stores and smiled, sipped soup and felt full, bought bread and coffee creamer and wore warm socks on frigid nights.

I lived. And until then I thought what I was doing before was living, but it wasn’t. It was leaning toward what I thought would feel more, look better, seem easier somehow. I was waiting to live until living felt nicer. If I could go back and try it again, faster, better, would I? No. I had moments of great through every minute of my life as a caterpillar and cocoon. I had family and love and friends and a life that held me while I found my way to this. I hold it in my hands like a cup of warm tea, look across the steam and see sugared sunlight fall through leaves, see the shadow cast of light in an afternoon room, and I know that this life is magnificent.

It is magnificent.

transformation. part three.

Is the end of the cocoon like the falling off of a scab? Wanting to be healed, pulling off a scab before the skin underneath is strong re-injures, re-reddens the skin underneath, flaming it back into the need for another growing temporary tough covering. Does the cocoon fall away when the butterfly becomes bigger than the place that holds her?

When I was teaching young children, back in the days of gathering sticks and leaves into small hands, bandaids keeping small hurts together, I purchased a butterfly kit, a small caterpillar that would morph before our eyes.

The caterpillar ate the leaves we gave it, moving in little circles in the sphere it was kept in. The cocoon was woven in slow time lapse, shifting without us noticing, coming back from being in our own homes, there would be another layer of change we hadn’t noticed the day before. The time came for the butterfly to emerge, we saw its wings inch out toward the light coming in from hand-printed windows, and then, nothing. It stopped partway out from the dim interior of its den, and died.

I didn’t know what stopped the final push into new, higher territory, what ceased the struggle to break out of the mummified, turning chamber that held its dissolution into wings I could see, wings never used.

I wonder if the closed plastic case was part of the reason, if reaching out past the caterpillar life into more of the same stopped whatever alchemy was happening. I wonder if I would have opened that closed jar in a nearby shaded tree, with fruit and wind and spiraling seeds, would the new life have burst out easier, the forward joy reason enough to break out, fully formed?

Or did it happen too soon, the wings underneath the scabbed cocoon not strong enough, injured in its trying to be free of the very house that was growing it strong enough to leave?

Healing is a process, unhurried, methodical and painful in its slowness. There is a trust built in, once you have been through this transformation a time or two, that life folds and unfolds like a clean sheet pulled from a sun-warm line. You will know when the time comes to leave what you have been healing under, because it will fall off when it is no longer needed.

When the sky is its own shade of blue, and the nearby leaves dance in a wind made just to carry you, you will reach up and realize you have shifted without noticing.

transformation. part one.

I am fascinated by life cycles, transformation, changing from one into another, shifting shapes and forms into something better, cleaner, finer. The idea that if you work very, very hard in one stage, you will earn the next, a graduation of a lesser self into a higher one. Safer. Less predatory. I believed that action created station, that leaning forward created the next stage, the next swift climb into a cushioned space, noise blunted and sweet.

Endurance was essential. Never letting up; the trying was the way to reach the elusive place of peace. When I became tired, it was a weakness, a thing to be healed, strengthened, fortified, all so I could keep trying to be well, keep doing the thing that made me tired, ill, unwell.

When I was somewhere in my late 30’s I became very, very tired. I was sick all the time, a rash on my skin, pale and pregnant feeling, without proof I was growing anything in my body except weariness. I went to the doctor, thinking it was mono, the long slow illness of fatigue and loss of normal. A blood test revealed a low thyroid, very low in fact, how am I still functioning they asked me? I wasn’t, I just hadn’t stopped trying.

After medication and further blood tests showed I was now healed, all well, I still was not. I slept, rested, napped and lay through each day, and asked to test my blood again. Again, the tests were normal, but I was not; something was not right. For many months, and maybe a year, tired and still a rash, now and again showing up–an unknown stigmata, a morse code of attention. I did not know it was wheat slowly weighing me to the ground, my immune system fighting and fighting; trying to be well, while I kept doing the thing that made me sick. Soon, my joints began to ache, swell, keep me awake at night, my head hurt, my skin felt tight and stretched, and always, always so very tired.

When the idea that this was a food allergy, an autoimmune response to a sweet and savory poison I was eating every day, the suggestion was to stop, just for a week, and then eat it again. The eating it again was a birthday cake, 7 days after none, and that night, the rash came to celebrate.

It would seem simple, then, just to stop, but it was not. There was another year, maybe two, of debate, argument, struggle, followed by a quiet acceptance and a new way of living, not chosen, but necessary. I missed so much, I yearned and grieved my not-normal-ness. Slowly, I began to feel better. What I had consumed was no longer consuming me.

I began a job a few years after this recovery, a new stage, the next stage for me in my career, and endurance was essential. When I became tired, I persevered, that weakness un-allowed; I kept doing the thing that made me tired, ill, unwell, always trying to do it better. When I became burned out, I kept trying, trying to find the cure, the wellness as elusive as the riddle of my earlier illness, and because I did not know the cause I kept doing the thing that was making me sick, burned out. Soon, my fatigue turned into lethargy, my head hurt, my heart ached into dullness, and I no longer cared about healing. I no longer cared. I wanted escape, to be let out of this never ending spin of trying another way to work in a job that was like the bread I used to be able to eat, and could no longer tolerate.

When a butterfly lays an egg, she does so on a leaf that will be its first food, the hatching of it creating such an appetite, the resting place needs to be its first sustenance. The caterpillar is born, with its first and only purpose to consume; it eats and eats and eats its way through each day, inching along branches and leaves, stringing itself on invisible threads to new trees, new sources of green and growing nourishment. As it grows, its skin becomes tighter, and it sheds, up to four and five times, it’s exoskeleton left behind, as it inches again, ever expanding. The last shedding is done higher up, sometimes under the leaf that fed it, hidden and hung by the silken tie it created itself, it spins, alone and quiet, and for a moment it could be seen as an unwell caterpillar. But thats not it, is it? It isn’t unwell, it is unbecoming.

When I learned this, I understood something I did not know before, the consumption was the cause, and the illness; what I had consumed, was consuming me.

(to be continued).

holding.

“Letting go is a death to holding on.”

Adyashanti

When we have stayed still longer than is comfortable, when the chafe of life wears a ringing in our ears from listening too hard, too focused. When we have sat on our hands instead of deciding, as if the decision is out there, something external pulling it into existence, always a few steps ahead, the carrot chase of it a constant question. When we have asked and asked, when will it be time, the answer is, ‘when you let go’.

Letting go let’s go of the one who holds on. The one who tries one more way, studies one more skill, thinks about how to work this better, figure it out, succeed. It’s letting go of the one who talks it out, who brings it to trusted friends and mentors, who thinks that hanging on means being there when the secret is revealed, the thing that solves it all.

Here is the secret; move when life moves you, stop listening to anything except the song singing you forward. Stand up. Know it is not out there, it is right here, and the time is when you say it is.

We have never wanted to go to bed before the show ends, we want to see how it turns out. We have believed the show is being written for us, a cliffhanger of what is coming, and we don’t want to miss it, as if the prize only given to those in attendance.

To chase the carrot on the end of the illusory stick, to wait for an ending written by another storyteller, is to be forever focused on something that does not belong to you. It was never yours, it was just trying to get you to live poised and hungry.

Letting go gives you hands free to till and plant and harvest, to be green from pulling weeds, not white from holding still.

collect.

There used to be a time, when some of us of a certain time, moved away from home, and called collect. There were operators then, mostly women in my memory, who would come on the line when you dialed 0, asking what you needed. A collect call, please. Connecting the call the operator waited while you listened in; a collect call, do you accept the charges? Once there was a yes, the line was open for the conversation and the operator left the call.

There is a time, for those of us from a certain time, when we stopped calling collect, and called direct. Our own phone, with our own long distance plan, and a way to pay the phone bill. That same time would find us talking about what we were doing, or going to do, instead of asking what we should do.

The shift from child to adult is the difference between paying the bill, or calling and expecting someone else to pay it. A way forward where the road becomes our own, and the way to get where we want paved by our answers instead of our questions. This same shift happens well into adulthood, when we have replaced or added to our parents other calls; to friends, work mates, siblings—what should I do, when should I leave, what will happen to me?

I wonder sometimes if those are all the ways we still call collect, still wait on the line while someone accepts the charges, the person on the other end paying for our unanswered questions, accepting the charge of our blame or disappointment when they give us advice we didn’t like, or don’t want to follow; when we don’t know how to stop asking.

What does it mean to call direct? To me it means to pay our own way with no operator interfering. It means to make the calls we can afford, and leave the phone in it’s cradle when we are growing from our question to our answer. It means picking up the phone when there is nothing expected except connection.

transfiguring.

I was a caterpillar who talked of butterflies. I could see them, winding through air streams and lighting buttercups to dance with their winged hellos. I watched them, forever lilting while I stretched and arched along the ground, ungrounded.

I was a caterpillar who dreamed of butterflies. The dip and draw of yellow dusted flowers, drunk on summer afternoons and the power of fluttering. I kept their company, underneath their dizzy days—did they remember being me? What it felt like to dream of flighted things and the tops of trees, while stopping at walls and rocks, turning back to find another way to inch ahead.

I was a caterpillar who lost the fuzz and fumble of life in dirt, who swung suspended in air filled with the possibility of wings. I am becoming something, quietness dissolving the gravity that held me from becoming what I always was. In the dark and dimness I am seeing for the first time clearly, the legs that held me earth bound lengthening to filaments of flight.

The way toward light and freedom also includes shadows and loss. To move past the ways of looping thoughts and weighted worries means losing the parts who believed that I could feel like I was flying, while staying earthbound. I was never going to reach the open sky by learning to crawl higher, I had to stop wanting to crawl.

Someday I will be a butterfly who forever remembers being a caterpillar. The two of us spinning into a twisted, lifted, lighted miracle.