Butterflies in Waiting

Monarch Butterfly Numbers Rise Dramatically - Texas A&M Today
Photo cred.

A butcher’s knife met the edge of my middle finger last night and left a fleshy wound.

I was cutting sweet potatoes with a blade that probably wasn’t sharp enough for the job (or maybe it wasn’t the right kind of knife, I don’t know, I always say I will eventually learn how to properly cut vegetables), and it slipped from under the orange vegetable, catching a piece of my finger. Home alone, I winced in pain as I tried to get it to stop bleeding enough to bandage it up.

It was a small cut. Deep, sure, but not unlike others my body has seen in its 36 years of life. Even though I would recover, and my finger would go back to normal, I was still annoyed. It wouldn’t prevent me from engaging in daily activities, but it would make things harder, like untangling my hair in the shower, typing notes, or doing the dishes. This morning the finger throbbed having developed its on pulse-like beat.

Yet, there wasn’t much I could do. I would only have nine fully functional fingers until time and the human’s reparative system did their job of growing new skin to close the gape. Till then, I wait.

Waiting is an essential part of being human, but it doesn’t come to us easily, especially since technology has programmed us to need everything as soon as possible. We can get food, dates, and air fryer within hours. We are sold on the idea that waiting is for losers, and throw enough money at something, and you won’t become one.

There are some things that take time, though. We can’t rush them or press the 15-seconds forward button. We have to let the process go on, no matter how long it takes.

I am stuck in a perpetual wait. OK, perpetual is a strong word, but sometimes waiting feels endless. You are so deep into the time between that you can no longer see either the beginning nor the end. It’s a void without an exit. Waiting is worse when combined with uncertainty. It’s not nearly as tough waiting for a pizza to arrive as it is for results from blood work.

For me, it’s not just one thing I am waiting on, but several big, life-changing things that have no specific answer . What my husband and I will be doing for work, where we will be living, what our family will look like. These waits are ones I’ve endured for two and half years, since we got married, I started school, and my husband suffered an unexpected job loss. I’ve held my breath month-to-month, waiting for some kind of relief to come in, for things to be easier, and that has yet to happen. We had a small bit of relief last winter but a pandemic swiped away that safety net before we could unroll and hang it up.

However, the tide is changing. I am eight weeks away from graduation and 10 from finishing my internship; with a master’s and being eligible for licensure, I am finally to embark on my new career, finding a job that pays more than $0. Our lease expires in July, and we’ll not be renewing. We chip away at our other big goals, identify plans (costly ones at that) and send out as much intention and interest as we can, hoping something will come our way.

This all should be exciting, but rather I am a burned-out stress ball. One person should not be on the precipice of this many life changes, specifically not a person who is working three jobs, two months away from graduation, and preparing for two comprehensive exams next month.

Not to make another running metaphor, but it really does feel like mile 18 of a marathon. I’ve come so far in this journey, but the hardest parts—the truest tests of grit and strength—are still to come. The only difference is that in the marathon, if you keep putting one foot in front of another, you’ll eventually get to the finish line. Nothing here though is guaranteed, not even my degree (although something would have to go terribly wrong for me to not graduate, and even my anxious brain won’t entertain that worry).

And, so I wait. Then, I breakdown. I numb with crappy TV. I return to a calm-ish state. Breakdown again. And keep waiting.

A friend stopped into the retail store where I work the other day. In seven minutes, I blurted out a quick life update, listing all the big things hanging in the balance. It was probably a lot for a short, casual visit, but I was just so happy, and hungry, to see a real-life friend that it all came tumbling out of me. Later in the evening, I texted her how refreshing it was to see her, and she responded saying the same and that I was going to emerge as a butterfly with all of our upcoming changes.

What a beautiful sentiment, and it made me wonder if caterpillars know what’s in store for them. Do they know when they’ll shed their cocoons? Do they know they’ll be restored with magnificent wings?

The thought of butterflies made me want to rethink my strategy of waiting. Instead of refreshing social media accounts to compare myself to others, religiously scouring horoscopes for some kind of sign, or waking up each morning remembering what I am still missing, I let the wait be the journey. I take each day of the unknown and make it special. What if I learn to savor and enjoy the wait, no matter how unsettling or painful, and understand that most of life is waiting and if I can’t stay present with it then it’s wasted?

Waiting isn’t my favorite thing, but it’s the journey I am on. Either I can continue to resent it and break down, or accept it and see the magic that is here. It’s easier for me to type that than to act it out, but I need relief. I can’t control when the answers will come or what they will be, but I can change my attitude as I wait.

My pretty wings will come, until then, I’ll revel in the prettiness of the cocoon.

Published by The Running Therapist

A runner, writer, and therapist in training.

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