TweetI was 22 years old and pouring out my heart to a priest who would eventually marry me and the man who was the reason I was pouring out my heart. But I didn’t know that then.
I poured out my heart because I didn’t know how else to deal with its leaking. The embarrassing drops of naivety and innocence that can only be squeezed out of the heart by the cracks of first love. I didn’t know that was what was happening.
I didn’t know a lot of things. I still don’t know a lot of things.
Looking back at that time, when this priest listened to my yearning to move on and out of my early 20s conventional lifestyle, I see that restlessness not as a period of my life, but I identify now as a permanent marker of my identity. The grave dissatisfaction with unfulfillment. The sudden uptake of bravery to do whatever it takes to make transformation possible. The tunnel vision. That wasn’t a phase, that’s Me.
The priest commented that my restlessness was likely a sign of “moving through something, like a shedding snake with new colors on its skin.” My lips pursed in repulsion. Dry, dead skin of a snake. Interesting comparison. It made me itch, physically. I’m not drawn to crackling and lifeless skin trails. It haunted me though because, despite my shuddering and itching, it felt true. New colors. Finding hard, uneven ground to slither my body so I could more easily rid myself of useless layers? Hunting rocks to scratch myself against to help the process? In this profoundly odd way, it was perfect.
Some months later after the dead skin talk, I played Scrabble for the first time with a group of friends. And when a controversial play called for a dictionary validation, I picked up the heavy green reference to look up the word and immediately lost my grip with my left hand. It fell, split open to the floor and that’s when my eye say it at the top of the left page: ECDYSIS. A shedding. A moulting of an outer integument of skin. Like a snake shedding its skin.
There it was. A word to describe the process the priest told me I was in. I just didn’t know it wasn’t a process. It was my life.
I took a mental photograph and flipped the pages to validate the disputed word and went on with the game. But as I outwardly continued with Scrabble, yelling at and even wrestling Mike one of my roommates, over the use of the word “navajo,” for the win, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something larger was being conveyed. And it came through the accidental drop of a dictionary.
Although I consider myself both spiritual and religious, I largely put my faith in people. I think humans reveal more about truth, sanctity, and creativity than any symbol or natural element and that placement of faith leaves me with a touch of skepticism when people say “it’s a sign” is used to describe a curious encounter. But when ecdysis flopped itself open with a Webster, I wasn’t so sure that crumbs weren’t being laid so I could find the loaf.
The next twelve years were cyclic like that. The shedding was constant and followed a pattern. Pain, lesson, implementation of lesson, enlightenment. Restlessness. Repeat.
I find myself today, twelve years since that dictionary fell out of my hand, ruminating on ecdysis. My literal muse. It’s taken me that long to metabolize its enormity and helpfulness. Restlessness is not a state of unhappiness, or lack of joy. Quite the opposite. The joy of everyday life – my loves, my struggles – fuels the desire to pursue more and it’s taken me twelve years to accept that without shame. And now that I’m here it seems ridiculous that I was even hiding. I hid the fact I was unsatisfied. (Some in my life would say I hid it poorly.) But I didn’t want to insult others. I didn’t want my dissatisfaction to hurt others. I didn’t want others to think they or my relationship with them didn’t or doesn’t give me joy. But fulfillment is much larger than singular threads of relationship with others. Fulfillment is about relationship to one’s own life, one’s own practice of living and pursuit of meaningful existence.
And it took awhile and several rounds of partner dialogue with Nick, strategic therapy sessions investigating emotional and cognitive patterns (aka “Why do the same thoughts keep surfacing?), playful cuddling sessions with Isaiah, face down in the pillow crying sessions followed by and face up in the pillow staring sessions to digest another basic survival tool: we end up living a template if we don’t create our own design.
Snakes shed their skin at different frequencies. I don’t remember the last one I went though of this magnitude. The ecdysis I am currently experiencing is moving me to new terrain, bigger rocks…and this time, I’m giddy with anticipation.
Life and love share a common cosmology: time changes everything.
Thank ecdysis for that.