The Very Awesome Caterpillar

This piece of writing was inspired by the following quote by Elisabet Sahtouris, and was written sitting alongside the amazing women in The Intuitive Writing Project’s women’s class.

“Caterpillars chew their way through ecosystems leaving a path of destruction as they get fatter and fatter. When they finally fall asleep and a chrysalis forms around them, tiny new imaginal cells, as biologists call them, begin to take form within their bodies.

The caterpillar’s immune system fights these new cells as though they were foreign intruders, and only when they crop up in greater numbers and link themselves together are they strong enough to survive. Then the caterpillar’s immune system fails and its body dissolves into a nutritive soup which the new cells recycle into their developing butterfly.

The caterpillar is a necessary stage but becomes unsustainable once its job is done. There is no point in being angry with it and there is no need to worry about defeating it. The task is to focus on building the butterfly, the success of which depends on powerful positive and creative efforts in all aspects of society and alliances built among those engaged in them.”

To say that my body has dissolved into a nutritive soup would be more than a tad bit overstated. My mind, maybe, could be called a risotto or a polenta side dish, but not soup. There’s still something to chew on in there.

But this stage is necessary. This stage is important. This stage is not one to be angry with, to resent, to try and defeat.

This message is one I tell myself so often that is might be worth tattooing on my forearm. Or at least one of those top quality temporary tattoos that last for a month. My 4 and 6-years-olds currently have large silver and gold suns smack dab in the middle of their chests and the baby has various superhero girls up and down her chubby legs. This is the stage I am in – applying temporary tattoos to their soft, little bodies before 7:30 in the morning because, why not?

How could I be angry at this stage?

Why am I angry at the caterpillar so often?

The caterpillar is doing all of the hard work. The ugly work. A caterpillar eats three times its body weight everyday. I like to eat, but that does not appeal to me. Being trapped inside a chrysalis sounds like my personal, claustrophobic hell. And turning into a nutritive soup?! What the fuck does that even mean?!

But for all of its hard work, the caterpillar receives no glory. No admiration. No awe.

My kids don’t love the “caterpillar room” at the California Academy of Sciences. No, it’s the “butterfly room” they adore and talk about for weeks following a visit. Their eyes widen and dash from one flitting set of colorful wings to the next as they hope and pray that a blue morpho or even a monarch will land on their outstretched hands.

From a precious, young age we just want to be with the butterflies. We bypass the caterpillar exhibit completely and ignore the placards explaining the amazing work that they do.

I think this applies to The Intuitive Writing Project too.  Why do Girls Inc. and 826 Valencia receive so many incredible grants? Because they are already butterflies. They are fully formed and beautiful, and people (and investors) are drawn towards their elegance and the ease with which they carry themselves. Now I don’t want to call us at TIWP an awkward, lumpy caterpillar, but I do think there is a reasonable comparison. I think we at TIWP are building our chrysalis and I know we will emerge as the most striking butterfly to take to the skies.

We shouldn’t be angry with any stages in our development, nor doubt any of our decisions. There’s no need to defeat this necessary stage of development because heck, it contains those mysterious imaginal cells that sound so cool. And though it might seem like our organization’s body is dissolving into that nutritive soup, as we say goodbye to our beloved space in which we write together weekly, we will emerge ready to take flight.

As for me, I’ll keep reminding myself that even when I feel like a big wad of goo – which I picture nutritive soup to be – I am building three little butterflies. My own butterfly will fly again, in a form I haven’t even imagined yet. When the time comes, I’ll go hang out in my figurative chrysalis and take time for those imaginal cells to get to work. In the meantime, I will try to not be angry with the caterpillar.

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