Ecdysis, Pusiaužiemis, and Crisis

A dog is snoring on the floor in the next room. The washing machine is churning away in another. I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop and an empty cup of tea.

Last night a young friend came by and tried on every kimono I had left in the stack of boxes I’ve promised Thomas I’d sell off as soon as possible. I’d forgotten how comfortable I was working with the flowing silks and brilliant colors. There’s so much of my past I’ve let slip away to adapt, once again, to a new life. Like a snake shedding an old skin, I scrape away anything that has grown too tight and confining for me and move on to a new-found sense of freedom. It never seems to last, however. Eventually I’ll feel constricted again and look for a way out. Maybe that’s just an inevitable part of growth. To be too comfortable would signify complacency.

Writing allows more movement for me than anything else I’ve done. The laptop I bought last fall now seems outdated and huge, especially when I haul it to interviews and conferences. I noticed many people taking notes on iPads at conferences I went to in 2011, and felt a little jealous. They had more mobility than I did with my bulky laptop bag, and could do pretty much anything I was doing on my MacBook Pro. Instead of loading up on heavy stock (such as dozens of kimono) that will demand an increasing amount of storage space, writing only requires things be light and portable. Getting myself an iPad at this point seems a logical conclusion. Budgeting for one is a little tricky, but I think I can do it. It’s a business expense, so I can deduct it from next year’s taxes, right? Hallelujah and amen.

Last night I told Thomas how scared I was a month ago when he told me to leave. “You were in a whirlpool, spiraling down,” he said. I understood his meaning, as I indeed had been in a downward spiral of depression for those months I didn’t really work and had almost no income. He’d used the same device my mother had often used when I was a child on an hour-long crying jag. In those days Mom would spank me, just once, to get me to stop. It was enough to jolt me out of my downward spiral and reorient myself. In this case Thomas had mentally and emotionally jolted me–hard–and I’d come out of it on an upward spiral.

“I didn’t want to lose you,” I said softly.

“I couldn’t find you,” he replied. “You were lost.”

A snake shedding its skin (ecdiysis) isn’t a pretty thing. The process can take a while, during which the snake is uncomfortable, itchy, and rubs up against anything rough to remove the dead skin it’s been living in.

Recognizing an Impending Shed

A snake about to shed is referred to as being “in the blue.” The signs you will see indicating a shed is about to take place are consistent and include:

  • Skin becomes dull.
  • Eyes become cloudy or ‘bluish.’
  • Increase in nervous behavior (because they cannot see well).

After three to four days, the eyes become clear again and the snake begins seeking out rough surfaces in its enclosure such as branches and rocks (which should be relatively smooth — not pumice) and should be readily accessible. Shedding will progress from nose to tail and will take anywhere from seven to 14 days. Never handle a snake that shows signs of an impending shed or is actively shedding. Snakes will generally not eat during a shed. Force-feeding is not necessary, and in fact, harmful. Once complete, the shed skin should be removed and the snake checked for a complete shed, including eye caps.

I’d been blue. I couldn’t see a way out, and didn’t even know I needed one. I just knew that something was wrong, I was uncomfortable, and I couldn’t move. Life felt stifling, uncertain, and constricting. I stopped eating, and needed time alone to find my way out of my dead skin. By the first of January, I was looking for something rough to break the skin, and Thomas provided that for me.

Remembering my research into Romuva, a pagan faith with Baltic origins, I found this reference to the Lithuanian grass snake:

Pusiaužiemis (celebrated in January) is change of nature (cosmos) in winter. All the hibernating creatures wake up and declare about possible climatic conditions. Grass-snake is important mythological creature which crawls on festive table and hallows food. This means a good yield and luck coming new year. Romuva officiates rites to thank Gods and dances traditional grass-snake dance preserved in folklore.

It all makes sense, really. Taken from the two perspectives above, my transformation is a positive, if painful, experience that will ultimately lead to bigger things… and potentially bigger transformations.

I’ll leave you with this word of the day, Crisis. It’s all about the turning point and what you do with it. I chose to move in one direction, but things could have gone another way. I’m glad they didn’t.




1. stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
2. a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
3. a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person’s life.
4. Medicine/Medical .

a. the point in the course of a serious disease at which a decisive change occurs, leading either to recovery or to death.
b. the change itself.
5. the point in a play or story at which hostile elements are most tensely opposed to each other.

What’s your latest crisis, and how are you handling it? Will you choose to shed your skin? Will you be grateful for the opportunity, and celebrate your new life? Or will you be blinded by the old skin, and stay as you are, perpetually discomforted by your surroundings? Growth is often painful, and asks us to relinquish that which is most comfortable, even as it strangles us. February is here. Maybe it’s time for you to let go and move on from something that has been holding you back. You might be surprised at how the world opens up when you do.

I certainly was.

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