Livin’ the Butterfly Life

My brain was firing in random directions this morning, as it tends to do while I’m biking to or from work, and I came across an interesting way to think about the cyclic way I approach and experience change in my life.  I was specifically thinking about the way the butterfly life cycle could be applied to us as humans.

The caterpillar stage is a time of consumption, a time to eat mass quantities and build up fat stores in preparation for the next stage.  The cocoon stage is a time to use what has been consumed to build something new.  Finally metamorphosis occurs and shows us the result of that work.  A brand new creature build from the body of the old.

As humans, our caterpillar stage is a stage also about consuming, but we aren’t scarfing food, we’re scarfing  information, experiences and observations.  Whether we’re reading through a stack of books, having long conversations with friends, watching loads of media, listening to music or sitting back and watching the world go by, we’re taking in the raw materials of our next metamorphosis.

Our cocoon stage is about processing what we’ve taken in.  As with the first stage, the amount of time spent is entirely variable from one person to the next.  Internally we are pulling these pieces together from the books, media and conversations we’ve been having and finding the ways they fit together or don’t.  What I tend to find is that my consumption will reveal a pattern or a particular goal that I might not have been aware of during that stage.  The inputs I’ve sought out fall into line with each other, in some way.  The information I took in may contradict previous knowledge and experience, it might reinforce that knowledge or provide a spotlight on something I’d forgotten.  I may also take in conflicting information and the cocoon stage is a time to really examine both sides of an issue.

The timing between cocoon and metamorphosis is also variable.  When is it time to take all that you’ve consumed and processed and push out of the cocoon and into the world as a newly formed creature?  Only you know.  That knowing may not be something centered in your head.  I tend to know it more from a gut level, or even lower, as it turns out.  Something about pending metamorphosis is a turn on for me.  In general, there is a sense that you are ready to move forward, that the old ways of being aren’t working any more, that the risk of change isn’t as scary as the pain of not changing.

And so we move to the metamorphosis stage.  We push out of the cocoon and present our new selves to the world.  Does anyone notice?  That depends on a lot of things, starting with how obvious the change is.  If we’ve sprouted gloriously colorful wings, we’ll probably be noticed for sure but internal changes can be equally dramatic and not nearly as noticeable.  The process I’m going through right now is mostly internal, but will certainly have external tells, mostly in the form of increased confidence and the behaviors that come from feeling empowered.  Though I haven’t actually sprouted wings, I can imagine spreading them metaphorically to catch the wind or explore the world beyond my current stand of trees.

Realistically, these phases blend and overlap a lot, rather than standing alone in phases.  For me, in my current cycle, I can see that my caterpillar and cocoon phases had definite overlap.  I started cocooning while I was consuming and sometimes went out to consume new inputs based on the work I’d done while cocooning.  I’ve reached the point now where I can feel my metamorphosis coming on, but I’m still doing some of the cocooning/processing/pondering/considering my options stuff.  And, unlike the butterfly, we are all probably going to go through this cycle multiple times in our lives.

So how about you, friend?  What stage in the cycle are you in?

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