A snake knows when to leave its skin behind and does so without fanfare or fuss. Oh, to have the freedom of a snake. Free of guilt and fear. Free of the hamster wheel of thoughts cycling through the endless what-ifs, responsibilities and possible regrets.
A snake simply slithers from skin that has become rigid and constricting. A snake doesn’t drag the shriveled skin behind just in case it needs to crawl back inside. It merely glides loose without a single backward glance.
And what the old skin is used for matters not to a snake. Maybe a young child will happen upon it and tuck it like a treasure into their small backpack. Maybe beetles and ants will dine together on the hollowed remnants until there is nothing left. Or perhaps it lays forgotten gathering dust serving no purpose at all.
But I am not a snake. The skin which has covered me so long now makes it impossible to breath. The skin I once wore like a comfortable coat is alien to me. The skin which made me recognizable now drags me down like a thousand anchors in the turbulent sea.
I feel the new skin lying still beneath the surface waiting impatiently for its turn to feel the warmth of the sun and the breeze of the cool air.
I once tried shedding my skin. What a strange cocktail of exhilaration and terror careened through my body like frenzied balls colliding off each other in a cheap arcade game. With each deafening clash I felt joy multiplying in every cell of my body. This is what freedom feels like!
But soon fear, my familiar friend, returned with a mocking smirk upon his face. Fear brought other unwelcomed guests like concerned looks and quizzical voices trying to understand. My own brain betrayed me allowing my fragile fortress walls to be breached. Words like, “foolish”, “crazy” and “selfish”, buzzed around like flies looking for a filthy place to land.
Ashamed at thinking I could be anything other than what I had been, I retreated back into my old skin which was right where I had left it. The fit was cramped, but I am used to making do. I began lubricating the brittle skin with a positive attitude and a blind eye and discovered it is possible to ignore the beating of your own heart.
To others I looked familiar again and they were relieved. I sought a counselor and sat on her couch to unravel why I was drowning in despair.
Not surprisingly when I retreated back into the dried out husk, my writing dried up too. I see now the gift of words had to find a soul much braver than I to shower their stories upon. For stories need someone bold to gather them into their outstretched arms.
I choose to believe bravery can be found again. It can gather like a quiet storm unleashing icy pellets of hail that make way for a glorious rainbow. Courage can climb over mountains of broken glass rescuing shattered dreams stranded at the summit. Fearlessness can melt a heart frozen in a glacier of tears.
Next time when like a serpent I wriggle free I will not go back.