The Butterflies are Harmless

I believe that the butterflies are harmless. When I was four, my family and I went to Callaway Gardens to see the renowned butterfly garden. Naturally, I was incredibly excited and, once I arrived there, I began to dance, prance, and jump among the butterflies. Since I was four, I quickly petered out and crawled back into the stroller which my parents had thoughtfully been dragging and promptly fell asleep. Within a few minutes, I awoke from my slumber only to find myself staring seemingly eye to eye with a particularly large butterfly. Now, this was not just any butterfly, oh no, this was a kind of butterfly that has what looks like deep, yellow owl eyes seemingly burned on to its light orange wings. My four-year-old self was caught staring at this creepy looking butterfly right at that moment of my awakening. So, I did the one thing any sensible four year old would have done, I panicked. To wake up staring at a butterfly staring back is the last thing I needed then and it scarred me for life. Ever since that moment, which I can vividly recall, I have been quite afraid of butterflies, which is called mottephobia, in case you were wondering. Nowadays, I am able to control my fear and keep myself better than when I was younger. I can pretty much handle most situations involving those creatures but every now and then, even now, I might flinch a bit and shoo away the pest if it ventures too close.
Although I can handle myself well around butterflies now, when I was younger, I let my fear influence my actions and my future. During the fourth grade, my school sent us down to the very same Callaway Gardens to see the very same butterfly garden. This was basically my worst nightmare – being around hundreds of thousands of butterflies and letting all of my friends know about my embarrassing fear. Once we got down there, I tried to muster up the courage to enter into the death pit. I could not bring myself to do it, and tried to play if off nice and cool to my friends. Still, I was unable to find the courage to tell my friends, so I begrudgingly let them drag me in. I took one step inside and froze. They were everywhere, they were up, down, forwards, backwards, left, right, under, over…everywhere. I stayed in that cage for roughly 30 seconds and promptly found an excuse to leave. I failed. I could not do it. I let my fear, my stress, my anxiety get to me.
Presently, I now realize that I cannot let fear guide my actions. When fear starts to control one, one’s thinking begins to escalate from nervous thoughts to panicked, truly scared ones.
What if there is a man behind the shower curtain?
I’ll check just in case…
What if I fail that test?
Just one more hour of studying…
What if I fall and break my leg?
I’ll walk a bit slower, so what if I lag behind the group?…
What if I get hit by a car while walking to the movies with my friends?
Maybe I’ll just stay home…

My sister is a surviving identical twin. Rachel was born six weeks premature in order to get Marissa, my stillborn sister, out of the womb. Talk about scarring someone for life…my parents were permanently changed and still have not and never will fully recover from the shock. My earliest memories are being in that hospital on that horrid day and being at my sister’s funeral. I wasn’t even two years old then; most people’s memories begin around the age of three. This left a huge gash in my family that can never be healed. Often, my parents, understandably, limit what I can and cannot do based on this. For instance, after receiving my license, I have to take oh so not ironically baby steps before they fully trust me behind the wheel. The threat of death hangs over my family more than most. On my sisters’ birthdays, where is that balance between life and death? Is it a happy occasion or should it be sanctified in honor of Marissa? As my parents have come to learn over the years, choosing life over death is the way to happiness, to good times, and to success.
Most things in life are not as scary as losing a child but the principle remains constant. When it comes to incessant worrying and personal anxieties, as I have learned by eventually returning to that butterfly garden, as one can learn by quitting to set up what-if scenarios, and as my parents have learned by choosing life over the threat of death, taking risks and overcoming fears is a path to happiness in life. One of my dad’s favorite quotes that he used all the time is “living is hazardous to your health.” This quote rings true not only for health but in all of life. You cannot let yourself be held back by the chains of worry or the shackles of anxiety. Live life to its fullest and the rest will work itself out. I believe that the butterflies are harmless, so they cannot touch me.
Brian C. – November 11, 2011