Every spring, my backyard is overtaken by little fuzzy, black caterpillars. They aren’t cute. I don’t like bugs, but my boys are fascinated. They break out their critter cage and create temporary “pets,” eagerly awaiting the cocooning stage in hopes for a moth or butterfly.
Last year, we made it to the cocoon stage but they never flourished. So this year, I did a little research to find out how we can do things more successfully. In the process, I realized many of us are focused on the butterfly stage of life, not realizing we are missing out on some of the best moments right now, in our caterpillar stage.
Here are some things I learned:
Caterpillars don’t live very long. In fact, most of them don’t survive long enough to create a cocoon and transform to the end goal. If they aren’t eaten up by another animal or insect or destroyed by the weather elements, they will survive a couple of weeks to a couple of months before they are ready to cocoon themselves. Most people are like this. They quit before total transformation takes place because somewhere along the line, they let the troubles of life swallow them up and destroy their hopes and dreams rather t
an strengthen them for a greater purpose.
However, caterpillars focus on nothing else but to prepare themselves for transformation. They do this by eating as much as possible, several times their weight even. Once they are in the cocoon, they stay there for a few weeks to transform. When they reach the point of flying, they live only days to weeks. Their entire life is focused on the shortest part.
Is that how you are living? Focused on where you think your butterfly stage of life should be? You’re so frustrated with the fact that you aren’t there yet, that you’re missing out on this important stage of growth. The longest stage of your life is right now. When the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, they’ve arrived and their growth is over. Why are we then in such a rush to get there when we still have so much more preparation to do?
Another thing I learned from last year is that caterpillars don’t like to be pulled out of their element. We kept our critters indoors and within 24 hours, they all had spun themselves into a cocoon of comfort. They weren’t
ready though, and they never transformed so they just died. This year, we are keeping them outside and they are still thriving, eating the leaves and preparing themselves. It’s been a week and no sign of a cocoon yet.
What happens to you when you are pulled out of your comfort zone? Do you immediately cocoon yourself into a bubble of protection and stop growing before your time is up? Or do you push forward because you know you still have a lot of growing to do? We cocoon when we stop showing up, stop learning, when we quit, when we let our difficulties define us, when we refuse to forgive, refuse to try new things, and when we become bitter because we aren’t in that place we think we should be.
Where does that bitterness come from? I think often it comes from comparison. The caterpillars we have in our backyard aren’t very much to look at it. They’re just little black fuzzy worm-like creatures. But some caterpillars are absolutely beautiful and unique. Frankly, they don’t need to be butterflies to attract attention. We all know someone like that, don’t we? We think they’ve reached that pinnacle point of life because they seem to have it all together and they look fantastic. You may even be one of those people yourself. You show everyone that you’ve got it all together, but inside you know you have a lot you still need to work on.
You’re in the longest stage of life right here, right now. While you may not be in the same struggles all of the time, accept that you are learning and growing from each one of them. One day, they will create a beautiful butterfly out of you and it will be called your legacy. Create a good one.
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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LD