As a snake ages, it regularly sheds its skin for a new one. The new skin starts forming even before the former one has been shed, but it inevitably has to get rid of the old skin in favor of the new. Without this shedding, the snake cannot continue to grow.
People can be the same way. We adopt a certain persona, lifestyle, goals, etc., which seem suitable and right, only later to find out that they have become restrictive and outdated. Think of a man who has committed to a career path that has become stifling. Or a woman who has been the caretaker in her family, but reaches the point where she’s tired of putting out all the fires, taking care of everyone’s every need, and being responsible for all those around her.
The snake can grow naturally out of one skin because another is already in place, but it’s more complicated for the person. We cannot segue neatly from one identity or lifestyle into another without some uncertainty and usually some trepidation. We rarely have the option of moving from one life or identity into another that is fully formed.
And we may not have anticipated that we would have to. Very often, a new concept of who a person is and how they want to live has been growing slowly and subtly under the surface. Maybe they were only slightly aware that it was occurring before abruptly facing the reality that a life which seemed just fine no longer fits, in whole or in part.
Yet the inner drive to move on to a new phase arrives in the company of a conflict, because moving forward means moving away from what is familiar and comfortable. Unless you’re one of those brave (or reckless) people that leaps into the future without hesitation, resistance is unavoidable, even natural. This is even more true for a person who’s forced into changes they didn’t want or seek, as follows a job loss or an unexpected divorce.
You may not see the opportunity (opportunities have a tendency to disguise themselves as crises) and it may seem more like your world has collapsed around you. To cope, you’ll need an appropriate and adaptive outlook, and I suggest you look at these times as times of personal pioneering.
When you are personally pioneering, you are stepping into territory that is uncharted (for you, at least), just like settlers did in covered wagons when they headed out west (apparently, I love Western metaphors). They had to be resourceful. They created trails because trails weren’t already available. They had to move forward and wait for solutions to fall in place because answers often come in stages, or in pieces. The pioneers made use of what navigational resources they had, and coped with the setbacks in the way.
When they unexpectedly faced an obstacle like a river or gorge, they had to find a way past it, rather than give up, as we’re often tempted to do.
Can you do this? It’s an adventurous attitude, not a crisis mentality. Pioneering accepts a challenge with confidence, but doesn’t require certainty. It’s flying by the seat of your pants, but with logic and direction. It’s inventive, flexible, and engaging, reading to make adaptations as circumstances require, and sure that the finale will be better even if it isn’t foreseeable.
How often is the light at the end of the tunnel visible from the beginning?