Last week it struck me that a mid-metamorphosis caterpillar would not recognize itself in the mirror. More likely, its reflection would produce confusion, maybe even horror!
(I know I’m anthropomorphizing to your detriment, Caterpillar, and I truly mean no offense. In actuality, I doubt you have have our human hang-ups about allowing change gracefully. Thank you for serving as the object lesson anyway.)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in serious transition now for years, and it’s not always pretty.
It feels like I’ve perpetually got one foot in the NEW and one foot in the OLD. And when I pick up the back foot to take another step forward, inevitably I find gum on my shoe or that I’ve stepped in doggy doo or something else I didn’t want to see.
Like, when I had my big realization that I could and should be proud of myself, I felt this nudge to start putting myself out there more in terms of sharing what I’m creating. To make it possible for people beyond my ken to actually find it, I mean.
Well, acting on this flooded light into more of my self-doubt shadows, revealing the next layer of gunk ready to be cleaned out and healed.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised at this point. But, finding out I have yet more beliefs, attitudes, habits, hang-ups, fears, etc. to transmute tends to make me second-guess myself. It makes me question whether I’ve learned anything at all, whether I have anything of value to even share, whether anything I’m doing is making a difference in my own life.
In fact, I recently found myself wondering for a split second if there was a built-in eject button on the process of transition. Maybe a ctrl + z so I could get back to a place where I recognized myself and knew what I was doing. (As if I ever really did, ha!)
It was during one of these moments my caterpillar insight arrived. And it shifted my perspective.
Yes, I’m a butterfly now and will fly away into the sunset to my perfect life.
Ummm, no. I don’t suddenly have it all figured out, and I still don’t recognize my reflection. I don’t even really know what I’m becoming.
But I do have a deeper understanding. The unfamiliarity, the discomfort and the not-here-not-there-ness are NORMAL. They are part of the process of change. I haven’t screwed anything up, and all is not lost. (Of course it isn’t.)
Through all of this, do you know what’s been playing in my head? Don’t laugh because it’s a Disney song.
Maybe you haven’t seen Moana and don’t understand the pure magic of this movie, but I have approximately eleventy million times thanks to my young daughters. And I freaking love it. (Minus that weird Shiny song.)
My favorite part is when Moana, the daughter of the village chief on a tropical island, almost abandons her mission. The ocean had chosen Moana to return the heart of Te Fiti, a goddess who gives life to the ocean and the islands. Te Fiti’s heart is an ancient gem stolen for its power of creation. Unless Te Fiti’s heart is restored, Moana’s home and her people are in jeopardy.
Despite valiantly overcoming many obstacles, Moana—like all of us—hits that moment when it just feels too hard. Alone on her boat in the darkness of night, Moana throws the heart back into the ocean.
And this is where the magic really happens.
Her beloved grandmother returns to Moana, first appearing in the form of a stingray.
Grandmother tells Moana she’s proud of her and will always be with her no matter what she chooses to do.
When Moana hesitates to start heading home, Grandmother begins a hauntingly beautiful song. She asks Moana, “Do you know who you are?” Answering this question brings Moana back to herself. I want to quote all the lyrics, but I’ll content myself with the powerful conclusion:
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I've learned and more
Still it calls me
And the call isn't out there at all, it's inside me
It's like the tide; always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart you'll remind me
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana!
Please do yourself a favor and watch the whole scene. I dare you not to cry.
I can’t tell you how many times this song has reduced me to tears—doing laundry, washing dishes, driving in the car. It moves me because it’s true. I love the reminder that we always—but always—have a choice. We do not lose the love of our spiritual guardians, no matter what we do.
But, perhaps more importantly, it’s this: We are each like a caterpillar who instinctively knows how to become a butterfly. We can choose to trust the process because we have an internal compass to lead us on our own journey of transition. We just have to remember who we are. And we are love, we are powerful, we are creators, we are free.
Getting back to that place of remembering—no matter how messy or transitional we seem to appear in the mirror or how chaotic the world around us—will help us know the way again.
Although we’ve been seeing monarch butterflies every day, a few nights ago we had more than a dozen in our backyard. They even stayed awhile, including the one pictured above. What a beautiful reminder that we won’t always be in the chrysalis. The only way out is through, and the only way through is in you. So give yourself some extra love today. I’m adding mine in too.
P.S. I also want to tell you about a tribe where each spirit baby is called into the world through the mother learning the song of who that baby is. From what I remember, this song is sung to children at birth, at special occasions and when they need to be reminded who they are. Like, instead of punishing a child or adult who misbehaves, the tribe surrounds the person with the song of who he or she is. If I can find a link, I’ll share it in comments below.