My broken wing: What a butterfly taught me about myself

Last weekend I was enjoying a good book while lounging on the back screened-in porch. The door was propped open, though, for my dog/shadow Oliver. He was sitting at his perch within the doorframe, keeping his eyes on the evil squirrels below as well as spying on his nextdoor love, Coleslaw the chihuahua mix.

I somehow lucked out on a weekend all alone while Steven took the kids to the in-laws, so I was soaking up the rare silence and relaxation. Suddenly, I looked up to what I thought was a bird flying inside the porch, only to realize it was a gigantic, beautiful Monarch butterfly. Oliver jumped up in curiosity (it was seriously the largest butterfly I’ve ever seen), and I watched as it began flying into the screen, over and over and over again. It had found its way in but didn’t know to go back out the same way.

Oliver and I both jumped up onto the couch, me holding a throw pillow, as we both tried to shoo it out the door. But at each of my attempts to point it in the right direction, it flew higher and higher, continually banging into the screen.

“Oh no!” I said to Oliver. “What are we going to do? Come on, Mr. Butterfly!” Oliver just looked at me and whined. Why was his momma talking to a butterfly?

I went into the house and came back out, armed with a broom and more determination. 

“Alright Big Guy, come on,” I said soothingly. “You can do this.” I tried to gently move him with the broom, but he just flew right over it and continued to ram himself into the screen.

Finally, I sat on the couch and waited until he had exhausted himself and stayed still on the screen. I crept up behind him, and as gently as I could, I grabbed a wing between two fingers. As soon as I had him, I pulled him off the screen. He thrashed violently against my fingers, so I let him go as soon as I got out of the door.

At first, I was relieved. Then I looked down, and a piece of his wing was still between my fingers.

And then, I cried.

Sure, it was just a butterfly, but it was the largest, most beautiful butterfly I had ever seen. And I broke him.

Thankfully, he wasn’t dead. Oliver and I watched as he flew away, high into the sky toward the roof of my house.

As I sat there on the couch with all 80 pounds of Oliver on my lap, I thought that perhaps this was a sign for me to find some sort of meaning out of this experience. It’s not every day a giant butterfly flies into my porch and I spend an hour talking to it and trying to save it.

At first I thought of some past, strong-willed clients who weren’t ready to take our advice or make a change in their company. Instead, they kept trying to do things the way they always did, hoping it would eventually work, all-the-while we were trying to nicely save them from their past habits and show them a new way of doing things.

But then I thought about myself. Butterflies are perhaps the best living representation of change, beginning as a caterpillar, putting in the work, and then transforming into a better version of themselves. I’ve reinvented myself time and time again (pretty sure I’ve been at least five versions of a caterpillar before ever becoming a butterfly), but I’m still not “free.” I still have my own hang ups—my own faults that keep me banging against my own hypothetical screen, no matter how many others try to guide me out the door. 

Gina Gatlin, a yoga teacher, spiritual healer, wellness coach, and TealHaus client, often reminds me that none of us will ever be fully “fixed.” We’re all continually working on ourselves, and we’ll always have those habits and things that our minds default to. The key is to be aware that they are just that—habits. And awareness of this exact thing makes us more able to change our patterns and become better versions of ourselves—broken wings and all.

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