A butterfly landing on you is one of nature’s pop-up surprises.
As if visited by an angel, we feel like the chosen one. It’s humbling to have such beauty land on you.
But the butterfly didn’t start out beautiful like that.
It started out as a gooey egg stuck to the underside of a leaf. That gooey blob was vulnerable to people’s concept of beauty and value, as well as the hungry eyes of predators. Statistically, there wasn’t much chance of it growing beyond its first ugly period so it could even have a chance at its second ugly period.
The word “larva” isn’t an attractive word, conjuring up images of maggots and wiggling unpleasantness. But that’s where it goes next, into larva land. Oozing and eating its way out of its egg, it crawls and consumes and eats. On repeat. It develops a new skin under the old one and eventually bursts out of the suffocating old skin and wriggles about in its well-fitting new suit.
It bursts out of its old existence and reinvents itself five times. Five distinct stages of development.
But the fifth time is different.
The fifth new skin becomes the outer shell of a chrysalis, a cocoon. The caterpillar is sick of crawling around doing the same thing over and over again, eating the same plant, and growing a new skin. It doesn’t want to be grounded anymore. The caterpillar has decided…it’s time to fly.
This may all sound very familiar, especially to women.
As humans, we also begin as an egg, albeit in somewhat safer conditions than on the underside of a garden leaf. We don’t eat our way out of our egg, but are rather born kicking and, sometimes screaming, our way earth-side.
In our first stage, 0 to 10 years, somewhat larva-like, we eat and eat and grow at an incredibly rapid rate. We absorb everything going on around us about how the world is. We inherit our perception of life from our primary caregivers (which may or may not be a good thing).
In our second stage, 11 to 20 years, we begin to experience the results of our inherited paradigm, the blueprint of life we received as children. Our hormonally driven reactions to our peers are colored by the interactions we experienced at home, and we begin to realise that our parents may not have been the perfect models of humanity that our childlike minds had figured. The skin is outgrown, and we press into a new era of disillusionment and self-discovery.
In our third stage, 21 to 30 years, we discover the joy of independence, love, and sex. We take to the road to experience the richness of other cultures, to add to our own reality, and to lose some inherited debris along the way. We take uncalculated risks and are repeatedly saved by the miraculous safety net of youth. Parental expectations drive some of us away from our passion toward a more socially acceptable life. It’s here that some stay, and keep that skin on forever, but for others, there’s yet more shedding.
In our fourth stage, 31 to 40 years, we begin to settle, if we hadn’t before, and the expectations of society that were hardwired into us now take a firm grip. This final skin is a bit tougher, a bit thicker. Our own children might be born or are perhaps already leaving the nest, shedding their own skins and moving on. There may be moments of hiding under the duvet, wishing the world would just leave you alone, but you soon realise that you will have to just keep wishing awhile longer.
In our fifth stage, 41 to 50 years, the tougher skin hardens into a chrysalis. Being in a chrysalis is not like hiding under the duvet with a box of chocolates and your iPhone. There is no resting. The mind and body of the woman are transforming, and her wings want out of the box. Her wings were actually formed some time ago, around the time of the fourth shedding, because she instinctively knew what was coming.
At some unexpected moment, she cracks open and emerges from the chrysalis and slowly opens her small, wet wings. She is a bit disappointed because she expected she would fly right away. She needs to exercise because her muscles have atrophied, and she needs sunlight and exercise and self-care to strengthen her wings.
When she finally does take flight, it feels odd because the breeze, rather than sweeping her sideways with bags of shopping hanging from the stroller as she is used to, gently lifts her with less effort than ever before—and carries her to a garden of earthly delights.
Her senses are overwhelmed. She takes pleasure in going from flower to flower at her whim.
Come to think of it, 50 is not going to be too bad.
After all, I love flowers.