I think it all began when I went to look for wedding dresses.
I was 22 years old, a graduate in a shiny new job and starting out life living in a different part of the country from where I grew up.
There was a great deal of change whirling around in my life, as well as personal challenges with health and stuff too.
I went to Pronuptia in Huddersfield with my then soon-to-be sister-in-law.
I had in my head what it was I wanted from a dress – I wanted a big red, unconventional gown like something you’d find in a Victorian thriller novel. I wanted something dramatic and, well, very me.
However, I came across a simply-lined white gown, with palest pink criss-cross lacing up the sides and a waterfall of jewelled white and pink butterflies splashing downwards in a perfect cascade.
I think I was in love.
That has to be the moment when I knew I loved butterflies. Because of the dress, everything centred on them and became the theme of our wedding.
I hand crafted, with the help of my mate Dr Silkstone, all of my invites which were resplendent in butterflies. Pretty much everything became about butterflies in the end:
- The favours
- The invites
- My tiara
- The Bridesmaids jewellery and hair jewels
- The balloons in the reception
- The glasses of wine and juice for the guests were laid out on a table in the shape of the butterfly
All because of my wedding dress.
I didn’t expect to end up with a girlie dress at all, it simply was not me, certainly back then when I was still a bit more street, trendy and hip.
I think I was more subconsciously drawn to the shape, delicacy and symbolism of the butterfly itself.
If I look at my life, really look at it, there are so many ways in which I have been delicate and beautiful, but shaken by a violent wind around me. I blamed myself for being fragile, rather than accepting that it was the winds fault – I hadn’t shaken or brutalised myself.
I have been broken down and reborn so many times, but unlike a phoenix, I have never been in ashes, despite how much I feel like I have. Instead, I have merely changed into something more breathtakingly beautiful.
Seeing myself as spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally and in every way beautiful, has been a massive struggle. Does a butterfly know it is beautiful? No, it just exists. It functions. But it fights. It flaps, it feeds, it mates, it spawns, it dies. It doesn’t pause on a wisp of grass and note its own beauty, strength or symbolism. It won’t sit and ponder how it changed so much from a caterpillar into a cocoon and then into its present state. It will probably be happier that it is less of an easy target to predators like birds because it has legs and wings that it can now use to evade them.
I have wings too to avoid the people who have preyed on me. I have legs with which to run away or run screaming into battle with. I have the choice because I am a butterfly. I am not a caterpillar, trying to run away, but can’t – I have the ability to fight or fly, to discover or stand my ground.
I am delicate, yet strong, beautiful, yet tough.
The butterfly is my symbol.
Then I take into account how much the butterfly is used as a symbol for loss.
Celine Dion sings: “fly, fly, little wing, fly beyond imagining”. This underlines the notion of delicate flight from the world of physical mass and into the realms of no-mass whatsoever.
When making the most tragic, but beautiful flight of your existence, it is best to believe that it takes the form of a butterfly – gentle, delicate, fragile but so resplendent in light and catharsis.
I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said, that if you whispered the name of a loved one to a butterfly, it will fly up to heaven and tell them you said hello and that you miss and love them. I like that idea. I like the idea that they are the carrier pigeons of love to the afterlife.
I’m a very spiritual person and believe I have a connection with the world beyond this one, no doubt owing to the strong bonds I have with those who have passed. This notion provides me with a lot of comfort – that my daughters and my mother are together, receiving butterfly messengers, reminding them of how loved they are and always will be.
Sometimes, when I’m down and having a day were I am struggling to tread the rough waters of life, I’ll sit and doodle a butterfly. Earlier this year, when things have been particularly shit, I decided to open up an art book and draw a butterfly a day. Just each day, or perhaps a time when I felt horrendous or low, I would find somewhere on the page and draw one. I was amazed at how comforted I felt by that simple exercise.
My friend painted a beautiful butterfly on a piece of slate for me, last year. I now keep it at work on my desk so I can see it all the time whilst I beaver away. It gives me an enormous sense of wellbeing, peace and encouragement. All things I need and things I’m pleased my friend has given me, not just the painting.
Every day for me, I flap my wings and find my legs. Every day, I keep bloody well going, even when I feel the familiar weights inside of me, pulling me down.
Each day I remind myself I am strong, beautiful, fragile but brave and that I can stand firm against any tempest.
Butterflies are hope, love, promise, strength, beauty, fragility, cheering, warming, evocative, comforting, harbingers of change, growth, life – butterflies are me.
And I’m right bloody pleased about it.