“Finding Freedom to Change”
I feel myself on the edge of better things
Close to giving all my wishes wings
Change for some comes fast and furious
For me it’s slow and hidden in the chrysalis
In this song, I sing about change as something that comes quickly for some but slowly for me, like the slow changes hidden inside a caterpillar pupa.
Aren’t you glad I didn’t sing that word, ‘pupa?’
Instead, I chose the slightly-less-awkward ‘chrysalis,’ which is what entomologists call the hard case where the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly takes place.
Entomologists say it is the stage of the life cycle in which the caterpillar’s body tissues break down and the butterfly’s tissues form. I can relate.
I am a Chrysalis.
Here in my middle age, I feel somewhere between young and old, breaking from foolishness and moving into wisdom. In this transitional phase, my growth toward maturity is hidden inside a rigid little case.
I witness no wizening even when using my magic magnification mirror. I only see the imperfections of the specimen. It can be frustrating at best. Infuriating at worst.
Looking For Change
I enjoy uncovering the origin of words — their etymology — so I surfed a few sites and found out that ‘chrysalis’ means ‘gold’ in Greek and Latin, which refers to the gold sheen of some butterfly cases.
I envy etymologists who get to study words and their histories all day long. Digging up meaning like precious metals, they reveal the richness of the words we inherit.
Having gone through the metamorphosis of time and human use, words become tools for transmitting vivid and multi-faceted messages, implications, interpretations or connotations. See what I mean?
They shine a light on the mundane parts of life.
In my case, I feel kind of unremarkable — rather ordinary. Getting older has lots of advantages but I have a love/hate relationship with it. Being somewhat invisible shakes me to my foundations.
I’m opaque as a butterfly chrysalis. But I am becoming free to change shape. And when the light is just right, there’s a golden sheen on me with hints of my future in the midst of my incompleteness.
Finding Freedom to Change
My husband and I are officially empty-nesters this year. Our youngest, Chloe, is about to graduate college and her summers of coming home are over.
Parents have experienced this change in every generation. My mom suffered through it. But now it’s my turn and it is all new to me. I imagine I should be better at adapting. But like the cooling temperatures signaling the season’s change, these shifts surprise me every time. I don’t want to say goodbye to summer.
When I reflect on this shift, a sadness settles over me. Like birds gathering in the trees, it’s a slow dawning that something’s coming, something else. Could it be something good, as precious as the past?
Change Is Good
On a recent August morning, Chloe and I were on the lawn enjoying the bugs, birds, and butterflies we love so much. It was her 21st birthday. She was visiting from her college town in which she’d decided to live for the summer.
We sat under the trees with our coffee and I cried: about her being 21 and me seeing the time slip by. I wasn’t trying to make her to feel bad. I was setting my emotions free instead of bottling them up.
Besides, part of our relationship is the safety of us taking turns crying together.
Signs of Change
I see myself in the mirror of His face
Reflecting imperfection but the change is taking place
This for some comes fast and furious
For me it’s slow and hidden in the chrysalis
I used to journal regularly. I have discontinued this practice because of what happened whenever I read back a few years: I would discover that nothing was different — I wasn’t changing, but writing about the same issues over and over. It felt pathetic and made me mad. I let a few diaries fly across the room.
I know I am not truly stalled in my evolution into God’s perfect design for me. It just feels suffocating to grow older with no cracking open. I don’t feel any wings forming back there. Just those tense, bony shoulders rising up around my ears.
Every now and again, though, there’s a little flutter in my stomach. My prayers and petitions for positive change have made a difference in me.
- Like when I haven’t worried about my kids for days on end.
- Or when my first thought is love for my neighbor even when she’s less-than-friendly to me.
- Or when I feel gratitude for an empty house because there’s more room for rest and reflection.
- Or when I recognize my particular suffering as necessary and even good.
These tiny signs of life are moving through my soul and finding their way out. I’m not bottling them up. Thanks to the entomologists and etymologists, I’ve got lovely metaphors for the changes taking place. I’ve got butterflies inside. Lifting from my lips, they learn to fly.
I’ve got butterflies inside
Forming in my mind
Moving through my soul, I know they’ll come alive
These butterflies inside
Flutter in my heart
Lifting from my lips they learn to fly
Listen to Butterflies Inside here! More like this : “I Wanted My Dog Dead: Practicing Compassion”
10 thoughts on “Butterflies Inside”
Love this, Christine! My kids are just about to start high school and I’m already dreading the empty nest and fear I’m not growing either. You’re input is helpful to trust God is growing us even if we don’t see it or feel it.
Wonderful, Craig! May your metamorphoses be filled with joy and grace : )
Love your words and how you process. Keep sharing. Keep writing. It seems like a crazy amount of change goes on in the 50s! I too experience cry sessions about anticipated change —sometimes at the strangest times—but it feels good to process it all and then rest in a new place.
Dave processes with a banjo in hand🤪
Robin, you are so right! Thanks for the encouragement. Love to you, Dave, and the kids : )
Great stuff Christine. I totally understand what you mean! My kids are not all ready to leave the nest yet so I am trying to treasure the time that is left. Sometimes in life it feels like you take one step forward and ten steps back but I know I am growing if I let God bring the change in me that he wants to. Blessings to you and family!
Thanks, Ian! May you have many lovely steps forward with your family.
As a wordsmith having written a virtual lepidopterarium full of songs, I think you’re already a bit of an etymologist. Even knowing the definition of etymologist makes you more than a pupal pupil. Allay alae; you’re soaring already. 🙂
Steven, you’ve got some great words at your disposal–verrry clever!
There was a defining moment in my life which for me, an INTP, was about “Finding Life in the Bigger Story.”
In my freshman Theology class at Boston College, two seminarian students quizzed the professor, a Jesuit priest, in a strident challenging manner. I was shocked that they could act this way like pharisees trying to embarrass him. However, the professor listened to their questions and responded to them in a measured way, demonstrating to the class that no question was unacceptable. The seminarians did ask other provocative questions as the semester progressed, but in a respectful way. I learned from this encounter that each of us has an individual way of seeing things, sometimes alien to another, and even if we find it contrary to our experience, we can reach toward the other to learn and possibly appreciate something from the differing point of view. Or, we can then agree to disagree.
“Wisdom of Solomon” addresses questions of faith and our way of responding to them as follows: 9:16 “All we can do is make guesses about things on earth; we must struggle to learn about things that are close to us. Who then, can ever hope to understand heavenly things?” 19:18 “On a harp each string keeps its own pitch, but each sound can be combined with others to make different melodies.” 19:22 “Lord, you have made your people great – glorious in all aspects. You have not neglected them. You have given them help, always, and everywhere.”
From The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell: “Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculations; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind is also rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.”
Ahh, yes, wisdom from everywhere! Thank you, Jim, for these poignant reminders from your experience and contemplation.