Holding Both, Again

As the summer sun creeps down toward its southern, wintery home, I feel that telltale change in the air.  It smells spicier and cleaner, and it’s laced with a primal knowing that changes are en route. Change, transition, and transformation, always mean both losing and gaining. Our human minds often fixate on loss, baffled at our inability to hold on to anything. It is uncomfortable to make space for this grief and powerlessness, yet it may be central to dreaming into our next steps. Once again, we’re asked to hold both.

One of my favorite podcasts is We Can Do Hard Things, with Glennon Doyle. In a recent episode she compared herself to a soft-shelled crab, caught out between shells, and keenly aware of her vulnerability. Her lived experience told her that the next shell was always bigger than the one she was in, but it was still scary to feel so exposed and uncovered. We often doubt that we’ll know how to fill that next, bigger shell, even though the shell we’ve left had become unlivable. 

Doyle also shared a tragic/comical story of a stealth crawdad who managed to evade the boiling pot of Old Bay, and became their family “pet” for a brief time. Apparently these crustaceans also molt, but recognize that they must EAT the exoskeleton they just vacated, to assure that they’ll have the resources to grow their new home! 

Such poetry in the crabby realms!
We need our “old”
to grow our “new”.

First off, yuck. But secondly, it feels like yet another opportunity to get clearer about what we’ve always done, and recognize that humans, unlike creepy crawlers, have lots of choices.

Our next, bigger version of our lives can be more creative than those lives we’ve already lived.

I usually don’t want to befriend my mistakes, but want to scurry hastily to anything else.  It reminds me of musical chairs, and the physical anxiety of rushing to a chair, any chair, to claim it by any means, lest we wear the blushing cloud of public shame before our classmates.

The crawdad method teaches us that all of feelings of in-between-ness are valuable. Do not compost the grief, loss, regret. Hang out with the wishings for different memories. Cherish the recollections of life-giving moments. Eat that damned shell!


In class recently, I shared en excerpt from Pema Chodron’s classic, When Things Fall Apart:

“Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors, people who have a certain hunger to know what is true, feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we are holding back.

They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”.

I am trying to follow this wisdom and learn where I’m currently stuck. Grief and loss sit in my hand once again, while freedom and mystery land in the other hand. My worrier self loves to squeeze the painful material, and my warrior self gains vitality as I recognize the endless possibilities the world offers.

I’m trying to eat the shell without becoming ill. I’m also striving to grant permission to my dreamer to ignore all imagined barriers without leaving the planet and my body.

I am trying to allow myself to make so many mistakes, and owning that my actions will effect other beings – this is inevitable.This is new for me, and super uncomfortable!

I notice how much release I get from my yoga and meditation practices and I’m holding them like a lifeline. I also experience relief when I truthfully confide in my community. There is so much support in authentic listening.

Look for some changes coming in the fall. My shell exchange has highlighted a habit of under-valuing my skills and gifts, leaving me under-resourced. I love giving freely and this will soon be accompanied by support-generating offerings.

For now, I am a soft-shelled crab, quietly taking refuge among the rocks. I am growing and transforming and I will know that next, right-sized shell when it appears.