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Before the Butterfly, the Dark

This is the first year I can remember, ever, when I did not feel angst about the short days, the early darkness. This was the first winter solstice when I wished for more night, when I didn’t want to hurry up the lengthening of the daylight.

I felt deeply calm before the turning point, and now I feel how much is coming and will potentially move through me– career and curiosity, love and friendship– I feel all the waiting, all the expanding energy here in the underground seed of myself, and there’s an itchy longing to jump ahead to when I have cracked open, to skip the scary splitting open part and go to when I know exactly what kind of plant I am, what blossoms I have, what color, what medicinal properties, what qualities, what timing.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt this kind of swelling, this fear of transformative internal pressure: maybe not since I gave birth almost twelve years ago– and before that it might have been another ten years back when I was graduating from high school and stepping out into the world, trying to make the Right Choices about who I was and wanted to be.

I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half dismantling, extricating, sifting, asking myself what is wheat and what is chaff (even if– especially if– I used to call them by the opposite names), first with the pandemic’s invitation to drop my artistic and entrepreneurial identities, and then my habits of partnership, marriage, and home.

For months, I skated, as on new ice, flying fast and trusting instinct and the laws of physics, not dwelling on the idea of how slim the line was between myself and a cold plunge, always moving forward, in spite of or spurred by the crack and boom of the lake under me– and feeling a lot of joy as I did so, as well as wonder and grief and relief and awe.

In the last year I have felt myself holding old and new habits in my palms and weighing each one, often a little stunned that there’s a choice to be made, that I can and must set some down without knowing what will form their places, or what to do with my empty hands in the meantime.

And now it’s a new year, a new winter! And my sweet little butterfly heart is worrying about emerging– of course she is! Because, yes, this is a tipping point, an axis, a landmark. Yes, the days will grow lighter for longer and we will lean into the sun…

And it is still December.

Just as I didn’t tesseract through the last twelve months or take some Candy Land shortcut on the way here, I won’t be transported to a future I don’t feel ready for yet.

This tension feels so reminiscent of how I feared all the coming changes when my son was a baby– crawling, walking, baby proofing, solid foods– and then learned, over and over, that nothing happened instantly. There was always time, it was always subtle before it was sudden. It was a constant transformation, not an instantaneous one.

I’m still underground held in the frost, still contained in the chrysalis, nearly all of myself dissolved to goop, returned to pure energy and potential. It is not time to bloom. It is not time to fly. No one but me is asking me to come out now, shiny and sure of what I am, ASAP.

Maybe the last– or at least the next– thing to dissolve into this primordial ooze of (un)becoming is the fear that It Might Hurt, that I Should Know How to Fix Every Future Problem, Now.

As that anxiety is swallowed up by the magic of Not Knowing, I can turn my awareness back to noticing the gradual, almost imperceptible expansion of light over the landscape, like sun against closed eyelids. I can feel the subtle changes and stop fearing the sudden, because I am present for each shifting moment.

I can be curious, and I can trust that when the time comes to emerge, to reveal myself to myself and others, it will be the easiest thing in the world, the obvious next step that requires no “knowing” beyond feeling. And just as the dawn reaches to knock at my door, at the too-small husk, the now-paper-thin skin that barely contains me, whoever I am — whoever I have always been– will open everything and step forward, slip out with a sigh of contentment, with a homecoming, into the light.

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You don't have to fear being "sucked down." What you're feeling is energy flowing past you and through you. You can't be swept away. The current is carrying away the silt of fear and unworthiness and


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