The season was upon me and I was not prepared. The signs had been there but the attention to them was not. The edge of the awareness took me by surprise, and the knowledge that this would take some time became clear. It was a time of molting.
The process is natural. The timeline is not. The reality of the magnitude is always a surprise. It has taken place many times, but always I am caught off guard. As a child becoming more. As a dreamer facing realities harsh winds. As the skeptic confronted with mystery and awe. The seasons that come and the transformation to the new. But first comes the process that brings it to pass. Molting.
Molting is that which removes the former shell and allows the confined to expand. The restricted to become free. It is in the process of that growth that the realities of the present are also revealed. It is by the shedding of the hard shell that the freedom of the new comes to pass, but it is the removing of the shell that brings the awareness of vulnerability. The loss of the protective shell is a place not willingly sought. It is the place that you would, in other circumstance, not have chosen. It is the place of growth at the expense of exposure and exhaustion. Exposure is due to the removal of that which protects. Exhaustion for the same reason. It is work, to walk through the process. Molting.
The process must take place though. The labor of it will be had. The vulnerability is real. Here also is this new thing, unproductive…. The place that you are not even safe becomes a place that you are also removed from getting things done. I have seen it in your eyes. Things once held in place by the constant attention and the touch and movement and care of the daily walk, now stopped. There is a distance in your eyes. A sense of knowing and still unable to attend. The exhaustion is more than you expected. More complete. More to the depths and unrelenting. You really could sleep for three days, given even a bit of opportunity. Shame is a companion. The silent scream of the tyranny of the demands of your days. So, you numbly trundle on. Molting.
The times of growth come, but they wear a mask most of the time. They have a different name as well. The loss of a friend, or a dream. The diagnosis that you hoped would be different. A friend that moved away. The passing of your mom, or your child. The first Christmas after the change. The vacation that you don’t take because you are alone. The emptiness of the house, or the room. This is now the time of the struggle. The work of the removing that which must be removed. The thing that is no more what it once was, and never will again be. The shedding and the vulnerable and the time that is needed to dry and regrow the shell. Molting.
It is actually an odd assortment of creatures that molt. The ducks and the snakes come to mind, but also things like spiders, and chickens. The duck cannot fly when it happens. The spider can take up to 10 hours to get the dead thing removed and then comes the drying and hardening and the recovery of the exertion of the event. Vulnerable all the while. Unproductive, all the while. For people that have had the time thrust upon them there is at times multiple years in the process, and always the limp that comes with the memories.
The stories of the thing that was, and how it is part of the now. A neighbor who had lost a child, and the room that was never used afterward. Sometimes the limp is permanent. The uncle that divorced late in life and then remarried, only to lose the new-found love so quickly after to cancer…. Heartache is difficult to heal from. No one knows how long or in what manner it takes place. Healing from a wounded heart is like no other path. The scar on the skin will show the progress, but not the inner heart. The closing of the access and the dark non-sparkling eyes that attempt to conceal it. The plastic and coldness of the hug attempted, but not the warmth that was intended, or hoped for. The heart is not healed by time, you simply get better at the hiding and pretending. Like the molting that stopped short of completion. Unable to move free, and incapable of going back. Vulnerable, to the ones that see more and deeper. So, you linger in other places. You stay “busy”, so you don’t have time to think. Or talk.
It is a curious thing to ponder, but you cannot exercise the heart directly…. You must do the exertion of the big muscles to get the heart rate up. Vicariously the heart is strengthened. So, it is with the broken heart. Vicariously, through simple acts of the doing for others. It is when you help another with their molting that you realize that you are healing. The struggle that others had neglected you during your healing, is actually part of your healing. It certainly isn’t called that, fore it feels like abandonment and betrayal, but it is true. It is not what you wanted, but it helps. The snake must rub against something abrasive to pull the skin off, making way for the new skin to dry. So, it is with some of the stubborn parts of our molting. We yell and snap and struggle against the abrasive to remove the bits that are not yielding. Hopefully the ones that you snap at and bite and struggle will stay fast long after the event. That they will prove true and worthy of the title “friend” after the thing is done. They will be changed by the process as well, though you may not know it for a while. They will have come to help clean the garage or the closet. To help you fix the cupboard that afternoon you needed it. And then it comes. Helpless. Lost. Alone. Then the bit that would not be gone finally is removed. The fear of abandonment, the fear of failure. The accusation of not being strong. These and many others are the stuff that finally relieves the struggle. Humility at the awareness of your impotence of the thing. Molting.
Different after. Larger, somehow. More complete, capable. The ability to fly is not yet but coming. To fly, in the manner of telling your tale to the one that would listen. Of listening to the one that would tell you their tale. You are becoming stronger. You may need to dominate less, to hide less. There is a gentleness in the hug. A warmth now there. The sparkle in the eye, that meets the eye of another. Another that knows of the depths you have trod. The ordeal that was real. The story that may be simply “known”, and not even spoken of. That is the power of the thing. The thing that changed you. The time of the molting, the healing, the place of the now. Present. Current. Authentic.
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