On Cocoons, Butterflies, and Hope for Humanity

As COVID-19 takes the world by storm, all that we have known is changing faster than anyone can comprehend. In the years since the events of September 11, we have used that date to mark a pivotal moment in history.  I think soon we will be referring to life before and after the Coronavirus.  Today the world is engulfed in different stages of realization and grief about the losses, big and small, that we are experiencing as a result of the virus.

The daily barrage of facts, numbers, data-analyses, and recommendations that form our new reality is simultaneously terrifying and overwhelming.

I see this as the beginning of a transformational-journey as well as a grieving-process that we are navigating, both collectively and individually. I believe how we manage the journey is going to shape our world in the future. 

In my heart, I feel that I am being called to walk through this in acceptance, not in panic, mindful of each step along the way.  I know for sure at the end of this ‘shelter-in-place’ order, that I will not be the same person I am today.  I am open to this possibility of life-altering change, but also cautious, because I anticipate challenges to my core belief system.  I think it will also be an awakening for me; heightening my awareness of how the world’s priorities have reformed and molded my once firm perceptions about what is most important.

I can visualize the ripple effect this pandemic is causing now and will continue to have on our daily lives. Even still, I am compelled to try to make sense of the chaos with a positive perspective.

My thoughts on this virus appear to me in concentric circles of perspectives; from the center with my own experience, spanning out to my family’s, my community’s, my nation’s and ultimately, to our world’s experience as a collective humanity.  I can visualize the ripple effect this pandemic is causing now and will continue to have on our daily lives. Even still, I am compelled to try to make sense of the chaos with a positive perspective.  I was taught as a child by example, to ‘be strong and carry on’ when things got tough.  As a result, I try ferociously to not allow myself time in “woulda, coulda, shoulda land” as I like to call it.

On one level, this is the mindset that drives very productive behavior, which speaks to my nature as a doer, a fixer and a survivor.  Yet, on a deeper level, that mindset is also what has allowed me to evolve to a place that I am not sure I intended to go.  Is my current course a result of my true nature or is it the nurturing of the people, the times and the world in which I grew?  I wonder, do we feed ourselves with experiences, thoughts, and people that fill us with joy and add to our humanity? Or do we accept and welcome in that which the world says is most valuable for us?

In these days that we are cloistered away from what was, I contemplate the seeds of possibility that are being sown throughout our world.

As a collective, are we awakening to the rare opportunity that this pandemic is providing for us?  The chance to step back and look at the landscape of our lives?  To take a beat, a breath, to be still and to consider our place in the world?  To re-evaluate the trajectory of our own lives?  To explore whether we are conscious of the choices we are making?

Beyond taking time to do the things that have ended up on my ever-growing To-Do list, a deeper question is nagging at me.  Can we truly SEE the possibilities we have before us as a Human community?  A story about my younger brother and his insights in the face of great personal challenge may offer insight that gives hope as we face this pandemic.

My younger brother, Sean Christian Fitzgerald, was born with Duchenne, Muscular Dystrophy.  I was 8 years old and he was 3 years old, when my parents got his heartbreaking prognosis.  He would never run, and although his mind was perfectly brilliant, his body would begin to fail him, eventually, he would be wheelchair-bound, and ultimately, he would succumb to the disease at 18 years of age.  In that day of deafening bad news, the single message my mother heard loud and clear, which she made her mission and used as her coping mechanism, was to keep Sean walking as long as possible to ensure that he had the highest quality of life for the longest time possible.

In the spring semester of second grade, Sean came home from school one day and told my mother, “Mom, it’s too hard for me to walk anymore.  I trip on my own feet because I can’t lift my legs high enough anymore to move forward without falling.  Mom, I just fall too many times every day.  The kids at school won’t play with me, because I can’t keep up. When I try, I fall and then I am stranded, because I can’t get myself up anymore.”  My mother, with tears streaming down her face, realized in that very moment that she could no longer keep this horrible disease from taking Sean’s quality of life.  My brother put his arm out and held her hand, looked up and said,

It’s ok, mom.  When I walk, I’m like a caterpillar, too slow.  I know this wheelchair is going to feel like a cocoon, but someday, I know I’m going to be a butterfly.

Is this the time of our cocoon as humans?  Certainly, this virus is not our choice, nor was Duchenne my brother’s choice.  But I believe we have the power within each of us to decide to use this time in our cocoons to the fullest and to emerge with new life, a new way and the ability to proliferate a new consciousness within our world.

What do you think?  Will we use this cocoon to be reborn as a people who place value on our common humanity?  Can we look at the landscape of our lives and choose to lift each other for the good of our world?

Catherine Fitzgerald
Catherine Fitzgeraldhttps://www.catapultleadershipgroup.com/
Catherine Fitzgerald is an experienced executive, natural leader, business coach, speaker, and writer. She is the founder of Catapult Leadership Group and certified with The Great Game Of Business®. Catherine has over 35 years’ experience as a strong professional with a proven track record in developing people, performance, and profits. She’s held many titles, be it as Regional Sales Manager, Vice President, Executive Director or CEO, in various industries from banking to health insurance and from choral music to feeding the hungry. Catherine is passionate about helping people which has been the common thread throughout her career. She understands that it is the people who make the difference, whether it is in the for-profit or the non-profit sectors. Catherine’s focus is on building strong businesses by helping employers to engage and align their employees through financial literacy training which is the cornerstone of open-book management. When employees know how to WIN at work and they are provided a stake in the outcome, they learn how to improve the financial scoreboard for the company. The result is that employees are empowered to think, act and feel like owners, which creates a financially secure company with an incredible culture. Catherine fell in love with the written word in high school and has always enjoyed the process of writing. She went on to UCLA and changed majors after her first year, graduating with a degree in English. She has always considered herself a writer and is enjoying the freedom to explore writing within her passion rather than as an assignment. Catherine is a board member for a local non-profit, an enthusiastic fan of live theater and loves to gather family & friends for a delicious homecooked meal but she is most proud of being the mom of three accomplished, amazing young men.

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  1. I’m the late one to the party. Ditto on many comments here, Catherine.
    Really nice share. We just don’t know until we walk down and through this tunnel what we will learn from this, but for sure, we are learning much! Just as your family and dear brother learned to cope with something you didn’t ask for.
    thank you and blessings to you and your family.

    • Laurie Hill, I am so glad this article resonated with you. You are so right we all have things in our lives that we did not choose and having the strength and courage to accept them and continue with an open heart and hope is so very important. Blessings to you and yours too!

  2. Oh Catherine. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing your brother’s story of strength and wisdom. I really resonated with your quest to “walk through this in acceptance” – and thinking of it as cocooning is incredibly powerful. Welcome to the Biz Cat family. I so look forward to reading more of your work!

    • Kimberly, thank you so very much for your note. I really can say this came straight from my heart. It is my first published piece so it has been an exciting experience. I will hope to write another soon, but as I am sure you know, inspiration is key. :-)) I am personally working very hard to practice acceptance in my life so this quarantine has been a great opportunity to put it in practice. I’m reading Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance and it has been a great way to dig deeper into why resisting is counterproductive in our lives and acceptance is a way to move through life without all the struggle. It has helped me greatly. Thank you so much for your encouragement.

  3. I love this piece Catherine. Thank you for sharing it. Some days I feel like I am taking things too well. Other days, I see my anxiety begin to take over for longer and longer periods of time.

    • JoAnna, I hear you. Thank you for sharing. These are challenging times as we are isolated from the world, at times it can feel off in the distance, surreal and then it is front and center because we are touched by a news story or a post from someone who’s family is in the fight of their lives against this virus. The anxiety goes way up when there is no clear path of action that we can take to heal the world, except continuing to self isolate. Truly, we can only heal ourselves, care for ourselves and those we are sheltering in place with. For me, the toughest part is that I cannot ensure the safety of my older sons who live away from me and are in cities with a much higher incidence of the virus. Prayer becomes my only option.
      I am so glad my piece resonated with you and brought you comfort. If ever you would like someone to listen or to share with, please reach out.
      With every good wish for you and those you love.

  4. Ah, the world is a more beautiful place of possibility with your words spoken…your story is deeply touching and a beautiful invitation to allow this world-cocoon to honoring our common humanity more openheartedly. Thank you.

    • Vicki, your comment humbles me. I am so very grateful to have had the invitation from Dennis and the inspiration of my brother’s life and courage to spur me on. Not to mention the kindness you showed in helping me through the process. I will ever forget this experience and will pay it forward if ever I have the opportunity.

  5. Oh, Catherine, thank you so much for this offering of hope and invitation to envision a new world in which we care about one another and the interconnected web of life. I definitely believe we are in a metamorphosis-that many people shifting to the liquid state that the caterpillar becomes before transforming into a butterfly. May we use the time wisely from the inside out.

  6. Welcome Catherine to our family. So much has been written about what life is today. It is a blessing each day you have your health. There is no shortage of time these days to take a look at our lives. Will things go back to where they were before the outbreak is a question many people are asking. Right now we need to love each other as much as possible and connect with others as much as possible. 09/11 taco
    taught us about what happens when people are driven by hatred. Once life returned slowly back to.normalcy many people went back to being less than stellar people all but forgetting about what we learned. Perhaps that may be the case again. Please stay safe and well.

    • Thank you for your gracious and welcoming note, Joel. I am truly excited to have found Bizcatalyst 360. It has already lived up to its name! I would not have thought to write this article were it not for Dennis’ invitation. So grateful for the experience and the warm and generous group he has introduced me to through this experience. I am an eternal optimist and a believer in the resilience of the human spirit so I am praying the world pays close attention to this trial and learns well that we are in this together and history tells us that we are always better together than at war with one another. :-)

    • Larry. Thank you for your kind comments. I am very happy my story resonated with you. And since this is my first article ever, I cherish the “strong ink” comment most! :)) I will hold on to that going forward.

  7. Just lovely Catherine! Thank you! As someone who grew up with and continues to be surrounded by those who are disabled, I appreciate all that we have available and will continue to acclimate when this unpredictable crisis subsides. Welcome again!💖

  8. Catherine – I agree – the events of today will change us all – the question will be how.

    Welcome to the BC360 family. The engagement is respectful, the people are encouraging, and new friends are just around the corner. Enjoy this wonderful community because I have found nothing like it anywhere else.

  9. Catherine, what a poignant and beautiful article in this time of uncertainty. The wisdom of your brother is a message to all of us to know that at any time we can decide to evolve and transform into a butterfly. What you have presented here could not have been said any better, I would like to think we all come through to the other side changed in profound ways that alters the path we travel bringing the world closer to unity and peace. Blessings…Eileen

    • That is high praise, Eileen. Thank you! My hope was to honor my brother’s quietly courageous and accepting nature, drawing attention to the fact that he could see his inevitable butterfly after 18 years of confinement. I believe that humanity could gain greatly from a quietly courageous and accepting perspective today.
      I’m sure Sean is very pleased to have sparked dialogue at this time.

  10. Catharine, this is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for this beautiful perspective. We all have somewhere we are meant to be. As we accept the fact this is so.. we can trust the process and believe the light is all around us. What seems like foreboding circumstances sometimes is the needed incubation for soul, heart and mind to align.
    When all is ready, we proceed and evolve magnificently.
    This time is Mother Nature’s way of waving her parental hand….. saying “ go to your room, come out when your ready”. We are being disciplined as her children. We can think or feel self pity, we are forced to spend this time alone….and reflect… what do we do when sent to our rooms? And do we all learn from this? The room is our cocoon. The encounter in this cocoon as you so beautifully say…
    On a larger scale to me this is time for humanity to seize the moment where in actually there really is an introduction of peace and harmony… we need to enter our rooms and self discipline… We obviously were not doing this…mama Nature has her ways. I’m musing in these thoughts… and thank you for this wonderful reflection!
    I really appreciate these thoughts🙏
    Paula

  11. In these days of forced enclosure (in Italy there are many) I have written a lot and whoever wants can find my points of view on the subject in BZC 360 ° and LinkedIn.
    I don’t have your narrative and descriptive abilities, but I tried, because those who have the desire and inclination, in situations like these, can reflect on many human conditions.
    We have seen, the devastating wounds caused in many ways by the Coronavirus, the suffering of families, the anguish of children, the loneliness of many elderly people and also the absolute and moving dedication of those who are on the front lines as doctors, nurses, operators healthcare, military, etc. and he works strenuously, up to, in many cases, the gift of life. The commitment of those who carry out scientific research or the exemplary generosity of many volunteers. The awareness of those who, in the institutional sphere, make important decisions for their country. The sacrifices of the right to freedom and work of many who have shown a sense of responsibility by respecting the indications of the authorities. The risks of those who, having to ensure essential services, were present at work with courage and self-sacrifice. The solidarity spirit of many. I could go on because there are many signs of a humanity that seemed dispersed.
    Will we be better later? After the dark tunnel of this pandemic, will we all see the light, a new light, which we did not know before, as the blind man born of the Gospel did not know it? Do we believe that we will be reborn as new people and as new humanity? How ‘essential’ these days are teaching us! How many gestures of solidarity seem, in the dark, shy lights of an aurora that presages this rebirth. Will this explosion of humanity be the lesson we needed to build a better world? Have we understood, as I have already written elsewhere, that the useful things to produce, to do, are not only those which produce profit but those which serve for the well-being of the community?
    I don’t have the answer but I can nourish the hope of the new generations who have experienced such a devastating experience for the first time.
    Frankly I have many perplexities !!

  12. In these days of forced enclosure (in Italy there are many) I have written a lot and whoever wants can find my points of view on the subject in BZC 360 ° and LinkedIn.
    I don’t have your narrative and descriptive abilities, but I tried, because those who have the desire and inclination, in situations like these, can reflect on many human conditions.
    We have seen, the devastating wounds caused in many ways by the Coronavirus, the suffering of families, the anguish of children, the loneliness of many elderly people and also the absolute and moving dedication of those who are on the front lines as doctors, nurses, operators healthcare, military, etc. and he works strenuously, up to, in many cases, the gift of life. The commitment of those who carry out scientific research or the exemplary generosity of many volunteers. The awareness of those who, in the institutional sphere, make important decisions for their country. The sacrifices of the right to freedom and work of many who have shown a sense of responsibility by respecting the indications of the authorities. The risks of those who, having to ensure essential services, were present at work with courage and self-sacrifice. The solidarity spirit of many. I could go on because there are many signs of a humanity that seemed dispersed.
    Will we be better later? After the dark tunnel of this pandemic, will we all see the light, a new light, which we did not know before, as the blind man born of the Gospel did not know it? Do we believe that we will be reborn as new people and as new humanity? How ‘essential’ these days are teaching us! How many gestures of solidarity seem, in the dark, shy lights of an aurora that presages this rebirth. Will this explosion of humanity be the lesson we needed to build a better world? Have we understood, as I have already written elsewhere, that the useful things to produce, to do, are not only those which produce profit but those which serve for the well-being of the community?
    I don’t have the answer but I can nourish the hope of the new generations who have experienced such a devastating experience for the first time.
    Frankly I have many perplexities !!

  13. This piece is beautiful, Catherine. Thank you for writing it and for sharing your thoughts with us. I have to admit that I am catching up on my BC360 reading today because I’ve checked out, so to speak for the last couple of weeks. I needed some time to process and recalibrate. As terrible as this crisis is, I believe that there are silver linings, and I seek them each day. It helps me navigate the uncertainty.

    What struck me the most about your piece, however, is the caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly references. I had a virtual wine date with a dear friend the other evening, and she used these same references when talking about me and my current situation. I had been a caterpillar in a previous job, then took a huge leap and started a new career – and was my cocoon, and now, the butterfly is waiting to emerge.

    Thank you for this poignant story, Catherine. It’s a lovely way to welcome the day.

  14. Wow, wow, wow. One of the most beautiful pieces I have read all week and I say that as this platform has amazing pieces every day, but this really is stunning Catherine, thank you for sharing.

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