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Self-less Service (and Caterpillars)




I’ve found that in times of crisis or times where it feels like I’m powerless, the best medicine can be to take action and take back my power.


A recent series of unfortunate events led me to a slightly-mediumly dysregulated nervous system.


Yeah, I was triggered and not the overused version where the world ends up being an inconvenience but a full-blown state of NOT-OK.


That story will have it’s own moment to shine, and opportunity to be made right, as they say “never waste a good trigger.”


This story is about selfless service….


Backing up….CATERPILLARS!!!


Ok backing up even further….


I own a bike, and haven’t ridden it in years. There’s only so many days that are kind for riding a bike here in Charlotte and some untimely injuries made me miss those windows. And then someone stole my seat…whatever that was about.


All of this to say that my bike has sat dormant on the porch for quite some time - long enough that some sort of ivy has taken to growing around it. I’ve cleared it from time to time but one day I noticed something a little different about the vines…CATERPILLARS!!!!


Tons of them…ok maybe like 25-30 of them but still wayyyyy more than I’ve ever seen together in my lifetime. And they weren’t the fuzzy ones - like I used to catch when I was a kid. These caterpillars are orange/red + black and spiked!!!!


Sidestory: I used to have a caterpillar cage that would allow me to feed them and watch them go through their life cycles - except they always turned into moths.


The oracle (Google) revealed that these friends are Gulf Fritillary or passion butterflies.


Eric Carle wasn’t joking with the title “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” - these little buddies demolished the vines on my bike, and moved on to my neighbors bike (also left dormant for a bit).


I started my simply observing - their movements, little chomper mouths munch-munching on the leaves twice their size, and their life cycles.


And eventually, I found the urge to help! Sometimes one would fall off the bike and take off in a direction that would certainly lead to it’s doom. I also found that they needed more food, and found some more ivy on the bush nearby and started taking small samples over to the bike to keep them fed.


Goes something like this:

Butterfly lays the eggs on the ivy leaves —> eggs hatch to teeny-tiny little spikey caterpillars —> munch-munch their way to larger fatter longer big buddies —> find a place to attach their butts to that felt sturdy —> slowly form an upside J shape —> transformation from spikey little buddy to encapsulated cocoon ~8 hours —> wait for 10-14 days —> hello butterfly


Now that I have gushed about caterpillars, you may have wondered “what TH does this have to do with your triggered state?”


This observation, and eventual caretaker role, helped keep me from hiding under the covers for too long. I had a purpose: to facilitate as many butterflies as possible.


Lessons I have learned from my caterpillar friends:

  1. There’s always enough (leaves) to go around.

  2. Ground down to whatever’s around (or attach your sticky butt as the case may be). Even upside down there's still a place of connection to stability.

  3. Everyone’s call to transform comes at different times.

  4. Transformation takes time, and there’s that goo phase in between.

  5. Even with all the right conditions, not everyone reaches their goal (some just became dried up little prickly balls - no symbolism necessary)


Even though the situation preceding the tip over left me feeling powerless, it was empowering to care for something else. I mean sure, selfishly I LOVE butterflies, but it’s mostly selfless to give caterpillars their best shot.


I’m hope-hope-hoping to see a butterfly take flight, and I think I am ok with not seeing it. Maybe….