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The Nature of Transformation

Over the past few months, as a little side project, I’ve been working on several very short children’s picture book stories. As part of my research to understand what’s out there, I’ve been reading hundreds of picture books from the library with our youngest, in order to get the lay of the land.

One of my favorites is called, “The Very Impatient Caterpillar,” by Ross Burach.

The gist of the story is that when the impatient caterpillar begins the metamorphosis process, they discover, to their horror, that it is going to take two weeks to become a butterfly! Two whole weeks! After one day in the cocoon, the caterpillar announces that they “feel metaporphosized enough,” and they climb out. They declare themselves transformed, attempt to spread their wings and fly, and promptly plummet to the ground.

Then the caterpillar begins again, returning to the cocoon. The next few pages of the book are filled with hilarious inner dialogue as the caterpillar wonders whether or not they can be patient enough to actually transform into a butterfly.

I love this story because it names one of the deepest truths about change, transition, and transformation. It’s hard and we often want it to be over quickly. Or, we dive in, certain we’ve done enough work to be transformed, only to discover it takes more time and patience than we imagined.

This dynamic can happen with a job change, a move, retirement, becoming an empty nester, or going through a break-up or divorce. I’ve met with many people months into the divorce process who’ve gotten their own place to live, have figured out the financial landscape, and have worked out the custody issues. They are ready for their new life to begin. It’s been hard, but they feel different; they are catching glimpses of a new life emerging; they feel transformed. But then something happens: it could be final paperwork that needs to be signed; it could be a wave of grief that had been kept at bay through a “head down, get it done” attitude; or it could be the question, “Who am I now, when I’m not in this marriage?” truly landing in their heart. They are often caught off guard and disoriented by the intensity of these feelings. Like with the caterpillar, transformation takes longer than expected.

Learning to be patient, learning to grieve (again and again, in different ways), and learning to trust the wisdom of the body, are all helpful tools in the midst of a massive life change. If you or someone you know are experiencing a big life change, we invite you to consider joining our upcoming group, “Shift Happens.” It can be life saving to have companions when you’re going through a big transition/transformation. Learn more about the group here.

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Marianne Schroeder
Marianne Schroeder

The caterpillar wasn't just impatient, they were also alone. That's a tough combo.

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