Shedding My Skin

Several weeks ago, I was puttering around in the garage, loading the recycling into the car. I turned around at one point and there, RIGHT WHERE I HAD JUST BEEN WALKING, was a large, coiled black snake.

Now, I don’t love snakes, but they don’t terrify me as much as, say, bugs. (If that had been a huge, nasty bug, I’d have left a Katy-shaped hole in the garage door and never looked back.) I took a deep breath and got him/her out of there with a broom and a rake, no big deal. I was so proud of myself for keeping my cool and not going nuclear!

Later that day, I found what I presume is the same snake’s skin on the opposite side of the garage. Um, this thing is HUGE.


At the same time I was geeking out over how cool it was, I was also a little nauseated by how real it was. Nothing will wake you up quite so much like discovering that a large reptile was keeping house in your garage, possibly for months. I found its skin inches from where I get out of my husband’s car; this sucker was CLOSE. And all day, all I could think of was, Well, what do you make of that, human? Still feeling in charge?

A surprising impulse told me to keep the skin, and here’s why:

I used to be a professional organizer; by the time I was finished consulting with clients, doing paperwork, driving to their homes, and spending hours helping them declutter and lighten their loads, I really didn’t feel like doing my own stuff. Oh, my house was fine, if not great: I could find what I needed without much trouble; my bills were paid on time; I didn’t have (many) piles of random things that needed my attention. Our clothes and sheets were clean, and the sink was (usually) free of dishes.

But I wasn’t asking myself the questions I was asking of my clients: How do you want to feel here, and how does that compare to what you feel now? Do you feel heavy and burdened when you come home, or sheltered and comforted? Do you feel free?

I was always pretty good at keeping a box for donations going, and popping it in the trunk of my car when it was full and time to move on to its next phase of life. If something new came into the house, at least one old thing had to go. I cleaned out the fridge every week on trash night, donated books to the library, all that good stuff…. Cue the snake; it was time to step up my game.

Do you feel free?

Forget the stuff, forget the house, what dead and dusty layers are you dragging around, human?


So during this heady mental and emotional period, life continued to occur, as it will. Major house repairs came screaming to our attention, with a price tag that continues to take my breath away. As stressful and awful as this stuff is, dealing with that fear (so, so much fear) and uncertainty has realigned my brain cells into a new way of thinking about this property. Maybe we fix the old place and sell it, lighten our load, shed our skin. It would be difficult and time-consuming and uncomfortable, AND we would be okay.

My husband rented a Dumpster while I was out of town, and went on to purge the absolute hell out of our basement, a project that fills me with joy. It is still a work in progress, but the space is clearing and beginning to breathe again. With the old crap gone, the new spaces are exposed and a little vulnerable–but clean and new, ready for their new functions. Healthier.

Do you feel free?

This is all occurring at a weird, difficult, but surprisingly welcome period in my life when I am simply cutting the shit, especially my shit. I want to feel free; I can either be a victim or a volunteer.

Perhaps this is the second wave of a mini-midlife crisis. Maybe my body is nudging me toward menopause. Maybe I’m tired of thinking instead of doing.

I don’t really care why, and that is revolutionary for me.

Cue the snake.