What should we do in the in-between time, when one chapter of our lives or work has ended and the next one hasn’t come into being yet?

This is chrysalis time. Perhaps you’ve heard the metaphor before: in between being a caterpillar and becoming a butterfly, there is the chrysalis.

This is the stage of old things giving way, the stage of goopy mess, of being neither caterpillar nor butterfly. It is the time of being something in an undefined, transitional, un-presentable state.

{Cocktail parties are very difficult to attend during this time.}

Chrysalis happens inside a cocoon. It is a time of retreating into shelter so that transformation can happen in a protected place. It is a time when privacy and boundaries are needed. (And if you don’t allow them, your psyche will create them for you in unconscious ways – quitting, flaking, sabotaging relationships.)

Chrysalis time comes to all of us.

So what can we do during chrysalis time?

Know it for what it is. Name it as chrysalis time.
Know it is normal.
Know it is universal.
Know it is temporary.
Allow the cocooning but be mindful it doesn’t turn to isolation.
Have compassion for all the ways it is hard – the disintegration, the waiting, the discomfort.
Remember you can’t rush the process.
But remember you can help the process.

Let’s talk about that last part – helping the process.

We can’t control the timeline of a process of becoming. Sorry, ego. Sorry, planner brain.

But we can accelerate the process by surfacing, facing, and bringing into the light what is happening in us.

In conversation or by writing, we can articulate what no longer fits, letting the words make it clearer to us. In the same way, we can start to articulate what we want and what seems to be arising in us now.

And this is so important, and I see women miss this all the time. We can articulate the little we do know about what is next. So often I talk with women who think they don’t have a vision unless they have a 100% clear and complete one, the kind they feel they could explain to some skeptical observer or put into a business plan.

But I have never met a vision that showed up that way (and I’ve met a lot of them, talking to women about this for the past ten years).

Visions for what is next – your next creation, your next job, your next way of moving through the world – don’t arrive fully formed or with a how-to plan. They come through fragments, whiffs, energies in the body.

In chrysalis time, there are big blanks in our picture of the future, but there are also always words and pictures and ideas we can access about what wants to emerge.

If your vision for what is coming next in your life or your work is 95% blank, articulate the 5% you can see – the little fragments, the faint intuitions, the general direction.

As you surface that 5%, you accelerate its coming into being and prepare the ground for the next layer of clarity to emerge.

If you are in chrysalis time, this is your work. All of it – the acceptance, the compassion, and the proactive inquiry into what is emerging.

If you are not in chrysalis time, think of someone in your life who is. Send this along to them if you think it might help them.

And if you’ve been judging someone in your life (or yourself) as being lost or lazy or unclear or flighty or slow, take a second look: maybe that person is just in chrysalis. Love them, even if it’s a little harder to do that now with their cocoon shell there. They will be bolstered by it.




photo credit: Nicolai Dürbaum

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • HI Tara: this email arrives into my inbox at the perfect moment as I am such in chrysalis.

    Since April I have been rebranding my styling and wardrobe coaching business and so there is much I am creating and there is so much unfolding for me.

    I am going to journal my 5% today to invite more clarity, dreams and possibilities.

    Thank you for your words and look forward to seeing you in the near future…Susana

  • Rachel says:

    Thank you for this. I first came across your work, and completed a workbook, before Playing Big was released in hardcover, and it spoke to me more than anything else before. It’s been awhile since I’ve connected with your writing in that same profound way, because I’ve been in a state of wrenching illness, and now (though for much longer than I’d like, of course) chrysalis. Thank you for writing this piece, it feels as true and serendipitous as did reading your work years ago. And man, between recovering from a brain injury and being in chrysalis, you are right on that cocktail party note!

    Thank you.

  • […] I’ll wrap up on an optimistic note. Let’s hope it’s just chrysalis time – the time when one chapter of our lives has ended and the next one hasn’t come into being […]

  • Heidi says:

    It’s so nice to have words (and validation) for the process that I’m undergoing. Thank you. I know what I don’t like but I don’t know what I want, quite possibly for the first time in my nearly 40 years of living. Many of my old tricks no longer work as setting goals isn’t really working anymore. Knowing that there is a process, it’s normal and that beautiful things are sure to emerge feel very supportive.

    I also love the image of the cocktail party and I think it’s a great situation to riff off of – What is the me that I want to present at networking events and parties? What would be electrifyingly joyful? Hmmm….

  • Tara, Chrysalis Time came exactly when I needed it! I am newly divorced in middle age with a school age child. I am starting over – in Chrysalis Time! Your words helped me to honor this time and let it unfold as it is meant to. I am feeling optimistic and content in this new stage of life. Thank you for sharing your gifts of insight and writing, and creating this online community.

  • kate says:

    This is actually a perfectly timed message for me. I heard recently that my job will most likely be coming to an end at the end of this year…that’s 20 years of teaching other people what I’m passionate about – jewellery and silversmithing…so it’s a huge transition for me. I’ve been wanting to spend more time on making my own work, but haven’t had the courage to make the break from the security of a steady income. So it looks like it’s going to happen anyway – it really is the end of an era for me – thankfully I’ll have the next 6 months to prepare for this next stage and whatever form it might take – and this article will help me take those first steps – thank you!

  • Pat says:

    Hi Tara. My 24 year old son died last August and through sheer will (and perhaps some numbness), I went to work, took care of family stuff including two 91 year old parents who live in a different state, and completed a huge fund-raising event in April. Once the project was complete and was successful, I suddenly felt like I could leave my job by walking away instead of running away. My husband was about to start a 6 month sabbatical and I decided to take one too. No goals, no direction, just time for healing and discernment. I now have a way to define it–Chrysalis Time. Thank you for your insight in naming an important transitional time.

  • […] Mohr calls this “Chrysalis Time,” when you’re between stages. I’m trying to embrace it. And I’m trying to take it slow, […]

  • […] been in this space and was so grateful when my friend Brooke named this for me. It’s called Chrysalis Time – the time in between being a caterpillar but not yet a […]

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