Sheila Weinstein

What Do I Do Now?

What I Learned From A Monarch Butterfly

A Beautiful Life Well Lived

Posted Aug 31, 2017

Early this beautiful summer morning I went swimming in my Condominium Complex's lovely pool. I do this as often as I can and love the fact that I'm alone in the pool, despite the fact that I have been told it's not safe. At the age of 80 I disregard that kind of advice. I probably did at 50 as well. But this morning having a swim was particularly necessary as I woke up feeling depressed. I'm no stranger to depression but now it has mostly to do with the fact that I am 80, knowing that I have much less ahead than behind me, and what could/might happen sometimes bogs me down. I'm alone, having lost my husband in 2007 but even before that when dementia took his beautiful mind. I'm used to being alone, but sometimes the silence is deafening. There are days when no one calls, no one comes by, and I feel the loneliness intensely. The only thing that helps at those times is for me to go out, somewhere, anywhere...even to the super market. Or take a long walk, or as I did this morning, swim.

So, feeling especially downhearted, I needed the exercise in the water I knew would help my mind and body. I swam for half an hour and then did some exercises at the edge of the pool walking sideways at one point to the end of the pool. I was startled to see there a beautiful monarch butterfly, wings spread, and still. I lifted it out of the water and placed it gently down on the pool's edge. I watched for any movement. There was none. I picked it up carefully and carried it over to the table where my things were, dressed, and then took it home.

I placed the butterfly on the mantle of my fireplace, showered and dressed and went out to do some errands. A few hours later I came back and once my packages were undone I went to the mantle to look at the butterfly. It wasn't there. I looked down on the hearth and saw it, flapping one wing, desperately trying to fly. My heart broke to watch it. I picked it up and took it out to my porch. I placed it in the base of one of my large planters and went inside to google what butterflies eat. Sugar water. I mixed some but didn't know how butterflies eat so I put the butterfly on the edge of the dish. That didn't work. I lifted it up and took it over to my hibiscus plant which had many flowers. I held its little body inside thinking there might be some nectar in there for it to drink. Nothing. I called my veterinarian. They weren't used to calls like mine but did some research and told me it would die in a day or two and to put it under a plant outside and leave it alone.  Not for me. A friend called just then and when I told her about the butterfly she said her husband had some experience with them. She asked his advice and returned to tell me that he said it would die and to put it outside and let it go. Sorry, no.

I sat with the butterfly in my hands for a few hours, watching it trying desperately to fly, flapping and flapping until my heart was nearly broken. Here was this beautiful creature whose ordinary life span was incredibly short, struggling to live and do whatever butterflies want to do. I cried and cried over this sweet creature and thought about me and my depressive thoughts about the years ahead. And why wasn't I fighting like mad for my life, however short it may be? It's a good life. I still have things I want to do. I am lucky enough to have my health, family nearby and friends as well. I'm involved. I have music at my fingertips and stories to write about and things to teach others from my 80 year life experience.

While I sat there musing about the butterfly and me, I grabbed my phone and googled the meaning of a Monarch butterfly. It made me aware that I'd lost touch with the numinous aspects of my life and suddenly here was this beautiful creature in my life, breaking my heart with its delicacy and desire to live and I had to know why it came into my life and what its meaning could be. And here's what I read:

Monarch butterfly:

"The monarch butterfly teaches us that life is short, and that it must be valued. It is through recognizing the fleetingness of human existence that we come to value every day, even those which get us down or which are hard to appreciate. 

"Monarch butterfly asks you to consciously look at what you have gained that is valuable in each day, and even to write the things that you are grateful for down. If you are in a position where you can think of nothing to be grateful for, monarch butterfly is a guide willing to open your eyes to the beauty and gift of life once more. It is through this that monarch butterfly teaches us how to look for sweetness and light in our lives. 

"It's not about where you will be 'tomorrow' or in a year's time, it is about valuing where you are now"

And so it was that a Monarch butterfly came into my life at the very moment I needed its beauty and the lesson it offered me. It did finally stop fluttering and trying to fly and is now on my mantle with a little vase of flowers nearby so I can pass and see it and remind myself of the precious days I am living and not to waste any of them in sadness and worry. Lessons come in strange ways but they are no less lessons from above and beyond that make my heart glad and my resolve greater to value every single moment.

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