How I Became the Butterfly for My Dream

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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Fairy Girl with Wings by Art.comIf we had not been in silence, the afternoons long and full and wordless, senses of sight and touch and smell heightened without the web of words weaving through the air to connect us, I might never have noticed the butterflies, wings fluttering ever so slightly on the surface of the water, these butterflies trapped by the weight of their own dampened wings, unable to fly.

They were so elegant, delicate, helpless.

One by one, I plucked them out of the pool, gently holding each one on my fingertips, up to the sun so the wings could dry. One by one, I sat with them for minutes that stretched on like quiet hours, the second hand on the clock above the pool slowly circling around, seconds ticking away while their delicate orange and black wings dried.

I watched them gently moving in my hand, the hind and fore wings stirring, the thorax and proboscis used to sip flower nectar bending with the wind of my hot breath. These creatures were small, complex, miraculous.

Fly, Butterfly!

After about 10 minutes when the wings were dry and flapping open, I would shake each butterfly off my hand, and scoop another one out of the pool.

They were my personal symbol, a metaphor for my own transformation. The massage therapist who had kneaded my shoulders and back earlier in the silent retreat, trying to free me of my anxiety, told me as she rubbed my shoulder-blades, “I feel four sets of wings growing in.”

Four sets of wings. Which angels were these sprouting wings out of my back, I wondered?

And So It Began…

And so began the essay I submitted to Glamour magazine last week for their “Real-Life Story Essay Contest.” If I win, I will be published in the magazine, win $5,000 and better yet win a meeting with a top literary agent!

Entitled “METAMORPHOSIS,” the essay tells the story of how I transformed myself and my life from the inside out, and how I changed my personal symbol over time to the butterfly. Previously, I used to think of myself as the “phoenix rising” from Greek mythology, until the universe kept setting things on fire (my house, the hillside near my yoga retreat center!).

I decided that the universe was paying much too much attention to my wishes – they kept coming true! – so I decided to pick different wishes, and a different image to represent me.

The butterfly is delicate, beautiful, and most importantly is a symbol for transformation. From the chrysalis emerges this magical creature.

Yet when she is in the cocoon, it is DNA soup, just a mish-mash of cells. Somehow the butterfly DNA is encoded to enable her to emerge from the soup of cells into something so simple yet ethereally beautiful.

We Are All The Butterfly

I have come to believe over time that just like the butterfly whose DNA bears a map of what she will become, even in the mystery of the cocooning time, we too have maps inside us to help guide us to become what we are meant to become.

Somewhere, deep down inside us, we know our deepest heart’s desires and dreams. We feel the longing stirring in us when something reminds us of those dreams.

Ah, yes, our heart says. That – person, painting, dance, song, book, job, home, far-away land – moves something in me.

When something makes you ache, pay attention! It may be your heart telling you to follow your dream!

What Brings You Joy…

Writing and dancing have always stirred my soul this way. When I stay away from dancing for too long, my body aches for it.  I start moving in my chair, in the car, on the street, to every song with half a beat and even a glimmer of soul.

Writing is in my blood – it’s what I do and what I have done, for fun, since I was a very little girl. It is how I learn, dream, remember and make sense of the world.

So when I stop writing for any reason for too long, I feel that ache again. Return home, my soul is telling me.

Giving It My Best Shot!

Of course right now the BIG writing project is my book. Amazingly, after a year of working on it, my draft book manuscript it due to my writing coach in three weeks!

I almost can’t believe it! Where did the year go? How did it fly by so fast?

I have written 267 pages in my manuscript. My goal for the next week is to write five good pages a day. Then, I’ll spend the last two weeks editing the book before mailing it to Ellen.

The very last week before my book is due I will hide away in a cabin in the woods, unplugged from the Internet, no Facebook, no iPhone and just WRITE my little heart out. In that last week I will polish the manuscript until it shines.

To the best of my ability, I will make it the best first draft manuscript Ellen has ever seen!

How I Became The Butterfly

My book, and my essay METAMORPHOSIS, describe my journey and how I transformed myself into the butterfly, into simply becoming beautifully me, free of fear finally. If you want to read the whole essay, you can “friend” me on Facebook – Lisa Powell Graham – and read it in the “Notes” section of my Profile page. Or, you can check it out on my travel blog Lisa’s Magic Carpet Ride.

And of course, when the book comes out, you can read the WHOLE story…

In the meantime, I’d greatly appreciate everyone’s good thoughts and wishes and good vibes sent out into the universe for me to help me finish this manuscript and live this dream … only three weeks to go!



  • Jason Thomas

    Like your blog. great stories.

  • Heather Montgomery, CEO & serial entrepreneur

    Congrats on the essay submission! Get that story out there girl – H

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  • carl

    bow chicka wowow

  • Toni Schram

    I can’t wait to see your polished manuscript.

    Good luck on your sojourn to that cabin for a week to pretty up your book.

    I don’t know about bringing the vibrator. Could be quite the distraction and you do need to stay on point! LOL

    Love ya-


  • Laurie

    Don’t forget your vibrator.

  • @Cath wonderful suggestions… will start packing… Love that list! Yoga mat, check! candles, check! CDs, check! Fave books, check! a few good bottles of red wine ;) (heck why not!) check! :)

    LOVE YA! sooo excited for the Home Stretch…. XOXO

  • @Remy I am excited to hide away and UNPLUG and just WRITE! Divine alone writing time! <3 A little scary in a way and also just WONDERFUL… can't wait!

    Thanks for your loving support and cheerleading and wise words ALWAYS <3


  • Catherine Hughes, Editor & Chief

    Going to a place where there are no distractions is great, but just be sure to take your muse with you, whether that is music, candles, a yoga mat for meditations and stretching, books that inspire so that when you get up there in the woods you are able to get your creative juice flowing when they stall.


  • Remy

    all my good thoughts and prayers to you during this incredible time – holding yourself up in a cabin to create and write, I love that idea. I went to the ocean a few weeks ago, no phone no clock, no computer. Just my camera and my bottle opener! it helped me get reconnected to what I love – Good luck to you xox Rem