I thought that when I was taking care of my parents as they died that I was in chrysalis. It felt like the right metaphor for the time: isolated and encapsulated by my own grief and my parents’ fears and pain, I was changing radically as a person.
I was in chysalis, but what I did not realize that even chrysalis has its stages. I was preparing for “deep” chrysalis. I was setting things up in preparation of even further metamorphosis. At the point where I was an orphan at last (homeless, broke, and alone) I thought I was emerging into the wild beyond, but in reality was sinking into a chrysalis that I, quite unknowingly, set up to destroy me.
Any creature that stays in chrysalis too long dies. It is supposed to break out and into the world, fresh and wet and reborn, and take off into a new life. A chrysalis is a death sentence if kept to.
I tricked myself, blinded by grief and deep fear of loneliness, into hiding inside my chrysalis. In the end I started eating myself alive, a gross turn on the metaphor but true nonetheless: I was tearing myself apart, hungry for something I did not know because it was outside of my chrysalis walls.
My epic, slow-motion breakdown of 2007-2008 was the result.
In my terror, I got therapy and made huge changes in my life. I thought, yet again, that I was emerging (finally!) from chrysalis.
Still, I was frustrated. I was not the person I wanted to be, and I’m still not. I’m doing the right things but I’m not what I would describe as “there” yet. My anger over that fact is very consuming, and scary, and counterproductive. I could not figure out why, if I’m finally free of the chrysalis and starting my new life, I still feel trapped. I shouldn’t. Even my therapist agreed with that.
Then one day, as I thought about moving to Seattle in a couple of years (I don’t know how I am, but I am), I randomly thought: that’s my new world. That’s what I’m preparing for.
Two years from now, I will have finally finished this transformation and be moving out of the chrysalis. Consciously, and with purpose—something lacking in all my past attempts, which were based on circumstances or terror—I will be at the point of actualizing my true self.
To fully transform myself inside the chrysalis, I had to first wake up to the changes. Simply sitting safely inside was not enough, in fact it was slowly killing me. When I realized what I was doing, I knew I had to decide to live a half-life or take control. Taking control meant radical changes (therapy, divorce, graduate school, paleo/primal lifestyle, to name but a few), and that’s where I still am right now: changing.
That doesn’t mean I’m not who I am now, or that the process itself is without value. I’m looking at it the way most people view a college education: a few years of hard work in a life-bubble that is one step removed from everything “out there.”
But that’s also why I’m frustrated, because I want this part of the changing to be done. I’m simply impatient and I get that, but all told I’ve been “in chrysalis” for nearly 15 years, and I’m emotionally ready. I’m anxious.
And maybe that’s the feeling that causes us to kick at the walls of the chrysalis until it breaks open and lets us free. Maybe I’m at exactly the right stage I need to be at: primed, ready, anxious, excited, and a little scared but a lot brave.