After eighteen months of being in extraordinary pain, pain that made me respond to the electrocution jolts like a wounded, shrieking, animal—pain that would last eight seconds and come every twenty, pain that stopped reacting to meds—I had learned, really, only one true thing about myself: despite heavily considering it, I suck at suicide.
I had been severely injured while working out, eighteen months earlier, and was suddenly just a body—no longer, really, me. I was now simply reduced to a set of frayed electrical wires short circuiting, sending wicked, repeated electrocutions throughout my body—exhausting my physical form, and hijacking my spirit.
Bruce Lipton, Ph. D., renowned research, speaker and author, talks about the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. The caterpillar has seven billion cells, which Lipton compares to the citizens in an economy, with different groups of cells performing a variety of job functions. The cells in the digestive system break down incoming food, while cells in the respiratory system ensure fresh oxygen is deployed correctly. There is a growing and booming economy within the caterpillar, with working cells at full employment. However, there comes a time when the caterpillar reaches maximum capacity and can no longer grow. At this point, the caterpillar stops eating and the cells are now confused. Reduced eating means there is far less food getting to the cells of the digestive system. There is less and less work for the cells to do, until there is no work at all. The cells have been handed pink slips. Soon, there is less need for cells in the respiration department, the immune department and so on. Chaos follows. When the cells begin to give up, and die off, there is a group of genetically identical cells called imaginal cells that are not at all affected by the failing economy. Despite the chaos within the dying caterpillar, these cells have a vision of a new and sustainable way of life that looks and feels completely different. They reorganize around the new vision, and, literally, create the new and better version of the being, formerly known as the caterpillar. And as the caterpillar-being takes its last gasps, the butterfly is born.
Those eighteen months were my last breaths as a caterpillar.
At first, after the accident, fighting so hard to stay alive, to stay, literally, in pain—to put all my resources into it and then realize it wasn’t enough to fully employ a self that couldn’t imagine a better one. So, I started shutting down.
But like the caterpillar, there was a part of me that knew there was a better life available, and the old way of working wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t use all of my resources just to fight to remain in pain. After the last breath of the caterpillar in me, that night, I, and every cell in my body – organized and focused on this new vision of me.
I decided to:
· Ditch the meds and pray the pain wouldn’t worsen;
· Implore, demand, beg if I had to, another specialist to do something— something new; and
· TRUST. Trust, that if I could believe in a new, sustainable, version of me, I could live that life.
Inside the caterpillar, the imaginal cells are 100% committed to the butterfly. They share an absolute knowing in the possibility, the future, and they trust in it as they work together to co-create the new being. When we make that decision in our lives to become the next and best version of ourselves, we need to be able to imagine it, feel it, and fully believe in the possibility.
I fully organized my mind around this new version of me. And I took flight.
One day during my healing journey, I was driving from Raleigh to Wilmington, North Carolina for business when a sudden and profound wave of complete joy and bliss washed over me. I needed to pull the car over, to the gravel highway shoulder, in order to fully experience this. It was like being overwhelmed with normality, which was, so suddenly, anything but normal. How many times had I driven by a similar tree, that tree, from which I suddenly couldn’t look away?
It was bizarre. It produced a little anxiety. Anxiety, I think, because it was such an unfamiliar feeling, yet at the same time, it felt 100% natural. I knew I had to sit with it. My own imaginal cells, perhaps, fighting off the remnants of the caterpillar in me. I knew I needed to sit there and feel it as long as possible, make a record of the feeling and emotion in my mind and body. I wanted to be able to recall it upon will. I did, and can do, just that.
It dawned on me that I had—and, I imagine, too many of us do– existed day to day with a severe deficit of joy. There is sometimes happiness (chocolate makes me happy, but it is fleeting) but happiness and joy are not the same thing. Knowing I can summon a better life from, literally, my mind…..That. That is joy.
The process taught me three huge things:
1. Trust in the possibilities, not the story your mind is telling you. While part of your mind is always envisioning a better future, part of the mind is saying you can’t. This negative voice is certainly familiar, what we’re used to (our ego at work), but it isn’t what is true or right. Always be cognizant of what feels familiar and what feels right.
2. We have the choice, the power. We hold the power to create bliss in our lives, to heal our bodies, to find our truths, to radically change direction. The only one who can take, or give, that power away is us. The pain meds made me suicidal. I needed different meds, a different specialist. After 18 months, that was hard to do. Nothing had worked. But I had to dig deep and summon my own power to not give up, but to overcome. I refused to be a victim!
3. The body will heal when the mind is attended to. During the 18-month struggle, I continued to focus on mental hygiene, intuitively knowing that in order to heal my physical form, I would need to let go of shifting thoughts and beliefs that did not serve me and, in fact, worked against me.
And after changing my path to incorporate, to the deepest parts of me, those three things—believing in a future I had every right but no reason to believe in, there, on the side of the road—it felt a little silly to stay, but it was undoubtedly what I was thinking:
This is what it feels like to be a butterfly.