I guess there has to come a big moment when you’re so sick of the stories that are constantly rolling through your head that you’ll do just about anything to get rid of them.
Because it’s the stories we tell ourselves that end up molding our life.
This moment of being sick of yourself is a crossroads that pokes at you like a kid in line with you at the grocery store who is eye-level with the m&ms and won’t give you a moment of peace until you put them in the cart.
This moment is the gateway to the turnaround. Life is about to change, big time — if you let it.
I remember Jenny Gray telling me to keep talking about “it” until it is so worn out that I don’t want to talk about it anymore. “It” being whatever story is stuck in you like a sliver.
So I did. I did and I did and I did. If I could choose the most accurate inscription on my tombstone at this time in my life, it would say . . ,
“she lived and she lived and she lived, until all that was left was her story”
In fact, that used to be my title photo on my personal facebook page for years and years, and it was true. Still is. But man I am so sick and tired of some of my stories and what I’ve learned on this Road Where I Got So Sick of Myself is that old emotional wounds are a lot like physical wounds. Think of that last bit of healing on a burn or a cut or scrape or even an internal wound. It aches and it aches and it aches until that last bit of healing when it just starts to itch so annoyingly. That’s when you know the healing is almost done. It feels like an old, tight wool sweater that you’ve totally grown out of and you just want to pull that thing off and put on something comfy. Or just wear nothing for a while.
That’s what it feels like when you get sick of your old stories and sick of yourself. At least that’s what it feels like for me.
Big life transitions can make you feel crazy. They can make you feel outside of your own body. They can make you feel trapped inside of your body too. Everything feels surreal and weird and like you got dropped in a place akin to Alice’s Wonderland. You stop recognizing yourself and you feel like a stranger to your own life. You feel drifted further and further away from everything you once knew. Weird characters show up to teach you. It freaks you out lots of days. And there’s this excitement at the same time, that something is coming that you can’t name yet, something that is meant just for you.
This summer I got to help Kami raise some monarch butterflies. We ended up with 10 of them in total. But each of them started as a tiny little caterpillar barely the size of a stick pin.
And then they grew. And they grew and they grew and they grew. We had this amazing photo illustrated “instruction” book that told us every stage the caterpillar would grow into, by the day and some of it by the hour. So we would camp out in the barn where the caterpillars munched on fresh milkweed that we collected up the mountain every other day or so.
We had 2 magnifying glasses and we would watch every day to see what changes they would make. It was one of the most sacred, satisfying and fascinating experiences of my life to witness these transformations by the hour.
In the book, it said that the chemicals change in the caterpillar’s body and they just know it’s time to do what they have to do next. I think 3 or 4 times before they climb up the branch and hang for a few days and then become a chrysalis, they actually turn sort of this grayish black transparent color outside of their black and yellow stripes and then suddenly they crawl out of their own skin and they are vibrant and beautiful again, and there’s a lump of grayish black skin laying there like a discarded pantyhose. They do that 3 or 4 times!
Because I got to watch this happen with 10 different caterpillars, it became one of my life’s greatest lessons. I would watch them just start wandering around, stop eating and turn that weird color. I related to that feeling so much. If I could humanize it, I would say that if it were me I might think I was dying, but I was really just ready for new skin — and even more importantly, I was ready for my old skin to go.
The thing is, these caterpillars lost that skin 3 or 4 times but it is the final time that blows your mind. And it’s pretty disgusting. Once they grow as big as they can be, they stop eating again and just start wandering around. They climb all over the place and sometimes just sit in the same place for hours, it looks like they are doing nothing but I suspect they are testing a place to see if it’s where they will make their final hang and become a chrysalis. As they’re searching for a place, they reach to the sky….it is incredible!!! A few of their feet stay on the branch and the rest of their body extends into the air, searching searching searching for something they can’t quite reach.
Over those months, I would sneak out to the barn at all hours and watch them. And sometimes it would just make me cry because I could so totally relate to what appeared was happening. It’s like they knew they were supposed to do something, so they just kept moving awkwardly, uncomfortably. They seemed restless and agitated a bit. They were searching and searching.
And then they’d find a good spot and build a little silky pillow on the branch, grab onto it with the very back of themselves and hang in the shape of a J, sometimes for a few days. How did they even know what they were doing? And did they know why? And did they know what was to come?
Our human brains are bigger and have higher functionality for reasoning, and we don’t even know, so I don’t think they do either. They just do it instinctively.
As I watched them go through this whole process, it taught me so much about trusting what seems useless and tedious and like a big waste of life. These times when we ourselves are wandering around looking for something and shedding our skin here and there and just waiting for something we can’t define.
And pieces of us are on the floor like a used pantyhose.
If the caterpillar could think and reason the way we can, I wonder if it was sick of itself the way I was. The way I still am in so many ways as I navigate this whole new era of myself, of this time in life, of this time as part of our human family in the world. I had to get so sick of myself that I would be willing to let that part of me die and become whatever it is supposed to become next.
That’s where I’m at right now.
Well, after the caterpillar is hanging in a J shape, you’ll know something is about to happen after a day or two when its antennae starts to droop. That means it’s getting really close to shedding that black and white stripey skin one last time. And you better stick around or you will miss it.
Again, if it were human, if it were me or you, I have to say that I would feel so insulted and defeated by what happens next. One last time, the skin literally splits and a big old green blob smashes its way out of it. It looks so much uglier than a caterpillar and definitely nothing close to a butterfly.
That’s the part I related to most. Taking this long journey and thinking you’re going somewhere good, knowing that you will evolve past this caterpillar stage, but then suddenly you’re just this big green blob of grossness. That’s how it felt to me, anyway.
That’s how I’ve felt so many times over the last few years.
And then before you can even blink, a hard shell wraps around the green blob and encases it. And then GOLD SHOWS UP. It’s the most incredible thing….a stripe of metallic gold and several dots cover the chrysalis.
And it’s silent.
Just hanging there with absolutely no movement.
For weeks. Nothing.
Sleeping? Dying? Being Born?
People do this. I am doing this. From the outside we might wonder where a person went when this happens in their life. I literally disappeared from just about everyone’s radar. I went black into the darkness of that cocoon as a big old blob of green. And what happens inside of that chrysalis is that you liquify. You have no shape and no form and no ability to move, you’re just slime.
And for me, it felt and feels just fine because I WAS SO SICK OF MYSELF.
They say that teenagers start acting like bratty, selfish jerks sometime before they’re ready to leave the safety of the family nest SO THAT it’s not such a devastating experience for mamas when they do. The mama and the kid start butting heads and cutting apron strings so that they feel ready when the time comes for the child to fly the coop.
For me, that’s what all of this has felt like. I started to butt heads with myself and just got so uncomfortable in my own life, my own skin, my own world that there was nothing else to do but let it shed.
They also say that right around the age I am now, that a woman stops making the hormones that make her want to take care of everyone else while she essentially forgets herself. I felt that happening. Suddenly I feel myself going inward, and retreating from so much outward effort. It is happening more every day. It is strange and disconcerting and uncontrollable. It makes sense that at this age we start keeping our own blood and our own milk. We used to give it freely at younger ages. Our body just knows when it’s time to bring all of our resources back inside.
So that we can grow our wings.
And maybe we don’t just get sick of ourselves, but we get sick of how most things are in our life. And maybe that is what is supposed to happen, because if we didn’t get sick of it, we’d probably be trying to glue our skin back on when it sheds off and we wouldn’t be able to experience what is supposed to happen next.
I am still on this road, in large part, but I am learning to trust it. Instead of thinking that there must be something terribly wrong with me because I am feeling so sick of myself, I’m seeing it as a rite of passage to help me cut my own apron strings from my old self and fly my own coop.
Because I want to fly. I really do.
But if I cut myself out of this cocoon/chrysalis too soon, I won’t make it. Just like a butterfly. These things take as long as they take. We can cry and moan and call the management and tell them that this timeline is absolutely unacceptable, but none of that will speed up the process.
Growing wings takes as long as it takes. And getting sick of yourself is the first step to letting it happen.
So, becoming soul,
What does it feel like for you when you start to feel like you’re growing out of your own skin?
What could it mean if you’re feeling sick of yourself?
Thank you for sauntering on this unsure road with me. Tomorrow I will take you to The Road Where I Got Called On The Carpet.
I love you and I hope you’ll trust the process.