Watching a caterpillar morph into a butterfly can have a mesmerizing effect. The pain in this transition reveals itself in the appearance of ample slime, an increase in jerking movements that rock the larvae, and at last in the arrival of a wet-winged wonder that rips free of a discarded body.

What would the human equivalent of this metamorphosis be? Could  a collision of coincidences or early missteps back one into fateful consequences? More likely we have no equivalent to what the butterfly goes through.

In the prosaic realms where I spend my days, the ripping and rending of change happen in small ways. Most of what I go through is inaudible and invisible to others. Likewise, I am so engrossed in my own side-show that only faint echoes of my neighbors’ screams tend to get through. Some days, when I’m on, I can leverage my material into something that holds others’ interest for a time. And, to keep things fair, I have sat through many a dramatic recitation of the most forgettable fables. I know, however, that grinding experiences, even misplaced and forgotten ones, leave deep marks, affect judgment and alter trajectory. And, there is a true gem tucked in these collapses and rebirths that might be called the art of endurance – a gift accrued by riding out the bumps in the hope of extending one little spark of a life that much further.

As I drove into work last Friday, I had one of those deep check-in experiences that come to me while driving. I would rate my stress on that day as quite high. I even asked myself whether I might snap. Did all of my bracing, flinching, cringing and clinging amount to just a blast of misdirected of effort? I told myself that I was doing important work to mitigate suffering (my own and others). Noble, I cajoled. I got misty-eyed at how I was hard-wired to protect and serve. But by Sunday, my reflections of grandeur had slipped into a different place. What, I asked myself, would happen if this cause-and-effect wrecking ball just had its day and slammed through all of my delicate balancing acts, making its own path? What would happen if change unfolded without resistance? Would things turn out differently?

I won’t name the particulars. And maybe you’ve experienced a parallel. But in the end, most of what I went through happened inside my own mind. These unfolding events at the root of my reflection would not likely form the topic of any dinner conversations or become the fodder for story telling lasting more than a few days. As had been the case at other stressful times, I could see ahead just enough to know that all of what pained me would fade in its own unnoticed way, would bounce me around the bend might even help me as I persisted in seeking ways to wake up.

It was right about then that the knot in my neck abated. I said to myself that none of this stuff belonged to me. I even pictured it draining through the soles of my feet and into the hapless earth.

What, beyond this breakthrough, did I discover? First, that just as I was wrapped, I could also come unwrapped and find myself ripping through my own unfolding. And, just a bit more. . .That just past the knots of these intense moments, there was also a part of me that knew silence, didn’t mind waiting, and felt at east next to any shade of gray you might name.


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