fighting metamorphosis...

(originally published on MySpace)

I don't like bugs. Or spiders. (Especially spiders!) The move Arachnophobia scared the living daylights outta me. It's been what...fifteen, twenty years? Yet to this day, I still have to eyeball lightbulbs before I reach my hand up under a lampshade, just to make sure there isn't a furry, eight-legged critter waiting to plunge its blood-thirsty fangs into my flesh.

Butterflies are a different matter. Their gentle grace and beauty are amazing. Maybe the technicolor haze of my past is to blame, but watching a colorful, winged creature flit about with nary a care - and no teeth - is quite peaceful. The no teeth thing is a huge plus...

Tonight this thought grabbed me & refused to let go: I could learn a lesson from butterflies. I heard a story once about a butterfly that was prematurely removed from its larval cocoon because the human watching it grow became impatient and wanted to set it free. Big mistake. The butterfly hatched but never flew. Weak and powerless, it soon died.

The beauty of the science (pardon the entomology lesson, folks, but there's a reason for these facts) is this:

  1. caterpillars grow in silk cocoons ("chrysalis" to be precise) in stages ("instars")
  2. they often experience 4 or more of these instars as they slowly grow into maturity
  3. each time they outgrow their chrysalis, they break through it and are left exposed; they must then grow into a larger cocoon
  4. finally, once metamorphosis completes, a butterfly emerges, fully formed with beautiful wings, but
  5. the newly hatched butterfly must hang upside down for ~30 minutes to allow their wings to harden

Apparently the wings are soft, wet, and weak from being wrapped around the larval body inside the cocoon. So when it breaks free for the last time, it has what it needs to fly - wings - but the transformation process is not yet complete. The wings need time to mature and become useful. If at any point in this process the steps are not followed, the butterfly will be permanently damaged. The wings will never work. And without functioning wings, the insect has no defense mechanisms.

People go through life phases like this: we outgrow our clothes, jobs, homes, cars, even relationships. When something doesn't fit us anymore, we move into something that does fit. We don't always recognize that phase until much later - because often growth is visible only with 20/20 hindsight. That's when the "Oh wow, I really learned something from that" moment occurs. We identify our newfound maturity. We leave our old cocoons behind and move on. Sometimes.

With each transition phase, we should mature a bit more. We should be one step closer to becoming a mature butterfly, poised for flight. So why do we try to climb back into our old cocoons? Why would any butterfly-in-progress choose to delay fulfilling their inevitable destiny by crawling back inside the broken, cramped cocoon from which they just escaped? They don't. But people do.

We revert back to old habits, old behaviors, old tendencies that no longer fit. This prolongs our growth phase and delays flight.

I'm guilty: I've tried to crawl back into a former shell because it's comfortable, knowing full well that I've outgrown it. (Going back to an unhealthy relationship or picking up a bad habit long-ago dropped are but two examples.) I've also tried to force premature cocoon changes because I'm impatient. (This is not unlike buying a bikini that is 3 sizes smaller than I currently am, simply because that smaller size is my goal size - sure, it's great to have goals, but seeing the product of a goal without actually doing the work means I have a bikini I can't squeeze into. Talk about an exercise in futility!) I can see where I want to be, visualize my goals - but can I patiently allow gradual development? Nooooo, I revert to my bone-headed, "delayed gratification is for wimps" control freak tendencies and stupidly try to manipulate the outcome to my own liking. I want my way, my timing, now. Oh yes: classic "only child" traits. It ain't pretty. But so few aspects of human nature are...

It's a painful thing to be an impatient control freak experiencing a metamorphosis for the umpteenth time. I want to fast-forward to the flying stage where all my dreams are realized versus anticipated but that's not possible with weak wings. Maturity occurs with time, not will-power.

The logical thing to do is to allow change to occur naturally. Anything else simply undermines the beautiful potential of future realities. If I choose impatience, I sell myself short. Why cling to my old life full of unfulfilling habits, associations and routines when a new path is more rewarding, more liberating, and ultimately, the destiny I was meant to know?

I am learning patience from butterflies.


chasing the carrot...

(originally published on MySpace)

If status is stupid & irrelevant, why do we chase it?

"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis." ~ Fight Club

We are societally programmed to chase the dangling carrot of status. The media has convinced us that COOLNESS is our goal, and to acquire a lofty position of social status among our peers, we must meet as many of the requisite criteria as possible - a checklist of coolness. We will find the unconditional love and acceptance we crave if only we will mold our identities around the whims of advertisers.

Society tells us: cool people drive imported cars. They drink overpriced, gourmet coffee and overpriced, gourmet beers. They eat overpriced, organic food. They listen to the latest hip music on their iPods. They wear trendy clothes and dine in trendy restaurants. Blah, blah, blah.

Advertisers sublimate that we can only be happy if we consume specific brands or follow certain trends. We ignorantly buy it, literally and figuratively: We buy into the notion that our peers are worthy of our adulation. We appoint them the judge, jury, and executioner of coolness. We strive to keep up with our peers. We elevate their opinions and allow their perceptions to dictate our thoughts and become our motivations. I once heard it said that we buy stuff we don't want with money we don't have to impress people we really don't like. And while we do this in the name of status, we never admit such. We just keep drinking the Kool-Aid, forking over our plastic and repeating the process, all in the hopes that we will find acceptance and love. But it's all a mirage.

The trouble is, most of the time we aren't even aware that we are brainwashed. You think you're immune? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who are you -really- outside the realm of external influences?
  2. Are any of your lifestyle choices (your personal style, the sites you visit, the books you read, the shows you watch or the music you listen to in the car you drive & where you live) - are any of these yours alone, or have the opinions of another influenced your decisions?
  3. Who would you be if you had not been influenced by outside sources? Would your choices be different? Would you be the same person, or someone entirely different?

Every day, our choices determine our identities. What I wear sends a message about who I am. For example: I'm not a slave to fashion. I am perfectly content to wear jeans, black turtlenecks & clogs every day for the rest of my life. I choose substance over style. Zero external influence there.

How I decorate defines me, too: the majority of my home furnishings came from the big blue & yellow Swedish empire. Not because that lifestyle was immortalized in Fight Club, but because the IKEA stuff fit my budget when I moved back here from Chicago and New England before that. Again, peer influence took a back seat to fiscal concerns.

But if money was no object, would I drive a different car? Would I live somewhere else? Would I be more charitable or more selfish?

These are the things I pondered tonight while walking around in the arts district after dinner with friends.

My lifestyle drastically changed three years ago. Back then, I ran with the "cool" crowd, lived in the "cool" neighborhood, drove a "cool" car and wasted exorbitant amounts of money in a misguided attempt to buy happiness. I liked my lifestyle. I liked the status that came with the acquisition of material possessions. I liked the admiration I received from my so-called friends. My coolness opened many doors. Life was a non-stop party.

But I was miserable...and couldn't figure out why. I threw more money at the problem, but to no avail. Nothing quenched the insatiable desire.

Three years ago, everything changed. My material possessions crumbled before my eyes. I was left empty and humbled. That's when I realized I was a status addict.

It's taken three years to shake off the ill-fitting cloak of false identity I wore. I allowed external, superficial things to shape the image I projected. I chased acceptance by people whose opinions didn't matter. It's taken three years to stop chasing the dangling carrot. But that doesn't mean the longing is gone for good. Occasionally, it returns and I wonder, "Why can't I have this back?"

Tonight I watched the "cool" people. Some guy wearing trendy shoes and a name-brand, embroidered logo fleece jacket carried himself past me with an air of self-importance. He was a human peacock, quite sure of his worth and flaunting it for all to see. And for the first time, I didn't envy him (or his beautiful wife or their lovely, yuppie-esque 2.5 children) - no, I felt sad. Here is an otherwise intelligent guy who is basically just a brainwashed sucker. He thinks he's something special because he looks like all of his friends who wear the same labels and drive the same cars. He's a cookie-cutter social status-climber looking for validation in the same places I did. It's pitiful. He keeps drinking the Kool-Aid. So am I better off because I realized the error of my snobbish ways, or is he better off because he's content in his delusion?

That's just my two cents' worth on materialism...



Starting Over...
(or, back in the blogging saddle again)

It's been awhile. I deleted all my previous blogs because I got tired of receiving unsolicited comments from all manner of opinionated strangers. Then it dawned on me: "wait, I do the same damn thing," so I suppose I shouldn't bitch when other people chime in on my blogs. After all, I do say that I expect change back.

So here we go. I doubt I'll repost the blogs from previous years - but who knows? Wild hairs have been known to spring up occasionally. Time will tell how often I blog. I'm still tempted to post daily musings on my MySpace
page - we'll see. The beauty of doing that is that I can post daily with no guilt - because, let's face it, sometimes a chick just needs to vent without leaving a cyber legacy, ya know?

There ya have it: my two cents' worth on blogging. This time, I don't expect change back. :)