When things feel dangerous, difficult and dark, I long for the miracle of a transformation. I love the idea that change, even radical change, is possible. Not only over glacial eons but real-time, witness-able change.
Take the classic: caterpillar to butterfly. Especially after a long winter, that’s what I’m all about. Until relatively recently, here’s how I thought about the caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis:
- Bumpy, lumpy caterpillar gorges herself on leaves.
- Bumpy, lumpy caterpillar gets more bumpy and lumpy.
- Bumpy, lumpy caterpillar cleverly makes a chrysalis. Like I Dream of Jeannie’s bottle, this chrysalis is a groovy little apartment with a little makeup table, velvet pillows and nice-smelling lotions.
- As she rests comfortably on her soft sofa, the caterpillar’s sticky, knobby feet elegantly turn into delicate, slender legs.
- Out of the bumpy, lumpy caterpillar’s back iridescent wings gently unfold while her body lengthens and narrows.
- She gingerly cuts open her groovy little apartment, hangs out for a bit to get her bearings, and then off she flutters looking for lovely flowers to sip on.
As nice as it sounds, it actually doesn’t happen anything like that. This is how Scientific American describes it:
To become a butterfly, a caterpillar first digests itself. But certain groups of cells survive, turning the soup into eyes, wings, antennae and other adult structures.
Digests itself?? Caterpillar soup?? What about the glamorous apartment with the comfy couch and the cute pillows to rest on? What about the calm, organized process of changing from one thing into something else? The science of it sounds like a complete mess and incredibly, unavoidably uncomfortable.
Think about a time of change in your life, when something big was happening. You have a baby (or want to have one and don’t). You get a new job (or lose one). You move to a new city, go on big trip, get a divorce, or your kid moves away. Whatever it was, think about it. Was it neat and organized with soft music playing and a cashmere shawl around your shoulders?
(Not for me, anyway. If it is for you, please start writing a blog so I can read it.)
It’s nerve-wracking and crying and fear and mud tracked into the living room and maple syrup spilled in the fridge and pickled herring on the floor. It’s a mess. It’s a life soup. And it’s out of that that something new emerges.
So, back to the original question: what’s the difference between transformation and destruction? On the surface of it, the two seem to be made from the same ingredients. But the difference? Resistance and intention.
Things are going to change. Everything is going to change. Sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly. Resisting change, wanting it to be different than it is, is a recipe for suffering. Intentionally flowing with change, seeing possibilities for growth, is a recipe for metamorphosis soup.
It’s not neat. Or pretty. Or organized. There are rarely velvet pillows. It’s better than that. It’s a miracle.