I have long loved butterflies. When I was a little girl, at around the age of 3 or 4 we moved house, and I remember seeing the backyard for the first time. I ran up to the back gate, and peered through the old wire to see an enormous yard overgrown with grass almost knee high to an adult. Much to my amazement, the yard was filled with butterflies. They were everywhere fluttering to and fro.
Seeing my excitement, the real estate agent and my parents let me go through, and I raced in to catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures up close. I soon learned that you had to tread lightly and be gentle; otherwise they would fly away.
Even after the lawns were mowed, butterflies frequented this backyard, and it became the most amazing place for adventure. I wanted to touch the butterflies, and so I practiced my soft and still approach; slowly reaching out to where one had landed and managed to pick them up by their wings once they had closed. Then I'd take a good look at their different colors and their little legs and face. I thought they were brilliant.
One day my mum spotted me catching butterflies, and she told me that we shouldn't touch their wings, as it damages them and they won't be able to fly. I immediately felt bad, and put a stop to picking them up, and instead admired them from as close as I could. I still get a little flutter of excitement when I see a butterfly.
Winding the years forward, later in life I unfortunately developed anxiety. This may have been present when I was a child, but it really became quite obvious and crippling to me in my teens. Anxiety followed me into adulthood, and I still suffer; but I have recently come to realise something quite beautiful, and I've changed my perception on feeling nervous.
I'm sure you have heard someone say that they have butterflies in their stomach. I've always thought that this is a perfect way to describe the fluttering feeling of being anxious or excited. So, what if instead of saying that I suffer from anxiety - I said that I have butterflies?
One thing I also used to love doing as a child was spotting cocoons. I remember walking along with my mum one day, and we saw one off the side of the footpath. Mum explained to me what it was, and I was absolutely fascinated. The funny thing is, I was frightened of caterpillars. If I saw one I'd scream and run away. So, when mum explained that butterflies were once caterpillars, and how they transformed inside these cocoons I was mystified. I used to collect the cocoon if I found one and kept it safe in the hope that I could witness the butterfly emerging. I never did see one though. I would always find the cocoon empty. This was still quite a thrill.
Because of this process a butterfly goes through from an ugly looking caterpillar to a strange looking cocoon, and into the most beautiful little thing you may ever see with wings; butterflies have become quite the symbol for growth and change.
Now, getting back to anxiety and how I have changed my take on it, I would like to pose the question; when do we feel anxious? Is it mostly when change is occurring? Right before we are about to do something which we don't know the outcome of? Or when we are experiencing feelings that we don't normally feel? Well, what if we have these butterflies in our belly because we are changing and growing through whatever we are experiencing? Anxiety can be quite scary, but when you look at it like this, it's not scary at all.
I have cocooned myself so many times because of experiencing and fearing anxiety. I've wanted to hide away. But now when I think about it, I am grateful for these feelings, because they are letting me know that I am alive, and I am changing. Everything is always changing. That is just the way things are. Instead of remaining inside the cocoon, I should harness this change and emerge different and free like the butterfly. So free that it no longer needs to crawl on the ground amongst the dirt and cracks, but it can now spread it's wings with these new beautiful colours and hover high amongst the trees.
So, the lesson here is if you feel butterflies, then be a butterfly.