This past weekend, my son brought this snake skin home from a nature-themed birthday party, along with the knowledge that snakes regularly shed their skin – turning it inside out – in order to continually grow. When you think about it, that’s all we humans are really trying to do, too. Throughout our lives, we continually, and often unknowingly, shed our skin both literally and figuratively in an effort to grow and learn and get in touch with our core.
I was already planning to post this when I ran across some index cards stuck in an old purse at the back of my closet today. Immediately, I recognized them as old skin; old perceptions and beliefs that I did a lot of work to shed. They were cards I wrote out with my therapist years ago, as I was at the height (or depths) of struggling with postpartum depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On the cards are scribbled affirmations I could take out and read to myself whenever I was spiraling down or my symptoms were triggered by an experience, conversation, sight or sound. Here’s a sampling:
“Don’t fight with yourself. Neutralize the argument in your head with words like ‘that’s possible’ or ‘i’ll consider it.'”
“BREATHE. I’m ok. My son is ok. Just BREATHE.”
“This is part of my journey. I get to have my journey.”
“I recognize myself more and more. I look happy and relaxed because I’ve made a change in my life. I am much closer to making my heart sing!”
Finding these cards – this old skin – took my breath away. I am absolutely the woman today that I longed to become back then. It seemed close to impossible at the time, this notion that I would find ways to make my heart sing and eventually recognize me – the real me – buried under all those layers of fear and shame and sorrow. I have come such a long way and yet, reading those words, I could instantly feel that skin wrapped back around me; constricting, frightening and so slow to shed.
Before I wrote this post, I Googled some facts about snakes and their skin-shedding habit, curious about the when and why and how. The very first paragraph I landed on reads:
“Banded or blotched, colorful or dull, snake skin can warn predators or serve as camouflage. The first defense against trauma and disease, snake skin also plays a part in movement…(creating) enough traction for snakes to pull forward.”
For the second time in a day, I lost my breath for a moment. Was that paragraph describing my old skin? Had I ever realized how much that suit of armor I’d worn had protected me from further trauma, camouflaged my despair from others and helped me slowly move forward?
The snake has an actual shell – a iridescent, fragile skin – to show its evolution. But I have index cards. And the gift of reflection. And a heart full of gratitude.