Transformation Soup

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dreams4smThis week I’ve been thinking about transformation. Transformation is hard, and even though we talk about it a lot this time of year in a positive way in reality we have a really odd relationship with it. We see it in our children, but it’s bittersweet: “he’s growing up so fast — pretty soon he’ll be gone.” We see it in others, and we get jealous. We see it in ourselves, but usually through the lens of “not enough.” What the heck is our problem?

Maybe we just don’t get it, or maybe it’s just a conflict with our basic animal homeostatic desire to keep things exactly the same as they are. Maybe the freaking butterfly has ruined it for us — it’s way too easy to spot an image of the final result and then hide ourselves away until we’re that thing, whether it’s an image of success, style, or body image. Our educational system is all about setting up a straw dog of perfection and then expecting our kids to work towards an ideal that probably isn’t even a viable form of humanity. It’s all about perfection, being smart enough, thin enough, social enough. And it never ends. We think if we can control things, we can guarantee the results we want.

But transformation, really, isn’t about control. You can’t even control your own journey, never mind someone else’s. It’s really hard to grasp that. You can’t even control a little tiny bit of it. People sort of get that, except that you’re somehow supposed to LOOK like you have control of things, especially your kids. Like it’s a chemical reaction and you’re wearing your white coat. Want your kids to be responsible? Make chore charts. Want them to appreciate music? Make them play an instrument.

I gave up on the chore chart a while back, after working with the thought “my children should help around the house.” (BITCHSLAP, if you’ve read that post.) Damn that Byron Katie. She should come wash my dishes. But really, let’s be honest. I want someone to wash the dishes? I just ask them. I say please. Not because they should, but the only real truth there is “I’d like you to wash the dishes.” Lest this seem beatific, I will occasionally say “I will go FUCKING POSTAL if you don’t help me out RIGHT NOW,” but that’s just honest.

Forget wings. I would love to transform into someone with perpetually clean dishes. Though, frankly, if I had to come up with a superpower it would likely be something way more amusing, like the ability to levitate cheese or make people fart (and yes, superpowers would be wasted on me, I know that).

Doing this with myself is somewhat harder, because at any particular moment in my journey the truth is not necessarily ideal or convenient. Right now, I don’t want to work out, and I don’t want to do the dishes. The dog wants me to bring her out to pee and my son wants me to order him something or other on Amazon.┬áBeing in the present and trying to get a sense of what it would feel like to be that butterfly is difficult, because it’s totally, absolutely impossible. We don’t get to do that, and certainly caterpillars don’t get to do that. They turn into total self-digesting soup when they’re in their cocoons, probably thinking something along the line of “HOLY FUCKING SHIT, I’M GOING TO DIIIIIEEEEEEEE.”

Martha Beck’s perspective on transformation is that the first step is saying to yourself “it’s chaos, but that’s ok.” Yeah, I guess. Sometimes you need to just roll yourself in a blanket and wait it out. But really, coded in that once-and-future glop is everything you need to be your perfect self — whatever that is. Trying to control the future is hopeless. Eventually, the cocoons hatch, the grass grows, and you stretch inside your blanket. Maybe the boy will even do the dishes.