50 thoughts on turning 50: #3 The butterfly still flaps its wings

Butterfly in my backyard
When a butterfly slaps its wings in Brazil, there’s a tornado in Texas. Does that mean the butterfly shouldn’t fly?

I was having a conversation this week with a women who was telling me about her dream job. Not just a job, but a passion, the thing she’d like to do, in a perfect world, with no obstacles.

I won’t go into details, since I don’t think she expected to be the subject of a blog post. But in a nutshell, all of the pieces for what she wants to do are in place. Not just theory, in practice. She’s got things lined up and ready to go; all she has to do is pull the trigger and bam! She’s off and running.

And yet we talked for quite a long time about why she insists she can’t do it. For every obstacle she needs to consider, she already has a solution. Even if she only meets half of her goal, she’ll more than cover her costs and get to do something she really wants to do.

And yet there was something holding her back.

I was an outsider hearing the story for the first time, but I was struck by the similarity to some of my own dreams and plans, things I’ve thought about doing, wanted to do, and then didn’t do.

I had good reasons, just like this woman. At least, that’s what I thought. But when the layers were peeled back, the reality was that the only thing holding me back was me.

I’d say we don’t have the money, but every day people accomplish great things without money. I’d say I don’t have the time, but there’s always time for things we really want to do. I’d say I [insert excuse here] but in the end, all I had were excuses.

Because here’s the real reason I don’t do what I want to do: I don’t want to upset the apple cart.

The list of things I’ve wanted to do in life, things I didn’t do because someone else complained that it would make life difficult for them, is a mile long. Just thinking about them upsets me. But at the time even discussing the subject caused so much stress, so much arguing, that I just stopped even bringing the subject up, all the while going out of my way to sacrifice and adjust my life so other people got what they needed.

The more I talk to women, the more I realize that I’m not unusual.

We seem to have some innate programming that makes us think that we have to stand in one place and constantly adjust ourselves for everyone around us. We might want this, but everyone else wants that, and in order to keep the peace we do what everyone else wants.

So we don’t rock the boat, because if the boat gets rocked then it starts to sink, and we’re the ones who have to hand out the lifejackets and start bailing water, while everyone we’ve cared for panics and looks to us to make it all better.

No one wants to be responsible for causing other people discomfort or inconvenience. At least not the women I talk to.

And therein lies the problem.

I’m learning to give myself permission to do what’s best for me, and not feel guilty for the way it might affect other people. Yup, my decisions will affect my spouse, my family, friends. It might mean they have to do things for themselves they relied on me to do. They might have to figure out to solve their own problems. They might get frustrated or mad.

But guess what? They’ll get over it.

The Butterfly Effect posits that if a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil it triggers a tornado in Texas. In theory, even the smallest actions cause a ripple effect that can be felt around the world, that all of our actions have consequences that affect others.

And yet the butterfly continues to flap its wings.

Why? Because a butterfly was created to flap its wings. Imagine a butterfly rooted in one place. Perhaps (in theory) a tornado is averted. But the world is also denied all of the beauty that they butterfly has to offer. Plants don’t get pollinated. The butterfly would stay in one place for its entire short life and then die from starvation or from predators.

And so it flaps, fulfilling its purpose. There’s a lesson in that for all of us.

3 Replies to “50 thoughts on turning 50: #3 The butterfly still flaps its wings”

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