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Week 4 Reflection

Image by Asier Ibarrondo

We Are Not Monarchs
by Erin Loechner


My daughter tells me over breakfast that certain butterflies die once they give birth. She points to a crayon drawing she’s made: a dead monarch falling down from the sky, little Xs where eyes could be. 


Sounds about right, I think as I grind the coffee beans.



The baby is 1 and a half now. She has not yet warmed to sleep. To be honest, she hasn’t quite warmed to wake, either. She is cautious, willful. A born skeptic. In the morning, whether we greet her with smiles or hugs or sing-songy hellos, her response is the same: a furrowed brow and cold stare, as if to say, You people, again?


She is difficult, to put it another way. We’ve entrusted her with only a handful of sitters, and each time, upon arriving home, Ken and I are met with crocodile tears and fists of rage, the poor soul in charge whispering the same apologetic phrase: I don’t think she likes me?


Same, we joke.


Yesterday, I find myself fishing shredded carrots from her ears when Ken comes into the kitchen for breakfast. She’s the messiest baby, Bee says. She’s the everything-est baby, he says.


They’re right. Worst sleeper. Hardest to calm. Funniest quirks. Pickiest. Least predictable. Everything-est. And yet, we like her. She’s got spunk. She keeps things interesting. She makes us laugh, when we remember to.


But I still think of that crayon-drawn butterfly more times than I care to admit.



And so, this season has been hard. I’m reminded that hard does not mean wrong, or bad, or futile. Just hard. I find myself humming old hymns and repeating fragmented scripture all throughout the day, and I wonder if the apostle Paul was driven to “pray without ceasing” because perhaps he harbored a secret toddler in Corinth, particularly of the strong-willed variety?



But I know this: we are not monarchs. We are invited to live, and to do so in abundance.


So, as of late, I’ve been experimenting with such.


To me, abundance means just that: plenty. Or, as Scout used to say when asked how many blueberries he’d like: A bunch of much! We’re given it all — the good, the hard, the jilting, the joy. All of it. Abundantly.


I don’t think I need to dwell on the hard, nor the jilting. We’re familiar, yes? We feel it in the air, an undercurrent of anger and fear and an anxiety-ridden world. Indeed, if you’re anything like me, the good-and-the-true is what needs her moment in the sun. So today, I’m giving it.


Below, a short list of honorable mentions that have lifted my own little butterfly wings these days{abridged}:



The fresh air, of course, is an instant jolt when my soul feels lax. But more than that, for me, has been the simple act of entering a space that I am not responsible for taming. The maple, the mulberries, the mice – they all exist, with or without my participation. I needn’t vacuum the forest floor, needn’t dust the pine needles. For all who find themselves sometimes tiring of domesticity – or at least, the dishes – there is something of a gift in the muddy welcome mat of nature. 


Your Turn: Can you fling open a window or two? Run to the mailbox in your bare feet? Walk to the corner bodega? Take notice of what is already in motion, all around you, being cared for, tended to. See all that exists, with or without your doing. Feel small, and breathe deeply.



I’ve been lighting the good candles, which is perhaps our generation’s version of using the good china? All I know is this: a 1-year-old insomniac feels less unjust with a few wicks dancing on the mantel, and so: morning after morning, I light them one by one. When Ken wakes or the ylang ylang starts to kick his allergies into high gear, we light a fire instead, and the whole energy of the house changes. I check fractions and decimals with embers in my eyes, flames licking at every mistake – both the ones in my mind and the ones on the math page. Time slows, and the heady scent of burning hickory gives us all reason enough to stay home for a little while longer, longer, longer still.


Your Turn: Light the good candles. You know the ones, and you know the why.



Whenever I feel the grumps seeping into my veins, a list is in order. A brain dump onto my trusty steno pad often helps, or even a quick scrawl of necessary groceries on the back of a receipt. There’s something about the waltz of pen-to-page that slows me a moment, no matter how mundane the words. And so, while I don’t remember who in our family birthed this particular brand of list, we have begun taking stock of good deeds: a brother carrying a sister’s library books, a daughter packing a sister’s diaper bag, the baby finding a lost crochet needle (regardless of how involved she happened to be in the losing of it). My own good deed is merely a sticky note covered with the words LAUNDRY LAUNDRY LAUNDRY, but I suppose we all start somewhere, and just a few months in, our wall of kindness is now littered with love.


Your Turn: Can you keep a list of goodness? Random acts of kindness, quotes that warm you, daily gifts you witness? It takes a moment, but it makes one, too.


There is more, I’m sure. There is always more in the way of abundance if we’re somewhere on the path of paying attention. And so: whatever your hard looks like right now, my hope is that you may, against all odds, choose one small thing to enjoy, wherever you are. May it bring a soaring you’ve long forgotten.



Questions for Reflection & Discussion

As you reflect on the following questions, please keep in mind that there are no right answers. Perhaps you just want to pick one question and reflect on it for the week or maybe you want to spend time on each one, do what feels right for you (and what you can fit in!)


  • What resonated, caught your attention, made you want to dig deeper or left you feeling conflicted about the above reflection?

  • The author lists simple places she looks for goodness and a reminder of abundance in her life, is there somewhere you have seen this reflected in your own life this week?

  • What do you think of when you hear the words “abundance” and “scarcity”?

  • The author writes, “But I know this: we are not monarchs. We are invited to live, and to do so in abundance.” What might living in “abundance” mean to you? And how does one do this, as the author suggests, in the midst of the hard seasons in life? 

  • What “honorable mentions” might you add to the author’s list of simple ways to engage the senses in “abundance”?

Journaling Prompt

These are optional prompts you may choose to engage with or not. While we won't center our conversation on these responses, the process of journaling/engaging in a practice can be a helpful tool for deeper self-reflection.

“A BUNCH OF MUCH!”: While gratitude is not a panacea or should be thought of as a way to diminish or deny hard realities in life, it can help ground us, increase our happiness, and lower our stress along with many other benefits. Take a moment to simply list gratitudes. You could list as many as you can or maybe try to do 1-3 a day for a week. These can be simple or more meaningful - the point is to stop and notice the good in life. Afterward, you might ask yourself what you noticed in yourself before, during and after writing your gratitudes and brainstorm ways to integrate a gratitude practice into your everyday life.

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