• Carmen Milligan

Another kind of "butterfly effect"

Updated: May 14, 2021

I was writing in my journal today, and used a butterfly die cut as part of the page decor. I looked at the butterfly, which was cut out of a page of text, and reflected back to another time.

When I was going through my (first) divorce, my friend DJ came to my house to tell me goodbye (I was moving from Pennsylvania to Alabama). Part of her goodbye was a small metal butterfly. "That's you," she said to me. I knew what she meant. That I had come from a place of being encased, contained, trapped, and now I was emerging from that shell to be free. And to be beautiful. A creature transformed.

All of that was apparent then. But what I realized today was that much of my joy today comes from that terrible, painful past. My children, in whom I constantly delight, are a product of that marriage. My appreciation and respect for money management comes from that time. Some of the sweetest friendships I will ever know came from that time. The years I spent 800 miles from my family rooted a deep appreciation of every moment I have with them today.

We, as humans, want to live an easy and stress-free life. When something negative happens, we ask, "why me?" We want to know what we did wrong to deserve what we consider to be hurtful events in life. We pray for protection and health and wealth. We want answers when things go wrong, looking for someone to blame.

The fact is that, sometimes, shit is just going to happen. Marriages fail, people get sick, jobs are lost, loved ones pass on. We are going to hurt, scream, cry, and rage. We are human, and to feel one emotion is to feel them all.

And I think that's what I realized today, as I was looking at the butterfly. Who I am today, what I have accomplished this far in my life, and (most of all) my children ... my beautiful, healthy, grown, smart, witty boys ... come from one of the most painful times in my life. And it's a beautiful thing.

The moral of the story? Take the rain with the sunshine. Climb the mountains and rest in the valleys. Feel the stillness at times and stand in the midst of the storm during others. Swim when drowning, and recognize the dryness during the drought. You do not have to be thankful for those hard times, or learn to embrace them. But see them for what they are: temporary. Walk through them, to their fullest. Experience everything each moment has to offer. To try to avoid hard times is to cheat yourself of their lessons and experiences. Blooms are so much sweeter after a hard frost.

Thank you, DJ. It took me 20 years to "get it", but I appreciate you and the lesson your gift has finally given to me.

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