Updated: Jan 20, 2020
If you and your partner are anything like me and mine, you’ve likely been through a lot as individuals and together through the duration of your relationship’s tenure. And hopefully, you feel a lot of those changes are truly for the better — changes that will continue to serve you or your partnership or both! When I think about change, generally speaking, my mind feels compelled to go to times when change is at its most heightened… I recall teenage years and how awkward and in between they feel — not quite the child you once were or the cool new cultured adult you’re becoming. Being that I’m in a 10+ year relationship with my high school sweetheart, that example feels all too accurate for me right now, slightly awkward, and in between something we once were and something new. We enter, yet again in our tenure, a new state of transition, transmutation, or even metamorphosis
When an innocent young boy turns into that “cool cultured adult” referenced above, or a playful puppy into a wise, regal Golden Retriever resting professionally in front of the fireplace, or (wait for it) the classic caterpillar into a winged butterfly… metamorphosis is at work. (Yes, this article references caterpillars and butterflies, AND what happens in between so hang tight and you may learn a new science word). Metamorphosis is an evolution. Evolution is a process, it takes time, AND it is a process. The before and after is always drastic, the A seeming miles, years even away from the B. And there’s no real telling when A transforms into B until after it’s happened. The question of when remains a mystery and typically it feels like more questions than answers continue to arrive. In relationships, this is when we start to wonder if the juice is really worth the squeeze. Discomfort presents itself, questions surface, “where is this going, who am I really, what am I becoming, what are we becoming, is this working?” In reflecting on this process and experiencing it as I have again and again, I think there is magic in the in between, in metamorphosis… and it’s magic that can help us.
I once had a life coach who referenced the scientific process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly in one of our sessions… the process of its metamorphosis. She described metamorphosis as the changing from one thing to something entirely different and new. Webster defines metamorphosis as: “a change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means.”
When a caterpillar is inside the chrysalis, there is a point where the caterpillar’s body turns to a rich liquid form. Before it is rebuilt entirely into a butterfly it completely liquifies! What??? If you’re like me you did not graduate as a bio major and this is new information! The scientific word of this part in the metamorphosis process is called different names by different sources, but the most commonly used phrase is “imaginal cells.” (The play on words here is thick. Imaginal cells? Like use your imagination as to how this works?! Ok, done!) My coach put it more simply, calling it, “bug juice.” Bug juice. To me bug juice brings up imagery of messy goo I’d rather not have anything to do with, the place of neither caterpillar or butterfly, purely in the abyss of the neither this nor that, an identity lost before a new one is gained.
But what happens in between, is what makes all the difference. In the place of nothingness is where new creation has potential. It’s where the magic sparks, the new life takes progress. Scientists have studied this bug juice state and struggle to fully explain what actually happens and how… and given even Webster’s definition uses the word “supernatural” to help explain the process, it seems that making a case for the existence of magic has potential after all. Creating something new from the neutral in between.
It is almost as if you were to climb down on one side of the Grand Canyon and into a dark mysterious cave as one thing and climb out the other side as something completely different. In the darkness, the abyss, the nothingness, the mystery… the unknown lives. We humans typically avoid, fear, or resist the unknown. We love to Know (with a capital K) what we are at any given time and what we’re transmuting into in the future. Because we’re humans, knowing things brings us comfort but because we’re humans we also remain blind. Blinded to the what’s next and only really capable of sometimes understanding the where we are now, AND when you’re in the process of metamorphosis the where you are now can sometimes feel like a dark cave you’ll never emerge from: hopeless, deep, and straight up difficult to be with.
However, without the dark, how do we ever know light? The duality, the contrast helps define the other. If we never taste darkness how can we know light, if we never touch pain, how can we understand pleasure. The feelings that ignite in the place of darkness, like in a difficult time in a relationship, can bring insights, like the first spark made from friction on slate. This friction can be the spark of the new flame that will lead you out of the darkness, shedding a new light on your relationship, behavior, or perspective about what is true. This is one perspective of what magic can feel like in the process of metamorphosis, but there’s more.
When in a cave long enough our eyes start to evolve in order to see in the deep darkness. We literally have the power to change our physical nature to help us survive #magic. In the depths of the darkness in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, when what we once saw was nothingness, our eyes can start to see formations, outlines, and eventually shades of light to some degree. The hope and excitement for what’s to come reveals itself. New ideas, behaviors, and patterning develops and we start to see things differently. In many ways, both figuratively and possibly literally we’ve begun to change our genetic code of how we operate the world which starts to change our experience of the world. Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, we become renewed and enter into a different orientation to the world around us. The feelings of newness, change in perspective, and general experience of being ourselves and with those around us can feel incredibly romantic, arousing, exhilarating and alive. We start to wake up in this moment to our life, the newness of it all. We may feel more grateful for things as seemingly simple as our breathe, while seeing and appreciating it as beautifully complex. We take flight as butterfly. This perspective of metamorphosis is spacious, open, rewarding. There’s a newness realized. A sweet subtle lushness, like the gift of new nectar injected into one’s life.
It’s tough to fully know (capital K) or explain what really happens in the process of metamorphosis because magic is magic for a reason, but in many ways metamorphosis feels like a container for both death and the beginning of life held in one a singular cell. “ The caterpillar’s old body dies inside the chrysalis and a new body with beautiful wings appears after a couple of weeks.” Metamorphosis, if we look close enough, could be seen as a snapshot of the underpinnings of the Universe. It teaches us to remember that Life is the cycle of beginnings and ends linked together by new beginnings and new ends and metamorphosis is the chain linking them together in one cycle.
From my newest perspective, I believe my relationship is in metamorphosis continually, ever changing and evolving. Something is always dying so that something new can emerge, sometimes many things at once. My relationship with my partner has a heartbeat of its own. It is its own being, and we both contribute to providing its nourishment, healing, and growth, or not. It's solely reliant on both of us evolving as individuals in order to also evolve. I believe because we’ve both been in our individual states of metamorphosis, in our own processes, on our own time, our relationship continues to have moments of death for new life to emerge which implies that it revisits the bug juice state — continually deciding what it wants to become, what code it will write. Deeply juiced, deeply becoming, deeply resting, waiting, resisting, whatever it may be. It often takes a timeout to see what we each individually are going to become as individuals first. To wait until we can take care of it more deeply, nourish it more fully, pay more attention to it proactively like it so deserves before making its newest debut. This is what makes any relationship so purposeful, powerful AND possibly painful, there is much invested, it takes energy to metamorphosize! But, the glimmer of hope for the newness to come, the romanticized excitement for all the hopes and dreams being close to actualizing is enough to motivate many to continue to feed the process. And, though the darkness may arrive and possibly stay for some time or surely return, we can only hope that shades of light may hit our blinded eyes and thaw parts of our hearts that we’ve been using to protect ourselves from the pain in the unknown.
In a letter to my love I found this the other day, “I surrender to the power of love, to the power of our love and what it’s metamorphosing into. I believe in our relationship and what it’s capable of and the magic it will always hold.” We need only surrender to the process and see what this newest chrysalis has to offer, we might find that in the darkness is nourishment. We need only see the darkness as the container it is, the place of magic, preparing us for the newest iteration of ourselves, readying us to fly with big wings.