Butterfly post chrysalisI’m currently listening to the audio book version of “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck.  It’s freaking awesome, especially if you are feeling like something in your life needs to change or shift. I am in one of those stages right now, so I got this book to help me through the process.

The book is full of exercises, tough questions, and great insight into any sort of life shift you might be experiencing.  I would highly encourage people to read it if you are in a similar stage. Whether you are a new mom, trying to figure out a new career to explore, or just feel like you aren’t really following the right path- it’s for you. (Find the Audiobook here, and the book version here.)

Throughout the book, Martha compares these life-changing stages we go through to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. I really like the analogy – it’s beautiful, natural, and magical all in one.

The stage that is the most fascinating and probably the hardest for me to embrace is the cocoon stage. It’s the stage of development where the caterpillar holes up in a cocoon, dissolves and re-creates itself, and very strategically and vulnerably… emerges into the world as a new butterfly.

(For those of you that did NOT know that a caterpillar actually destroys itself and turns into a sac of cellular goop to be recreated as an entirely new organism… read about it here.  I didn’t realize this, and I have a degree in wildlife ecology.  Oops.)

There are two aspects to this process that I have a hard time accepting:

  1. It’s necessary to go through an internally-focused stage within a protected cocoon in order to change successfully.
  2. You apparently need to breakdown aspects of your current being in order to become the new, amazing person you are meant to be.

These both sound scary to me.

I’m an extrovert, and I literally feed off of other people’s presence, energy, and happiness.  The thought of having to hole myself up in a theoretical chrysalis freaks me out a bit.

But you know what?  All I’ve been longing for lately is for some me time.  Some time alone in safety.  I’m drawn to my house, areas I know, and the idea of being home at night. That is NOT the normal me, but I’m trying to accept and listen to that desire.  According to our friend Martha, by body and heart knows what it needs.

Right now, my soul needs to gather internally, reflect, and figure out how to break itself down and build it again.

AND… that’s the other thing I’m struggling with.  Do I really have to somehow break down or destroy myself in order to be a more true ME?

Every bone in my body says NO.  I have spent so long being strong and true to myself- how could I even consider breaking some of that down?  But I’m trying to be more open and consider the idea.  Thinking back, I realized I’ve done it before.  Many times before, in fact:

  • Leaving a long but unhealthy relationship
  • Spending 2 years in the Peace Corps… and then coming home from the Peace Corps
  • Becoming a mother

Each and every one of those key milestones in my life has only made me a stronger, better, and truer person for myself and those around me.  But each one brought about pain before there was success or understanding.

Can we truly grow and change if we are holding on to the old versions of ourselves?  Can we become our best selves while holding on to the identity we know?

Probably not.  And that’s hard to accept.  Especially if you really like the current version of yourself.

But I am going to try.  Try to gather my energy in my cocoon, and to see what parts of myself need to be “destroyed” in order to move forward to a new chapter.

If you are at a life changing stage right now, I challenge you to consider it as well.