A Colombian red-tailed boa constrictor with a history of eating disorders joined our household in the spring of 2002. Mitch had come close to starving at the hands of his first owner, and now he faced a new challenge. At six feet long, it was past time for him to move up the food chain from rats to rabbits, but he just couldn’t make the jump. Because he wasn’t eating, Mitch couldn’t grow or shed his skin either, which made him one miserable reptile.
For two weeks in a row, Mitch lounged in the corner of his feeding tub, completely ignoring the terrified rabbit cowering in the opposite corner. Then it got really strange. I came home from work and found a dead bunny soaking in a pool of chicken broth in the bathroom sink. Reptile experts assured my son Clayton this strategy would help Mitch turn the corner with his eating issues. And it did, thank goodness. After an initially unsuccessful attempt to down the dead rabbit hind leg first, Mitch reconsidered and started at the other end. Success!
Once Mitch began eating well and regularly, he began growing and shedding again. In the week or so before each shed, his eyes clouded over and his skin became dull. Because their vision is impaired, snakes behave unpredictably, even aggressively, during this period, and Mitch was no exception. Once his eyes cleared the shed began, and he rubbed off the old skin and left it at the other end of his tank like a set of clothes set aside for the thrift store.
Over the next few months as I watched Mitch grow and shed, grow and shed, I realized we humans aren’t so different from reptiles. We grow—physically, emotionally, and mentally—and then, usually with some amount of misery, we shed “skins” that have become too tight. Shedding outgrown parts of ourselves can be painful, and often our vision is impaired just as Mitch’s was. Yet accepting growth and change as an integral part of life also means accepting the pain and discomfort of the process. So here’s to a new year full of “sheds,” a year full of growth and change—a year full of life, in other words.
My novel, Yard Sale, is available on Amazon.