The Shedding of Old Skin


The definition of ecdysis comes from a Greek word meaning to strip off, and refers to the process by which reptiles moult or shed their skin. To my ear, it sounds strikingly similar to exodus: ecdysis. Perhaps it is an exodus — the dead skin leaving the body?

It takes a snake from several days up to a week or more to fully shed its skin. This natural process is directly related to growth: the more a snake grows, the more often it will shed. On average, a healthy adult snake will shed it skin 2-4 times a year.

Humans shed skin, too: 1.5 million skin cells every hour with a new skin surface every 28 days or so. But it is not the same type of transformation — the same obvious extrication from old to new.

I found myself thinking on all of that when I spied this fabulous remnant of discarded snakeskin along the trail last week. I stared at it with the same fascination I did this video of an actual snake moulting:

Call me strange, but the visceral reaction I had was akin to watching someone stretch or yawn, and I found my body screaming: I WANT TO DO THAT TOO!

I don’t want to wait 28 days for a new skin! I want to shed this one now!

You’ll have to forgive me. The past month has been full of growth, full of things I am letting go of and leaving behind: things I’ve needed to say for years, concerns I’ve been carrying for months, objects returned to rightful owners, and amends made after way too long.

I keep using the word “closure,” but I suspect that’s not exactly accurate. Closure implies shut and done. But I feel like I am still carrying something, holding memories of these old stories and definitions I no longer need, that no longer fit this body, this being.

I know there are new stories to tell now. Other beginnings to find and endings to discover. I guess I just want proof. I want to look in the mirror and see that all of this — this — has changed. I want something tangible that shows my exodus from that chapter of the story to this new one. I want to look down and see my old skin, my old self, discarded there, neatly wound up around itself like this snakeskin left on the trail.

Save for throwing myself against a tree or writhing along gravel, it seems I have no recourse but to allow the natural process of this shedding. Give the old skin time to work itself off. Be kind and loving and patient to the process. Honor the transformation.

8 thoughts on “The Shedding of Old Skin

Add yours

  1. Never thought of the process quite like this before but an excellent analogy. I might even use it at work this year–I will be teaching English IV, starting a week from tomorrow.

  2. Honor the transformation. Easier said than done but more than likely the best way to go. We live, learn, change, adapt, blah blah blah. It’s OUR shedding process.
    Be well. xxx

    1. I keep thinking about your comment – every time I try to glom onto how I feel about all of this change. In time, it will all be clear…Thanks!

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