Shedding layers like a snake

Haircut photo credit Kirsten Akens 2015

Snakes shed their outermost layer of skin on average two to four times a year. It's a fascinating process, and they shed primarily because they're literally growing too big for their skin.

(Of course humans shed their skin as well, but not in the same full-body all-at-once way.)

According to

Prior to shedding, a snake’s skin becomes pale and dull, and the eyes turn a bluish-white shade. This is due to a layer of fluid building up between the old skin and the new one underneath. During this period, captive snakes may be nervous and irritable, possibly because they cannot see properly until the old skin becomes detached from the head. They will not normally eat in the days leading up to shedding and will tend to hide, as they are vulnerable at this time.

Over the past few months, I've been feeling a lot like a snake pre-shed. Itchy under all my layers. Like I'm ready to burst at the seams, desperately needing something to shift. I've been both nervous and irritable, and a bit anxious and headachy.

It might be because of my focus on the word courage this year. Opening everything to a new vulnerability. It might be because movement is finally happening around me and with me, in both my yoga teaching and my freelance writing.

Whatever it is, I've finally decided — after weeks of it poking at me — to embrace it.

I started with my hair. Yesterday my hair stylist chopped off about ten inches. Hair that I've been growing for more than a decade.

Am I in love with it? Oh ... not quite yet.

I do love feeling lighter. I do love that it takes much less time to wash and dry and style in the morning. I do love that I can still tuck wisps behind my ears.

But I also feel exposed. I don't know that I actually hid behind my longer hair, but somehow the chin-length bob opens up my shoulders and my neck (hello scarves!) and my face and my eyes in a different way.

It's going to take some getting used to.

Which snakes have to do too:

When the old skin is shed, it doesn’t look exactly the same as its replacement. The skin takes on a nearly transparent appearance, and, due to stretching, is larger than the snake.

I guess that's kind of how I feel. My hair may actually be smaller than it was, but it feels larger. Like I need time to settle into it and reconfigure my lines, my shape, my body and how all of that moves in this world.

And then, because it's how we grow, shed again.


P.S. After researching many options, and wanting to donate to Locks of Love or another similar organization that takes hair and turns it into wigs for those undergoing hair loss, I learned that because of the dyes I've used over the years, my hair was not acceptable. I kept searching, and I found this really cool environmental program called Clean Wave, through the Matter of Trust website, which takes hair donations and weaves them into rugs to be used to clean contaminated water in rivers and oceans (usually due to oil spills). Hair only needs to be three inches in length, and dyes and such don't matter. An awesome option for all of you out there who may not have the required lengths or the necessary healthy condition for other programs!