What Eric Carle Never Told Me: The Truth About Transitions
I remember first hearing the story of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” when I was in nursery school. I sat on a multi-colored rug with the other 4 year olds in my class and was riveted by the tale of the tiny egg on a leaf that transformed into a beautiful butterfly.
As the classic, children’s story goes, the very hungry caterpillar eats and eats over the course of a week. On Saturday he goes on a total binge and eats everything from salami to lollipops until he finds himself to be enormous and with an upset stomach. (As I got older, this was the part of the tale that really resonated most with me.)
On Sunday, after he overdoes it, he opts for just a leaf for dinner. (Again, this pattern felt super familiar….But I digress)
The caterpillar sets himself up with some cozy digs, naps for a few weeks, wakes up with some sweet new wings, looks super cool and now knows how to fly. Awesome story.
It never occurred to me to wonder about what exactly happened to that caterpillar while he was inside the cocoon. (Or Chrysalis, as I have been told is more accurate.)
Cut to me, nearly 33 years old, having a complete melt down in front of 15 other women.
We were all participating in an 8-week coaching program designed to address emotional eating and self-sabotage. I had decided to join this particular group because I REALLY NEEDED to lose like 10 pounds. It was really important. I was carrying a little extra weight and it was making me miserable.
About halfway through our program, my life came apart at the seams. The man I was in love with and dating for roughly two years ended our relationship via text message (*awesome*) and two days later, I lost my job (*super-awesome*).
It was at this point I began to suspect that maybe, just MAYBE, there were more things out of alignment in my life aside from those extra pounds. Hence the epic meltdown.
I sat there bawling my eyes out, unable to string together a single coherent sentence about what I was feeling. It was all too overwhelming. The loss. The fear. The absolute uncertainty of what was going to happen next. What it would mean. All I could do was weep.
The leader of our group, (my coach, mentor and friend,) gently said, “It’s okay. You’re in the goo.”
That caught my attention. I stopped sobbing long enough to actually take a breath. What the hell was she talking about?
She continued, “Do you know what happens when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly? It’s whole body breaks down. If you cut a chrysalis open at a certain point in the metamorphosis, it’s just this green goo inside. Everything literally dissolves into this goo and then from there it starts to rebuild into this whole other thing.”
My mind was blown. Eric Carle did NOT mention that!
There was more.
“And once the butterfly is ready, it has to fight its way out of the chrysalis. And the act of pushing against the walls until it opens is what builds its muscles. If you try to help and open the shell for it, the butterfly won’t be able to fly. It’s the struggle that makes it strong enough to fly.”
I let that sink in. I felt goosebumps prickling my skin. My breathing had evened out. I had stopped crying.
“I’m in the goo!” I finally proclaimed.
“Yes! You’re in the goo! Be in the goo!”
That became my mantra for the rest of our program.
Sometimes I think back to that girl crying her eyes out and I barely recognize her or the life she used to live. So much has changed since that day. I finally learned how to heal the dysfunctional relationship I had been stuck in with my body. I recognized that my soul was crying out to help other people who were suffering learn to do the same. I decided to go back to school for the first time in over a decade. I started my own business. I developed a spiritual practice. I found an artistic outlet and found my way back to the stage for the first time since I quit acting professionally 6 years ago. I fell madly in love with an amazing man who is a true partner. I am currently planning a move to a new city so I can build a new life with him that feels completely aligned.
It was a long and winding road to get from that place to where I am now. And it wasn't easy. It still isn't. Transformation never is. Whenever I find myself caught up in the trickiness of transition, I always remind myself to simply, “Be in the goo.”
Transitions can feel brutal sometimes. They can be scary. They can be messy. They can be painful. Sometimes, everything you have and everything you believe needs to be broken down and then built back up again into something different. It can be hard. But the struggle is what makes you strong enough to fly.
When was there are time when you found yourself to "be in the goo?" How did you manage your difficult transition? Please share your story in the comments below. Your experience may offer inspiration to someone else sharing your struggle!