Tag Archives: overcoming failures

Butterflies Are Resilient Creatures

The following was written just after a fight I had with my husband. We’ve been married 16 years and have gone through all manner of both terrible and wonderful moments in time. All couples have fights, and anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that you don’t always fight fair, nor do the angry thoughts you have at the moment necessarily represent how you feel in general. The following was how I felt at such a moment.

When I first published this post, I hurt a lot of feelings, so I took it down. It hurt me to do so because it was an honest representation of how I felt, but at the same time, it is not my goal to hurt anyone with this blog, but rather help. And sometimes being nourished by joy involves sorting through difficult feelings and emotions felt in the moment, so that they don’t take hold long term. Therefore, I hope you take from this story that it was just a portrait of a moment in time and not representative of the long term.

As I passed through the front door of my work building and into the sunlight-drenched afternoon air, I quickly looked down at the ground and slipped on my sunglasses. No use having anyone ask me what’s wrong, I thought.

I shuffled down the block towards the stoplight, my mind cluttered with the debris left by the argument we’d just had. I felt lost. No, not lost exactly, just perplexed and unsteady. Confused and hurt. The rock in the pit of my stomach was back. I hated that feeling. It felt clumsy and out of place inside me.

I let the anger rise and swell in my gut. The rock in my stomach was the last thing I wanted to have to deal with. I wanted to just skip over the immediate aftermath of hurt and frustration and back to the part where I realized I was okay again.

My thoughts drifted around through the film reels in my head that kept playing back pieces of the fight. I felt my fists ball up as the tears began to sting my eyes. It’s just not fair I whispered under my breath. He knew exactly how to push my buttons. Exactly what to say to pull me into the cloud that had settled over his mind.

I knew that for him, it would be a relatively short amount of time. Then he would inevitably move out of that looming grayness without warning, leaving me stuck in a murky fog of disillusionment and perplexity. For me, it wasn’t as easy to move out from the fog, once I had given myself over to it. I tended to brood in it until I was good and ready to come out, lashing at anyone who would dare try to pull me away.

As I sifted through that dense fog that had crept over my mind I felt the rock in my stomach swell up towards my chest, and I let out a cough, trying to clear it. I knew I needed to eat something, but I was too full from that damned rock.

I approached the bustling intersection and listlessly jabbed my index finger into the crosswalk button. It didn’t beep. I rolled my eyes and jabbed at it again. This time it beeped. I sighed as his voice ran through my head, reminding me how dirty crosswalk buttons were and, “How could you just touch them like that? Do you let the girls touch buttons like that? What else do you let the girls do when I’m not home? What are you getting away with now? What’s really going on, Christin Joy?”

I shook the voice out of my head and wiped my eyes. My conscience had been replaced long ago by this voice of judgment and accusation, and I wondered how much of it was actually him talking, and how much of it was my own projection of how I felt about him, and, more importantly how I felt about myself.

I had made mistakes in the past. Terrible, unforgivable mistakes. And yet here we were, 6 years later. Still together, and still fighting the same fights. The cycle was so perpetual that it made me want to scream out loud, except that I never could. In the moment, I always felt paralyzed. I wondered if he did, too.

As I waited for the light to turn, I noticed a little white butterfly fluttering across the intersection. It flew in a zigzag pattern, hovering about ten feet over the asphalt as it made its way across the street and towards the tree line on the opposite side. I gazed at it, watching its every movement closely. It was a welcome flood of relief for my aching brain to watch this pure, unhindered little creature as it made its noble trek in front of me.

I noticed the milky white color if its wings and its carefree movements, and I felt a little pang of jealousy creep into my chest. I wasn’t jealous of the freedom or the journey, just of the pureness and simplicity it had. The glow it seemed to cast on the world around it as it moved. There was no cloud hanging over it. No voice trying to creep in and tell it that it was doing everything wrong.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud whoosh and I watched in horror as a delivery truck came barreling through the intersection, smacking the little white butterfly against its windshield as it drove through, oblivious to the damage it had just caused.

For one terrible moment, my heart stopped. I sucked in my breath, my arms stuck at my sides, unable to move. I felt the rock in my stomach turn over as my brain attempted to process what my eyes had just witnessed. I prepared myself to see the little white butterfly drop to the ground.

But then I saw it. The little white butterfly, though perplexed and confused, was still fluttering around. I let out a huge sigh of relief, and watch as the poor creature swung itself around, getting its bearings. It then drifted upward towards the sky and continued its journey safely into the line of trees on the other side.

It had survived. It had been knocked off course unexpectedly, but had shaken it off and moved onward. My relief was replaced quickly by anger towards the truck. Who did it think it was, barreling over a poor butterfly like that? But then I realized that the truck driver hadn’t done it on purpose, obviously. It had no idea the butterfly was even there. He was just doing what truck drivers do, driving forward, staying the course that had been set for him.

And so had the butterfly. I had seen it as pure and fragile. I had seen it as this delicate and very breakable, defenseless creature drifting through its short life on this planet. But then I remembered, of course, that butterflies are resilient too.

Butterflies were only free and beautifully delicate because they had first survived an incredible transformation. Each and every one had been completely changed and renewed from the lives they had known before. They had been born again to a new life and given a second chance.

I breathed in and out deeply as the light turned green, signaling it was okay for me to cross the street. I felt the rock shrink back just a bit, and the fog in my head start to clear. I am resilient too. And I also have been given a second chance.

Is It A Pink Panther?

“Is it a pink panther?”


“A cat?”

“No. Think less obvious.”

Pauses. “How about a pink dog?”

“No, it’s a pig.”

“Really? A pig?”

“Yup. A really skinny one, I guess…”

“Oh! Um, okay then.”

And that’s pretty much how the conversation goes with anyone who asks about the watercolor portrait of the unfortunate looking pink creature displayed proudly against a background of grass-covered hills and a speckling of random flowers. It is currently sitting up in my bedroom. I am trying to convince my Honay it belongs on the wall in there, proudly displayed, despite how spectacular a failure it is.

The truth is, it used to bother me how awful it was. I have grandparents on BOTH sides of the family that either were or are great artists, actually. So art ability should be running in my blood. In me, however, the artistry gene came out of more of a musical medium in general, (dance, singing) rather than a paintbrush and blank canvas.

The infamous ‘Skinny Pig’, watercolor on paper portrait was created at the end of the day at an art class my mom brought me to when I was about 7 years old. I recall the teacher told us to find a quiet spot on our own, imagine something in our heads, and then express it in watercolor form. I remember crawling under a desk in the corner of the room, shutting my eyes tight. I was taking the whole thing very seriously. I didn’t want to just draw the cartoon-looking concentric circle version of a pig my mom drew. I was trying to be a very serious “Arteest.” What resulted for me was an epic failure to depict a real-life pig from memory. My poor 7-year-old brain just couldn’t grasp the proper imagery necessary to create such a masterpiece.

For years, the unfortunate pig was taped to the wall behind my dad’s desk. I really don’t know why or how it survived. I think my mom thought it was cute how I’d tried. It also made for a great conversation starter. In the years that followed, I was able to hone my art skills enough to win ribbons for my art at the local County Fair, yet none of those items made it to the wall. The pig stood alone, mocking me with its beady little black eyes, reminding me of my artistic shortcomings.

When my parents moved to Japan, the ‘Skinny Pig’ moved to my Grandma’s house. There is stayed until she passed away last year. I found it in her bedroom closet, taped to a silver frame with white matting. I took it home with me, even though I didn’t really know why I was saving something so silly.

Yesterday, my Honay and I decided it was finally time to hang up the artwork in our townhouse. I took on the task of separating the artwork into different collections by room. I pulled out a beautiful scattering of oil and mixed media paintings my grandfather had done over the years, as well as the ones my grandmother had done. Beautiful examples of artwork that were well deserving of a place on our walls.

Then I came across a familiar silver frame with white matting and grimaced a little as the unfortunate pink pig came into my view. It was so pathetic looking with its long tail and nonexistent nose. My Honay teased me about how awful it was. My daughter joined the ranks of those who had come before her, trying to figure out what the heck it was. (She guessed a lion.)

But then I thought back to how many other artistic things I had accomplished over the years after the ‘Skinny Pig.’ I was able t boast countless other drawings, dance recitals, ballets, hip-hop shows, and choir and band performances. I had successes and failures, but I kept on trying regardless. I have a beautiful collection of memories of all the hard work and performance opportunities I have pursued so far.

The important thing is that I didn’t let the shame of an anorexic pig stop me from moving forward and pursuing my dreams. I want the picture on my bedroom wall to remind me AND my daughters that in order to accomplish your dreams you’re going to have to move past your failures and learn from them, no matter what the medium. No matter what anyone says about your skills (or perhaps lack thereof). You have to start somewhere and just keep moving forward.