I used to be a caterpillar

To begin, an overused metaphor

Hello from a used-to-be caterpillar, recently emerged butterfly. It’s me! I’m the butterfly. Roll your eyes and read on.  

I co-hosted my first yoga retreat this past weekend and recognized myself as a completely different person than I was before the pandemic, but also the same. Like a butterfly. Completely different from the caterpillar she once was, but the same creature, always with the same destiny.

The caterpillar is the butterfly just as the butterfly is the caterpillar, but there’s no denying that the metamorphosis is a big change. I don’t know if life feels completely different for the butterfly. Spending a long time in a cocoon could make a creature forget about “the before times” in a way. Distance does that. I think it’s a good thing. At least now, reemerging, I think it’s a good thing.  

Old habits die softly?

What’s interesting is, I remember some of my old caterpillar habits – the old ways I judged the world, the old ways I identified with certain roles, the old times I would be triggered into some anxiety or another—I just didn’t totally have them anymore. You know what I mean?

If a habit is a reaction, something that happens without volitional control, I remembered the habit but I didn’t do the habit. Imagine you went back into your childhood home and you remembered a chair used to be in the corner but it isn’t anymore. There’s no chair to sit in so you can’t “do” chair sitting, but the memory, and some associated feelings, remain. It’s curious. The experience made for some good journaling.  

Leading up to the retreat, I was nervous

Truly, I was pretty nervous about this weekend. After meeting me once, a new co-teacher and friend of mine, Monika (who also teaches free online classes), invited me to teach on this retreat weekend she had planned. She invited her niece Amber as well, and had a feeling we’d get along. I’m a cat-like person and it takes me a while to feel comfortable around new people. Or at least, it used to. There used to be a chair in that corner… 

Leading up to this weekend, before I realized I was no longer a caterpillar, I was also nervous about all the new people I’d meet who were coming on the retreat and trusting me to guide them. I have this thing where I feel like I need to, I MUST inspire people with every word I utter.

I’m exaggerating, but there’s truth to this. I think that if I didn’t inspire them, or give them something useful, or serve in some way, I’ve let them down. I didn’t show up. Or…I used to think this. I swear there used to be a chair there. 

Lots of firsts

The first day of the retreat, the first hellos from a very kind group of people, the first class we co-taught, the first night in a hostel-style bunk bed…my primary emotion was confusion. Not on the outside, though.

On the outside I felt welcoming, relaxed, and ready. On the inside I felt confused. I had a lot of questions. So I wrote them all down. That’s when I realized I was a completely different person than I was before the pandemic, and also the same. For one, I had questions. I used to have all the answers. Yeah right. 

How it started

Just now while writing this, I remember an early exchange between Monika and me. I asked her why she invited me to co-teach a retreat when she didn’t know me and hadn’t taken my class.

She said because she noticed during the first conversation we had that I was curious, that I had a lot of questions and I looked around for viable answers. She said she knew that would make me a lifelong learner and a good teacher. She’s a woman that trusts her instincts about people. Which, by chance (or divine providence, whatever…), is something I’m working on trusting in myself.  

How it’s going

The loops from the connections we all made this weekend are like interconnecting figure eights. They’re gentle connections, nothing mind blowing or unusual. Very natural human connections. And I think, actually, that natural human connection is the thing that’s changed for me pre-to-post(ish) pandemic.

As a caterpillar I had an idea about what human connection was supposed to look like. I “knew” how I was supposed to be so other people felt I was worthwhile. As a butterfly, I know a lot less. At first that was confusing. Now I’m feeling power in it.

I can imagine the first time a caterpillar moves its appendages, which used to be sticky legs but are now papery wings, the feeling of flying is a bit confusing as well. And then it becomes the most natural thing in the world. And much more efficient.