The Butterfly

“How does one become a butterfly?’ she asked pensively.

‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.’

‘You mean to die?’ asked Yellow, remembering the three who fell out of the sky.

‘Yes and No,’ he answered. ‘What looks like you will die, but what’s really you will still live.”
Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

Last year on Friday 13th September, coincidentally 21 months after my mum died, I was approached by one of my readers for the first time since I launched the blog on August 22, 2018.

I had gone to Yaya Centre to have lunch and run some errands, and one of those errands was fixing the zipper of one of my thigh high boots that broke off one lazy Sunday afternoon as I was cleaning them. In an effort to fix it myself, I decided to superglue the pull tab (see diagram below) back to the slider.

Anatomy of a Zipper

In what will come as a surprise to only me, it did not work at all!! I ended up with superglue on the teeth and the zipper got stuck and could not move at all!

Facepalm

And I do not know why but I never learn my lesson with superglue. Eight or nine years ago I dropped my Huawei Ideos (remember when they were all the rage) and it kinda broke apart so I decided to fix it by superglue-ing it together.

Kanye

Instead I ended up making things so much worse that both the speaker and mouthpiece stopped working and the phone was no longer able to vibrate. Lol. When I took it for repair the gentleman at the shop was so appalled mpaka I had to lie that it was my niece who in trying to fix it inadvertently made things worse. Lol. At Yaya I also blamed the superglue on an imaginary niece (lol) but I have since learnt my lesson and never again will I try fix shit with superglue.

But, I digress.

I have met a couple of my readers since that Friday, but no matter where this blogging journey takes me I will never forget Mbaire as she is … well, my first.

Tihihi

As I went about the rest of my day following my interaction with Mbaire, one question kept replaying in my mind over and over again: am I an extrovert again?

I am very deliberate with the choice of word ‘again’ because before 2014 I definitely identified as an extrovert. Carl Jung described an introvert as someone who has to be alone to re-energize while an extrovert is energized by being around people. I liked loved being around people, whether we were out partying or in a more muted setting bantering. I was a shitload of fun back then, until my mum’s health took a toll for the worse in 2014 and 2015 and I retreated deep into myself. I will explore this further in two separate JS Kicking Cancer’s Ass themes tentatively titled ‘The Hospital Admissions’ and ‘The Caregiver’, but for today just know that my metamorphosis began in 2012 when my mum was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.

As with the butterfly, adversity is necessary to build character in people.
Joseph B. Wirthlin

In 2014 I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was concerned about how much I had morphed from being the life of the party to being the saddest girl he knew. I explained to him that things were sooo hard for me at home and, as the firstborn, I was not sure I had it in me to rise up and meet the sky-high expectations life had handed to me. But I had to try because my mum was my everything and she needed me. So I worked hard at becoming a new person. A stronger, tougher, more serious person who would ease my mum’s pain and suffering by giving her all the support I could to the best of my ability. I realised that my best was not good enough anymore and I would have to get rid of all the things that were holding me back from becoming the superwoman my mum needed. The partying was the first to go and I lost a lot of friends as a result, which saddened me but it is in our most difficult times that we realise what is real. Who is real.

After that interaction with Mbaire, I had a conversation with my good friend Mumo that evening and told him that 2019 would go down as not only the best year of my life, but also the year I finally came out of my cocoon. In my Karibu 2019 post on January 1st last year I wrote:

In conclusion, today I changed both my WhatsApp and Instagram profile pictures and statuses. They were previously about my mum but now feels like the right time to make the change. It makes me think of a grieving widow(er) taking off their wedding ring. I imagine that even as they do so they are still grieving, but taking off their ring is a symbol that one is ready to begin moving on with their life. That is what changing my pics and statuses symbolises for me. My grief may always be a part of me but that does not mean it will always define me.

My mum being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer on Friday June 15, 2012 is what I consider the egg stage of my metamorphosis. Sweardown hearing someone you love being told that they have five years to live is something that changes you irrevocably. The anticipatory grief I grappled with between 2014 and 2015 can be considered the larva stage, and as my mum fought and subsequently lost her battle with cancer, I moved painfully between the larva and pupa stages. Because even though 2014 and 2015 were hell on earth, at least my mum was still alive, unlike 2018 when I had to learn to live in a world where the love of my life no longer exists. To date that remains the hardest thing I have ever had to do. My metamorphosis may have begun one sunny Friday afternoon in 2012 but it culminated in 2018 when, similar to the pupa stage, I was in a tightly bound cocoon. Of grief.

And then on the first day of 2019, when I least expected it, I sprang forth from that tightly bound cocoon of grief just like a butterfly. I will forever remember 2019 as my “year of yes” because I deliberately chose to open myself up to experiences I had shunned away from before. I was no longer uncomfortable having random conversations with people I do not know. If anything, I was down to make new friends. I partied hard with new and old friends alike and had the best time while at it. If there was a comment I got often last year, both from people who know me and from those who only know of me, was that my energy was infectious.

But if I became a butterfly in 2019, 2020 has me feeling like its dull, ugly, uninspiring counterpart the moth. This year is quite rough on all of us because of the pandemic, and I am aware of that and trying to give myself some grace. But one thing I always say is, allow yourself to feel what you are really feeling, and what I am feeling of late is like a dull, ugly, uninspiring moth.

Last year by this time I had:

    1. Gone to Cape Town for a week with my sister, cousin and friend for the Ed Sheeran concert
    2. Joined a gym for the first time in my life and the amount of weight I lost in three months was nothing short of remarkable
    3. Been promoted to Media Director
    4. Won a flash fiction writing competition and had my story published in Yummy Magazine
    5. Participated in the first panel of the PursePective Podcast with Scheaffer Okore, Mariga Thoithi, Marcus Olang and Adelle Onyango

On the contrary I cannot list a single major accomplishment I have had this year 😐 I understand we are living in disrupted times and all that, but I still feel how I feel. Like a dull, ugly, uninspiring moth. And one thing that is really suffering as a result is my writing. I say all the time that my blog is my passion and my purpose, but over the last few months writing has really felt like a chore. I continue to put up a blog post every week though because I committed to doing so and I take commitments very seriously.

While we are here, let me explain last week’s weak post because I will be the first to confess that it was far from my best. In fact, if we are being honest, it was some lacklustre shit. Lol. But as mentioned I have not been feeling like writing so I put off doing so until the last minute. And then I suffered a personal setback on Tuesday that left me unable to do anything. Usually, no matter what I am going through, I always manage to put up a post every Wednesday. But that Tuesday, on the final day of the first half of the year, I was so overwhelmed by what I was going through that I was unable to do anything that day, both personally and professionally. So by the time I was going to bed I decided that for the first time since I launched the blog almost two years ago, I was not going to put up a post because I had written jack shit. But then I woke up and remembered the bad bitch I am so I hurriedly slapped something together and when I got to 420 words I went ahead and uploaded the post. So yeah, the post was LITERALLY better than nothing.

Oh well

After I put up JS Kicking Cancer’s Ass Theme 2 of 13: The Nurse Aides, a friend of mine texted to let me know that she read the post and several others the previous night. She remarked that I had been to hell and back and was amazed that I was still standing despite it all. I told her that I have therapy to thank for that, and while I am still a WIP, I am incredibly proud of how far I have come. She then went on to comment that I sound happy and let me know she was proud of me. This interaction was especially significant to me because the morning after we found out my mum was heading towards paralysis and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it, I had a breakdown at work. The CEO was kind enough to excuse me for the day and I met up with my friend for lunch as I really needed a shoulder to cry on. So for her to recognise my happiness almost six years later meant a great deal to me because she has seen me, and was there for me, at my worst.

representation
is vital
otherwise the butterfly
surrounded by a group of moths
unable to see itself
will keep trying to become the moth
– representation
Rupi Kaur, The Sun and Her Flowers

This post was originally meant to go up last year on Christmas Day, but the holidays are a terrible time for me because my mum died on December 13, 2017 at 1:10 a.m. So by the time Christmas was rolling around the butterfly I had become felt non-existent and instead I put up How Can The World Be This Vulgar?

That being said, I maintained the title of the post as ‘The Butterfly’ and did not change it to ‘The Butterfly vs. The Moth’ or something along those lines, because I am choosing to focus on how far I have come rather than the mini slump I am in now. As my therapist says, recovery is an everyday process. There will be days that I relapse but that does not mean that I have failed in my journey to healing. It just means that recovery, similar to grief, is not a linear process. I have worked very hard to let the light in and become the woman I am today and I will be damned if I let anyone or anything take that away from me. So while I may be feeling like a dull, ugly, uninspiring moth of late, I know the brilliant, beautiful, magical butterfly in me still lives, patiently waiting for the day she will take flight again.

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