{Prehistoric Amber} It’s Butterfly-Turning-Into-Time, Bitches.

 

Zac Efron in Liberal Arts

Nat: Want some good news?
Jesse Fisher: Yes, please.
Nat: Caterpillars… give me my hat… they’re just scooting along, right? Being caterpillars. At some point, these cells show up, called imaginal cells. Scientists don’t know where they come from or why they appear. These imaginal cells show up inside the caterpillar and say: “Get psyched, caterpillar! It’s butterfly-turning-into time!” And what do all the other caterpillars do once these imaginal cells show up?
Jesse Fisher: I have no idea.
Nat: They attack ’em! Try to kill ’em! They’re, like: “Screw you, imaginal cells. We’re happy being a caterpillar. Get lost!” But eventually, the imaginal cells keep growing and overtake the destiny of the caterpillar. They will be in this cocoon! And then guess what happens next?
Jesse Fisher: The caterpillar turns into a butterfly.
Nat: [repeats him excitedly] The caterpillar turns into a butterfly!
Jesse Fisher: That’s awesome.
Nat: I know it is!
Jesse Fisher: Yeah, that’s good.
Nat: And that is why there is no reason to be afraid. Because everything is okay.
Jesse Fisher: Yeah, I don’t know if I believe that.
Nat: It has to be true. There can be no other way.

– Liberal Arts  

It’s funny how things come at you right when they need to.

Sunk down into the center of the leather couch, I stared up at my TV screen as Nat (played exceedingly well by Zac Efron…I know! I was surprised, too) explained this scientific phenomenon to Jesse. When the scene was over, I whipped out my laptop and typed “imaginal cells” into my Google browser.

Turns out, imaginal cells are totally a thing.

And I think they kind of exist in us, too.

The way I kind of wanted to work this whole #IamtheOne thing was to write about the Very Damn Important Laws, and then take you guys through the day-to-day “journey” (I can never say “journey” now without immediately thinking about The Bachelor, which is horrible but also awesome…it’s JUAN-UARY, everybody!). And then it would all just be a matter of letting you sit back and watch how my life is changing in totally miraculous and amazing ways!

But it didn’t really work like that.

At least, not yet.

It kind of feels like, after posting and publishing the past few posts dedicated to this whole theme and then attempting to put it all into action, my body and mind decided to totally rebel.

There’s this thing I’ve talked about before in meditation where, at certain points, the deeper you attempt to go into strengthening your spiritual practice, the more you’ll see stuff come up for you. Meaning: You’re cleaning house. Only, right off, it doesn’t feel like the good kind of cleaning…it’s not the “YAY, more space in my newly-organized closet for new clothes!”

It’s the “Oh my god, how did I never notice how completely GROSS the back of this corner cabinet was? And this WHOLE TIME I was living with this?!

And you’re tempted to slam that cabinet door closed and ignore it for another 5 years, because cleaning it all out? Makes you wanna throw up.

That’s what the past few weeks have kind of felt like: Like my subconscious was trying to slam that cabinet door closed again.

And then distract me from it by offering me a cupcake.

Out of nowhere, I was engaging in behaviors that haven’t shown up for me in a really long time. It was as if all the things that I declared that I didn’t want to do anymore? Let’s do all of them x 100! And then add in a few extra that I had long thought were beat.

And the thing of it was, it wasn’t so much that I was stuffing my face or sleeping in until noon or having one glass of wine too many…it was that I was hating myself for all of it afterward. Which, in a roundabout way, only encouraged me to keep doing those things. Like I was holding myself hostage, forcing my inner Jeremy London to do drugs.

That feeling of letting ourselves down, of disappointing ourselves, is the grossest feeling. But you know what’s even worse? That tiny little voice inside our heads that keeps whispering to us that if we don’t want to disappoint ourselves, then stop trying. Go back to the way things were. That way was easy! It was comfortable.

We are used to this.

We were happy being the caterpillar.

(even though we know that we were not happy being the freaking caterpillar)

But then I saw this scene from Liberal Arts and – in proper geek fashion – started devouring everything I could about imaginal cells. And this is what hit me the most:

“[Imaginal cells] resonate at a different frequency. They are so totally different from the caterpillar cells that his immune system thinks they are enemies…and gobbles them up–Chomp! Gulp! But these new imaginal cells continue to appear. More and more of them! Pretty soon, the caterpillar’s immune system cannot destroy them fast enough. More and more of the imaginal cells survive. And then an amazing thing happens! The little tiny lonely imaginal cells start to…all resonate together at the same frequency, passing information from one to another. The clumps of imaginal cells start to cluster together! A long string of clumping and clustering, all resonating at the same frequency, all passing information from one to another there inside the chrysalis.”
“Then at some point, the entire long string of imaginal cells suddenly realizes all together that it is Something Different from the caterpillar. Something New! Something Wonderfull!
“Since the butterfly now “knows” that it is a butterfly, the little tiny imaginal cells no longer have to do all those things individual cells must do…And each cell begins to do just that very thing it is most drawn to do. And every other cell encourages it to do just that.”

– From Butterfly Mysteries (emphasis mine)

Here’s the thing that imaginal cells can teach us: Instead of getting down on ourselves for not turning into a beautiful fucking butterfly all at once, we can look at the discovery of those gross hidden corners as a sign of something radical happening.

In fact, “it’s the caterpillar’s job to resist the butterfly and the butterfly’s job to become stronger because of the opposition to the its advance.” So, instead of looking at “one step back” habits (a.k.a., stuffing your face with cookies, skipping your yoga class, etc) as signs that you’re never going to change – sorry, maybe this whole clean living thing just isn’t for us! – it is actual, tangible proof that the knob on the metamorphosis board has already been turned to the “Let’s Fucking Do This” setting.

Think of every small step, each great choice you make, as an an imaginal cell. The more great choices you make, the bigger the cluster gets. 

And soon, that cluster will start to crowd out the old caterpillar life. Before you know it, the caterpillar in you is gonna recognize that it’s fighting a losing battle. It’s a new fucking day. The old way of life is no longer sustainable.

Your butterfly self is fucking taking this joint over.

So whether you’re doing this #BodyLove thing with me or you’re embarking on some new resolutions today, tuck the imaginal cell thing into your back pocket. When you wake up one morning later this month, wondering what the fuck happened to your new resolutions, realize that your progress hasn’t been destroyed. Expect, even, that there’s going to be a fight: You’re trying to operate at a new frequency, and there’s going to be a part of you that’s not gonna wanna hear it.

But keep advancing. Keep building those imaginal cells. Cluster that old caterpillar shit out, kid. Concentrate on resonating at the frequency of something new, something wonderfully rad…until you find yourself shattering that old cocoon, rising up on those beautiful fucking gossamer wings, and announcing, “BEHOLD! THE BUTTERFLY REIGN IS NIGH!”

And after this, we can agree not to use caterpillar or butterfly symbolism for anything ever again.

Written and published January 1, 2014

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About Amber L.

Hi! I'm Amber. I've been telling stories with books and blogs since 2004. I also spent 10 years working as a behavior therapist, which I now put to proper use by publishing thought pieces and dissertations on '80s pop music and the defining TV shows of our current times ('The Bachelor', 'Vanderpump Rules', etc). I can also be credited with single-handedly ruining the city of Portland, OR just by moving here.

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