If I ask you to choose a symbol for your life, what would it be? What would you compare your life with?
Since I can remember I’ve compared my life to that of a butterfly… or actually (for the biggest part of my life) to the caterpillar stage of the butterfly’s life cycle… That stage where the caterpillar spends most of its time alone and cocooned away, not knowing what the future holds and only focusing on the negative characteristics. You see, in my mind those characteristics defined me as a person.
When I starting playing with the idea of writing a blog I caught myself making up excuses why this was a bad idea and that “no one could possibly want to read what I have to say…”
I am just an ordinary woman in my mid-thirties, living an ordinary life, with dreams and fears I believe a lot of other women in my position have. So why would I start a blog, not really focusing on any specific “niche” as everyone out there suggest you do? Well, without any unrealistic expectations, I am writing this blog almost as a memoir for myself, to remind me of God’s amazing grace, goodness and provision and maybe… just maybe, in the process of doing this, someone somewhere might read this and find a little glimpse of hope and inspiration to live their life closer to the path that they were destined to walk.
Ok, so here it goes…
I wasn’t planned. Or rather, planned by my parents as I surely believe that God planned my existence. I was what you would call in Afrikaans the family’s “laatlammetjie” (directly translated as late lam) or rather as my mom called me the “nalatige lammetjie” (or negligent lamb) as well as the pension eater 😉 My sister Louise was the actual “laatlammetjie” and 11 years after her birth, I was born.
On 16 October 1979 my amazing 43 year old mom gave birth to me, their 5th daughter and 6th child, in a small town called Standerton in Mpumalanga, South Africa. My dad was a farmer and I grew up as a tomboy playing with orphaned lambs, riding my blue BMX bike next to the corn fields and running barefoot in the mud after Highveld rain storms. I was a happy-go-lucky child, with an incredible imagination, believing in the goodness of everything and happily living my life as the youngest in a loving and nurturing middle-class Afrikaans family.
My caterpillar perspective only arrived a while later, at the age of 16 at which stage ones self-image and confidence levels are most vulnerable. After a humiliating couple of weeks I was (mis)diagnosed with Bipolar Mood Disorder (read more about it in Getting Up), admitted to a psychiatric hospital for two weeks and put on chronic medicine. The meds made me gain almost 30kg in only 10 months. All of a sudden my happy-go-lucky demeanor changed into that of someone who wished she was invisible. I wanted to stick my head in the sand and just disappear. For a 1.83 m red headed “crazy” girl (according to the diagnosis), carrying an extra 30 kilos, it posed to be a bit of an impossible task… My self-confidence went from low to rock bottom and I remember looking at my friends (who also shrunk in numbers after the incident) thinking that they were so pretty, popular, “sane”, intelligent and happy. Looking back now I know that most of them most possibly were also struggling with their own issues, but I felt completely alone. I believe that that was when my thoughts, dreams and hopes morphed into that of a young woman with the perspective of a caterpillar.
My view of life and the future was limited by the walls of my self-made, medical induced cocoon. You see, I believed the cocoon would hide my low self-esteem, diagnosis, weight, insecurities and the fact that my future didn’t seem so bright compared to my peers… but it didn’t. It actually masked what God intended for me. My truth and reality were based on a bunch of lies. I lacked God’s perspective because I chose to stagnate in that cocoon, focusing on everything negative, passively embracing my fate designed by lies. I could only see as far as my cocoon allowed and couldn’t possibly imagine or believe that God had a plan with me and my life…
I deprived myself the hope of a fulfilling life as I really believed that I wasn’t supposed to be pretty, happy or successful.
I believed that everyone around me deserved to find love, happiness and success… everyone but me: I was far too fat, crazy, stupid and ugly, remember? I believed all the lies that were planted in my head and eventually those lies found a permanent nesting place in my heart. Although having a relationship with Christ, I neither realised, nor truly believed that God had a plan for me and wanted me to live a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life.
My caterpillar perspective influenced my every decision, from what I chose to wear to what I convinced myself to study during and after school. I know now that God used all my bad decisions to put me on a remarkable path of discovery, restoration and recovery… but I felt imprisoned then.
A friend once told me that God hits a straight shot with a crooked stick, and that is what I believed happened in my life… I just sometimes wish that I realised sooner that remarkable things were planned and that I deserved to be happy…
This is my blog. I am Pauli Nigrini: special needs teacher to little miracles, wife to an angel straight out of heaven, mom to two beautiful boys, lover of life and firm believer that God has amazing plans for those who trust and believe…
I hope to share stories from my own caterpillar-to-butterfly experience, present and past… (no, I didn’t loose all the weight)… and maybe, just maybe inspire someone to believe and fly again…
1980: Me and my older sister Louise, the actual “laatlammetjie”.
Photos by: Personal and Pixabay