Good ol’ Urban Dictionary came up with some great definitions of the term “social butterfly.” One is “player,” someone who flirts with many people, can fit into any environment, and isn’t looking for long-term relationships. Basically, a social butterfly flits back and forth between people, and maybe never makes up their mind about anything. A skipper.
From my reading about chronic pain, it seems like many people may end up being reluctant skippers. I am. I need to make commitments and keep them. Some of them are basic — appointments for haircuts or the like. Some of them are the lifeblood of the important bonds of friendship — a lunch date, a birthday party, or a cup of coffee. Many relate to my job — am I going to be at this convention or not? Present this paper? Others are truly important for life, at some point — maybe someone helping me with the grocery shopping or giving me a ride to a doctor’s appointment.
Graduate students and newly-minted PHDs are a dime a dozen, and so if there’s even a shadow of doubt as to my abilities, opportunities could skitter away like water on a hot frying pan. Psshhzzz! Insta-steam. Every time I turn down an activity with friends, I feel those bonds that tie me to the world of other thinking, feeling human beings wither and die. I feel the shame of needing help to do something basic like grocery shopping or a doctor’s appointment, only to be an additional burden by canceling. And don’t even get me started on how long it can take to get another hair appointment! So in the meantime, I don’t look for long-term. I flit. I try to avoid committing without making it appear that I am, hoping for damage control, disguising the reality.
That might just be the way life has to play out for some things. But not all. See, that denies part of what I am. Pain does not define me. I am more than just pain, and the sadness and sorrow and isolation and depression that seems to go hand in hand with pain. I’m a bunch of other cool nouns and adjectives too, sometimes — musical, creative, photographer, student, water-burner, nature-loving, humorous, whimsical, absurd, loyal. But I can’t deny that pain, and dealing with it, is part of my life too. I for one have to accept that reality. And yes, show it to a select few people. Because until I recognized that fuzzy orange thing as a skipper, I couldn’t find out how to deal with it or appreciate it for what it was. Those that see, it, really see it and understand that it’s a skipper, realize they’re looking at a member of the butterfly world that can have a top speed of 37 miles per hour. THIRTY-SEVEN MILES PER HOUR. Skippers may be impossible to shoot, seemingly incapable of holding still, their wings a blur of motion… and that is because they are the fastest fliers of the suborder Lepidoptera. And once you know that, it’s easier to put aside the frustration and adjust absolutely everything on the camera to get a clear(er) picture.