Coping with Butterflies
Getting Organized

It has been sixty-five year since I was a student at Collins Track Elementary School.  At that time, my teacher was Miss Broom who was a tall and severe looking teacher.  She also possessed a very formidable appearance due to her facial expression.  She used a great deal of eyebrow liner on her eyebrows.  When someone in class displeased her, she had the ability to raise her eyebrow into an inverted V.  To a third grader, her persona took on a most foreboding countenance. 

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This is Collins Track where I had butterflies.

There I was dreading the next day in class.  I had to make my show and tell presentation.  I was scared.  I told my mother about my anxiety.  However, she dismissed my terror.  Then she added that I was "just having butterflies."  Then to take my mind off my presentation the next day, she told me to go out and play. 

I went outside but didn't play.  I went straight over to Mr. Lee's home to talk with him about my dreading about tomorrow.  Mr. Lee was in his front yard weeding his flowerbeds when I arrived with my bundle of butterflies fluttering inside my stomach.  I talked to him about what I dreaded the next day.  Patiently, he listened to me as I blurted out my anxiety as I sat there like a student sitting in front of a Buddhist instructor.


This is what my stomach felt like.

Mr. Lee then shared with me his feelings of trepidation when he was a little boy in China.  He told me about how he'd go to a Buddhist monk to cope with his butterflies.  The monk would say, "When butterflies fly inside of you, force them to fly in formation."  Mr. Lee didn't say how he responded to the monk's advice, but I didn't understand what the monk had told him.  However, confusion was written in boldface all over my worried face.  Consequently, he began to explain the meaning of the monk's pronouncement about how to have the butterflies fly in formation rather than merely fluttering around inside my stomach.


A formation of butterflies

  1. List your tasks to accomplish your overall assignment. Essentially, I was to breakdown a seemingly overwhelming problem into smaller parts.  For example, back in third grade, I needed to decide what I was going to bring to show and tell.  Then I needed to address what I wanted to tell the class about my object.  Then I needed to practice my speech to get comfortable with public speaking.  Mr. Lee added, "Allen how do you devour a dinosaur?"  Then he answered his own question, "One bite at a time."
  2. Use your fear to force the butterflies into formation. Instead of attempting to avoid the feelings of fear, anxiety, or dread, make those fears work for you.  The anxiety forces a person to solve the problem.  Giving up does little to remedy the problem.  Nowadays we use the phrase, no pain no gain.
  3. Control your life. Mr. Lee's monk said not to allow a bunch of fluttering butterflies to usurp control over your life; it is your life not the butterflies.  The way that I feel about something largely determines its outcome.  It is a choice between taking control of your life or losing control over it.  Back in third grade, I had the choice of controlling my life or allowing the butterflies to control it.  In the half century since my show and tell, this truth hasn't changed. We can control our lives and feelings by remembering the monk's message to Mr. Lee: "When butterflies fly inside you, force them to fly in formation."

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