Cycles of Shedding
“The wise ones who journey with me remind me that there
are cycles of shedding before there is conception, that
birthing is painful and messy and loud, and that we find it
so hard to let go, to open so that new life can emerge.” Jan L.
efore me lies a table full of photos of a young girl.
B Me. I see my second birthday; my fifth; another
one or two. I think I look dorky, sullen, and goofy. I
also witness a face that is brilliant, wise, and beautiful.
Inside all these photos are both joy for the life I’ve lived
and pain for areas that could have been better. Feeling
the pain in messy and loud ways has been essential to
arrive at the place of birth and new life. I’ve come
through a painful journey and have fought to find
what is true for me. Cycles of shedding have been my
constant companions throughout recent years.
My childhood was one of imperfection—perhaps
everyone’s is. I know I was cared for, although not
always in the ways I desired. Most of the pictures
before me are studio portraits with perfect hair and
carefully selected clothing. One photo, however, rises
to the forefront. I am eight years old and only a few
weeks before the picture, I fell off my bicycle and broke
my front teeth. My lip was split so badly it would
droop for several years before being surgically
corrected. Ironically, it is this slightly disheveled
picture that engages me as most authentic. It is the only
picture that bears my signature, both literally and
figuratively. My gratitude swells as I see my young
handwriting testifying to the spunk I had even in my
I am grateful for the table full of pictures I did not
think existed. They show me someone took care to
document my life, however perfectly and imprecisely.
These photos bear witness to my life. They allow me to
see the cycles of growth, including the spaces of
sullenness, beauty, brilliance, brokenness, and spunk.
Each phase led to a new space. Each year and memory
gave way for new life to emerge.
• Take a piece of fruit or vegetable that can be
peeled and set it where you can examine it closely.
• Notice any imperfections while also taking in the
beauty and uniqueness of this creation.
• Consider what might need to be peeled away
before you could enjoy its full flavor.
• What needs to be shed from your life to experience
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