I would like to say that waking up is my favorite part of the day (so fresh! so new! so much possibility!) but that would be a lie.
Whether it’s the sun or the alarm clock or a tiny person pressing their face close to my eyeballs and whispering, “What’s for breakfast?” my first thought is always, “Not yet!”
My second thought is, “I’m awake! I’m awake!”
It comes out sounding defensive, honestly.
I’m always greedy for a little more sleep, a smidge more refueling. This is my cocoon, and I never want to come out. Probably ever.
But that’s not what a cocoon is for. Have you ever seen a butterfly leave its chrysalis? The butterfly crawls out with its wings wet and crumpled, and lets the sun do its sun thing. The wings dry out, the blood starts pumping, and the butterfly gets moving. Eventually. Give us a minute, here.
Cocoons are lovely, but you cannot live in a cocoon.
I know this.
Really, I may not want to wake up, but I do want to be awake in the world. I want to show up and pay attention. I want to be here, wherever here is. It’s just that the actual waking up part is hard.
But we need each other awake. You can’t go back to sleep, where everything is comfortable and nothing is real. You can’t snooze through your life. You can’t stay unconscious to the people and projects and pain and possibility all around you.
Well, I mean, you CAN, but why would you want to? Awake is where the work is. Awake is where the life is.
So how do you wake up?
If you have a vague sense that you’re sleepwalking through your days, how do you shake yourself awake?
My daughter Sadie is nine, and she’s been talking about Splash Mountain at Disneyland. “Last time we went, I was terrified,” she says. “Next time I plan to enjoy it.” I think she has the right idea.
I’m not saying you should wake yourself up with a splash in the face from a log ride, though I can see how that would work. I’m saying maybe turn toward the things that make your nerves stand on end. See what they have to teach you.
In his book How to Be Here, Rob Bell writes that “nerves are God’s gift to you.” Interesting.
You have butterflies in your stomach? Good.
Rob writes: “Better to have a stomach full of butterflies than to feel like your life is passing you by.”
It’s interesting that we don’t call the feeling of nerves something else, isn’t it? We don’t call it, say, having a fire-breathing dragon in your stomach. We’ve labeled it something beautiful, ephemeral, transformative. Butterflies.
I can almost forget what butterflies feel like, I’ve noticed. If I’m not actively choosing the a-little-bit-scary things, the uncomfortable-but-adventurous things, the try-it-and-see-and-maybe-fall-flat-on-your face things, I forget that butterflies are something to chase.
But they are, because they mean you’re alive, and they mean you’re awake. Those butterflies are helping us expand, propelling us forward.
That’s what the butterflies are good for.
They’re reminding us we have wings inside. They’re telling us that yes, we may fall, but we can rise up again.
So move toward them. Do what it takes. Try the thing that scares you. Find your next move.
Press ‘send,’ or maybe press the doorbell. Walk out onto the stage, or walk in through the door. Feel the butterflies flapping madly when you finally say the thing or hear the thing: Hey, we have to talk. Do that.
It’s a quick path to waking up, and we want to be awake.
Be brave. Grab your net. Find your butterflies.