Lately, I’m learning a lot about pain.
In the wake of major surgery, life burns through a blaring lens of physical pain. But isn’t all pain the same? Whether it’s trauma to the mind or body or soul, it still hurts.
Pain is rarely consistent, but often persistent. It comes in waves. It makes or breaks us. It transforms or destroys us. Or maybe both.
Pain motivates us to do impossible things. Or stupid or regrettable things. It forces us to be patient or drives us mad in the process.
But how do we cope? Do we fight or fly or freeze? Recently I met a little bug who had other ideas.
ALL HAIL THE NOBLE CATERPILLAR
I love watching nature transform during this time of year. And one of the most powerful symbols of complete metamorphosis is the little caterpillar.
Every Spring my kiddos and I bust out the butterfly nets and bug boxes. And this year was no exception.
Before I knew it, we had three crawly captives deemed “Munchy,” “Bitty,” and “Catti,” (you know … “Catti” the caterpillar!).
Every day my boys checked on them, fed them fresh leaves, and chattered about how one might turn into a beautiful butterfly!
And so the waiting game began.
A TALE OF TWO BUGGIES
With three caterpillars, we figured odds were pretty good at least one would do something interesting, and we weren’t disappointed.
Soon, Munchy built a cocoon and snuggled up inside. His shelter looked a little wimpy though; the wispy sides were nearly transparent. Still, it was fun to see what was happening inside.
A couple days later, Catti was bundled up too. But her cocoon was different. The morning it appeared was almost magical. Like polished angel hair, the white spindle seemed to glow behind the glass. We were mesmerized at its perfect construction, like opaque cotton anchored firmly in the corner of the enclosure.
Our little caterpillars, although the same species, had taken two completely different approaches.
Time passed, and the elements began taking their toll. I’m sure more than a few times, containers were shaken, curious little fingers went delving into the verge, and things were shifted around to get a better view.
Once the poor little things got left in the rain, inspiring a secret mommy mission to drain the kits and sun-dry them during the school day.
Weeks later, a few pictures speak volumes.
MUNCHY GOT MUNCHED
In short, Munchy’s hasty construction just didn’t cut it. I’m not sure why the little bug only threw a threadbare blanket around himself. Maybe out of laziness?
To compensate for big gaps in the silk he used other things like leaves and bug-house surfaces to box himself in. Efficient? Maybe. But in the end, it didn’t get the job done.
One morning I saw a huge rip in the cocoon and asked the boys what had happened. “He built it attached to a leaf, and the leaf fell off,” they reported.
All it took was one broken leaf–perhaps bumped, jiggled or brushed aside to get a better view–and the cocoon was compromised. Exposed to open air, Munchy went the way of the early bird, I’m afraid … and not in a good way.
Munchy’s shell didn’t protect him at all. And because of his half-hearted approach at cocoon construction, his miracle was cut short. Now Munchy will never feel the wind blowing over his beautiful butterfly wings. He never got that far.
After all this time and all the (*ahem*) trauma, Catti’s cocoon might not be the glowing spectacle of perfection it was in the beginning. But it’s still intact!
Carefully crafted walls and firm anchors have withstood mini ‘earthquakes,’ probing fingers, a near-drowning experience and other nonsense.
And the little bug inside is still–well–snug as a bug. Hidden. Secluded. Protected!
The boys ask every day … “How long is it going to be in there?”
I don’t know.
But I bet when Catti comes out, she won’t look like Catti at all.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
So what can we glean from this little parable? I suppose if we ponder long enough, several conclusions might bubble to the surface. But here’s one especially for me …
These caterpillars are a mirror. They are teaching me about trauma and how I cope with it. When I’m in pain, I tend to withdraw into a cocoon of sorts. I want to protect myself–shut the world out. But is that okay? How will it work out in the end?
Like my children, I’m in suspense watching the quiet puffy cloud, wondering what’s going on inside. So many questions: Is Catti ok in there? Is she ever going to come out? Will she get stuck there–tucked away from reality? Or will she break the shell, spread her wings, and fly away on the wind like so many dandelion seeds?
I could go on for pages about this bite-sized miracle and the parallels in my life.
Instead, I hope I’ve sparked something in YOUR soul today. When you look in the caterpillar-mirror, what do you see? What do these little bugs know that we don’t?
Leave me a comment. Have my people call your people. We’ll do lunch. (Ha! Yeah, I wish I could take you guys to lunch! Long-term recovery is LAME!)