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There were caterpillars in the ferns, a perfectly natural occurrence. The only problem was that these ferns were inside my apartment. One stood in the entryway and the other on a warm wooden table.

Those plants were at my wedding. They welcomed me home after each work day. The green of the leaves instantly relaxing my body and mind. Those ferns were my forest preserve, a preserver of peace.

There shouldn’t have been caterpillars in the ferns in my apartment and yet the caterpillars were doing exactly what they should have been doing. Munching leaves Finding a comfortable stalk. Preparing for the transformation to come.

I freaked out. I held the big black garbage bag as Matthew wriggled the plants in, being ever so careful not to shake the caterpillars loose. Those disturbers of the peace,wrecking the ambience I’d carefully crafted and challenging my idea of what should be.

One caterpillar made an attempt at escape. His black body squirmed across our wood floors. I swept him up, along with the fallen leaves. The living room returned to its natural state. It was almost as it should’ve been, but I instantly missed the green.

I lay in bed recounting the caterpillar saga. Their still bodies on the leaves. The body inching forward on the floor. I was struck by my visceral reaction and my reflexive use of the word should.

The caterpillars inconvenienced me, but they were only doing what caterpillars do. I responded with swiftly to restore the equilibrium of what should be. There was no sense of wonder or curiosity.

I’d like to blame it on the ew factor. It was their wormlike bodies that caused me to shut it down. But it wasn’t. Somewhere along the way, I created precise definitions of what should and shouldn’t be. The definitions change with each life season, getting more restrictive or more free.

What never changes is my reaction when what “shouldn’t be” becomes what is. I course correct, often rashly, until my life as close as possible to how it was before. I am a human GPS, routing my way back to home base yet ignoring that the topography has changed. There is very little learning or appreciation for the new scenery.

Recalibrating back to should is exhausting. My life becomes a photogenic monochrome palette when what I really need is a pop of color. I’m chasing that color and chasing away the shoulds, one caterpillar at a time.

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