“I’m not as shiny as some people”, she said. “I’m quieter and slower. Deeper and darker. It takes effort to be heard and noticed. Sometimes, I just find myself shrinking away. It’s hard to take my space.
And while it’s helpful to be checked-in on, it’s no one’s responsibility to slow down and reach out and check-in with me – it’s my work to learn to take my space and get my voice heard and my needs expressed. I just sometimes don’t know how.”
We nodded together through tears, really taking in her experience of feeling unnoticed by the world.
My heart sank.
I love my friend and wanted to understand what that felt like for her. How I could make space for her. How I could support her in feeling heard. And I understood, in my own way, because I felt the opposite.
“I feel like the yang to your yin”, I said. “I often flit around like a butterfly. I love to talk, and I talk a lot. It takes effort to sit down and be quiet. I have to work to not take up all the space.
I want you to feel heard; I want to hear you. And in the same way you mentioned, while it’s no one’s responsibility to help me slow down and be quiet and drop in – it’s my work to do that – it’s helpful when you take your space. I want to hear you, and I really do want to be quiet.”
With tears spilling out of both of our eyes, we squeezed each other’s hands. We felt connected in our differences. Honoring of each other’s unique gifts and sensitive to each other’s unique challenges.
The challenge with it is that the vast majority of us have so much childhood “stuff” wrapped around the idea of space, that makes it difficult to be, well…spacious. Most people feel like they weren’t heard or understood at home or school, or that they were seen but not really seen.
So we developed subconscious patterns, in an attempt to take or make space:
Add to that, society’s confusing directives – be confident, be humble, contribute, listen, speak up, wait your turn – and so many people feel at odds with how to create the space that they need in the world or within themselves.
As I spoke with my friend that day, I saw that the butterflies of the world get all the love. Even the inspirational quotes that feature caterpillars and butterflies are meant to cheer us up, because “one day you’ll be a beautiful butterfly.”
Caterpillars are slower, quieter and less “shiny” than butterflies. But they’re not less beautiful or valuable or needed, just as they are.
The caterpillars of the world often don’t get heard or understood.
The butterflies of the world are seen as beautiful, ethereal, and perfect. Somehow these transformed beings have figured out the key to happiness and success. If you’re a butterfly, you’ve made it.
But being “shiny” doesn’t mean you’re without depth, emotion, or difficulty.
The butterflies of the world get seen, but often not really seen.
It’s time that we look at each other in the mirror and recognize “I am you. You are me. Neither of us is better or worse, more or less evolved. We just may be at different places in our journey and I honor who and where we both are.”
Through honoring the unique beauty and challenges of one another, we step into wholeness, presence and compassion. Through celebrating their beauty, we learn from them. Through it all, we have access to finally find the space we need.
Who are the butterflies and caterpillars in your life, and how can you honor them for the beautiful truth of who they really are? Are you needing to learn the qualities of the butterfly – to stand up, take your space, and be heard and seen? Or, are you needing to learn the qualities of the caterpillar – to soften into the quiet space within yourself?
In the comments below, I’d love to hear what’s true for you. I am looking forward to “landing” with you here…