Lockdown brings difficulty; but it also brings re-invention.
Recently I listened to a businesswoman talking about how she’s adapting to change, shedding old practices which don’t work anymore and finding new ways to thrive in collaboration with other businesses; people she hadn’t spoken with before..
It was inspiring stuff. And in the best possible way, she reminded me of a snake.
Have you ever watched a snake shed its skin? It’s quite a sight and disturbing in a way. When the time comes, the creature isn’t at all sentimental or troubled by self-pity – it just leaves the old skin on the grass and moves on.
It does this when it no longer needs it, when the old skin has served its purpose and the new skin is ready – ready for fresh adventures.
The snake sheds the old skin because it is wrinkled, dry and uncomfortable and has no more life in it. And this makes sense. But are we as wise as the snake?
We all have old skins. Down the years we have played many different roles and not all of them by choice.
Some we have loved and some have been difficult.
Maybe some suited you better than others; and that’s all right. As Cardinal Newman once said, ‘To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.’ With every role we learn, and failure can be kinder than success. As Leonard Cohen sang,
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
And if you were a snake counting your old skins today, how many would there be? If you had time, you could even move through the grass visiting old sites and roles now abandoned.
Which have happy and proud memories and which make you sad, awkward or angry? Different feelings are allowed.
Some people cling on to their lifeless old skin because they cannot believe there is fresh skin underneath, ready to replace it. Perhaps they cling to a version of reality that is no longer true – but which they want to be true. This could relate to work, family or belief.
Familiar ways can help us to feel secure and give us a sense of identity; but like any old skin, they are dry, uncomfortable and stifle fresh adventures. The snake is more vibrantly coloured with the old skin gone. But they must first let go of it.
The Buddha said that just because a boat had got you across the sea, it didn’t mean you had to carry it on your back through the forest. It had served its purpose – better now to leave it behind, with thanks, on the shore.
There is a time and a season for everything. And in lockdown and beyond, every life, like every journey, can be an inspiring tale of letting go and re-invention.