Brookings register | Butterfly Effect

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My daughter recently brought home a monarch caterpillar. We cared for him in a container making sure he had a supply of fresh milkweed leaves and kept his cage clean. He seemed perfectly happy to nibble on leaves all day. After a few days, it was hanging upside down from the cage cover, and we waited for it to form a chrysalis, and eventually turn into a butterfly.

We used our cell phone’s time-lapse video capability to capture the transformation. Watching the video, the change looks easy, quick and effortless. There does not appear to be any major strain or pain for the caterpillar. However, after researching the subject, we have come to appreciate the important process that the caterpillar undergoes which is not apparent to the naked eye of the beholder.

Unless we take the time to learn more about the butterfly makeover, we may tend to downplay it as a straightforward process. Literally everything about the caterpillar changes. His old body is completely decomposed for the new one to form. Enzymes are released to break down the caterpillar’s skin, and hormones allow new parts of the body to form. To the viewer, it seems easy; with the caterpillar, it is a monumental task.

It made me think about how difficult change is for people and how important it is for us to support each other when we try to make it. Many changes in life are painful and complicated, especially those we make to improve our health or physical, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

Breaking old habits and creating new, healthier behaviors involves transformation. It requires us to learn new ways of thinking and practice positive self-talk, which can be uncomfortable and challenging work at times. Stopping smoking, taking a daily walk, choosing a variety of healthier foods, and avoiding junk food are changes that have long-term benefits. The work may not seem worth the effort in the short term. You may want to give up, especially when others don’t seem to notice your struggles or understand how you are feeling inside. You may miss the way things were before you embarked on your journey.

Watch the butterfly for encouragement to continue your transformation. Change may seem like a struggle, but when your wings emerge and you take flight with your healthier habits, change will be its own reward.

Jill Kruse, DO, is part of The Prairie Doc’s team of physicians and currently practices family medicine at Brookings. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc Library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc on Facebook with On Call with the Prairie Doc, a medical question-and-answer show streamed on Facebook and broadcast on SDPB most Thursdays at 7 p.m.

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