I used to attach meaning to butterflies. If one crossed my path, I would take it as a sign that something good was about to happen, or that God was approving. It was something purposeful and special, meant for me.
Later, I decided it was all bullshit.
Painted Lady butterfly I captured on my hike in Altadena, California
Confession: I have been really struggling lately.
I’m stressed out. I’m afraid. I miss New York and my “cool life” there. I still love my ex-boyfriend, even though he’s long since moved on. It’s over, and I accept that. Actively choosing to move forward is a lot harder than it looks (but I am as happy as I look on my Instagram feed, dammit)! I have an album coming out in July that cost more than I raised, and I have no fucking idea how I’m going to pay for it. I can’t get my publisher to return my emails. I’m working, but barely part time. I’m living (again!) with my incredibly gracious and generous friends, Curt and Kathy, and I don’t know how I can ever repay their kindness. (I do pay rent!) I don’t feel like I deserve it. I own nothing but four (really awesome) pillows, a duvet, a smattering of clothes I am extremely tired of, a guitar that, some days, is hard to look at, much less play (see above about the ex), an explicit grammar mug, a bourbon glass (ugh, the ex again), a computer, a phone, and Mavis the Mini (oh, how I love her).
I feel like a total loser. There, I said it. Oops.
This morning, I took my blood pressure and it was elevated.
“Here,” Curt said, as he directed me to the couch and propped up some pillows. He switched on the TV and found the Relaxation channel in 4K. He sat next to me for a moment.
“Take it again.”
It was significantly lower.
“Now come with me,” Curt said, as he took my right hand. The velcro strap of the blood pressure machine dangled from my left arm. He grabbed a sheepskin throw off the couch and led me outside to one of the Adirondack chairs nestled underneath the massive Deodar cedar.
He covered the chair with the sheepskin. I laughed, and sat down.
“Now look,” Curt said, with a smug grin.
“At what?” I adjusted my feet.
“Do you see them? Look across the grass.” He pointed towards the neighbor’s house.
I pushed my glasses firmly to the bridge of my nose. My gaze followed.
And I saw them. A frenzy of butterflies — possibly hundreds of them! — dancing, swirling and fluttering in the air, with purpose.
“They’re called Painted Ladies and they’re migrating north,” Curt informed me, then reached over and pressed the START button on the machine. He left.
I sat, my mouth agape, and barely felt my left arm being squeezed.
I’d never seen so many butterflies in my life. And I’m quite certain there is no meaning, other than the fact that butterflies actually migrate north, along the mountain line, lay their eggs, then die.
I watched them flirt with their struggle. Several flew right across my face. One even flew down my shirt and fluttered momentarily in my bosom, before I helped him escape.
Curt re-appeared with Dick Cat trying unsuccessfully to squirm out of his grip. I laughed heartily, and the monitor reflected it.
And then, the annoying, overused Christianese cliche-because-it’s-true seeped into my heart and spread to my brain.
I am so blessed. And I use that word, “blessed”, because I now know that blessing is synonymous with suffering. There is always joy to be found. And it’s authentic.
Maybe butterflies themselves have no meaning (those poor suckers don’t live that long!), but if you don’t stop and look, you won’t see them.
Right now, I don’t have anything (besides Mavis!) that I would have ever chosen for myself. I am still reeling from leaving New York. I don’t have my own apartment. I don’t have the things and the stuff and the relationship I so deeply yearn for. Or am still grieving.
But I have good, dear, wonderful friends who love me. Friends who listen and encourage. Friends who have invited me into their lives. Friends who are the very epitome of grace. Friends who don’t care if my bank account looks like a 14-year-old’s earnings from mowing lawns once a week.
I have friends who take me by the hand and lead me to the butterflies.
And that means everything.