Snakes, rocks, and hard places

When I look back on my life, I have often known when it was time to move on because I felt squeezed out of a particular situation. This is how I imagine a snake feels when it needs to shed. I imagine things start feeling constrictive, uncomfortable, irritating, and itchy. At that point, a snake will actually seek out a rock or a hard place and brush its body against it to tear its skin. Then it’ll work at the tear until it’s big enough, find something to catch the skin on, and wriggle out shiny and new.

Snakes shed so they can grow, and because they grow throughout their lives, they shed their skin until they die. I think we shed so that we can grow, too. Today, I realized that I have felt the constriction, discomfort, irritation, and itchiness of a situation that no longer fits. It is time to move on–to wriggle out of this situation so I can emerge into a new one.

If snakes were to look in mirrors (and I’m sure fashionable snakes do), they would see in their reflection everything they will eventually shed. What they shed is their outward appearance, their physical identity, the way they and others recognize themselves in the world. When I have faced sheddings in the past, I have found it impossible to imagine who I’d be without my old skin. Who would I be if I left corporate life to become a parent? Who would I be if I got divorced and raised my son on my own? Yet the skin no longer fit, and I knew it had to come off.

For me, the worst part of shedding is the sense of spiritual disconnection I feel. Before a snake sheds, it is virtually blind for a period of time, because the skin over its eyes becomes cloudy. This I understand, because I have felt blind in terms of my source of inner guidance lately.

A situation that was known and comfortable has become constrictive and irritating. I feel blind to my inner guidance, and am instinctively seeking out rocks and hard places that will help me tear open an escape hatch in this old skin. Seems like a bad thing, but is it? I feel confusion, grief, and a sense of loss around losing something that was known and comfortable. And this spot between the rock and the hard place is painful. But who am I becoming? Freed of my old skin, what possibilities and adventures await me?