Ecdysis is a Greek term used to describe “the art of escaping from the old shell.”
A shedding, if you will.
It’s specifically used in reference to lobsters, who undergo a fascinating transformation process throughout their lives so that they can continue to grow.
Because their shells are hard, in order for the lobster to grow its current shell must be broken open and abandoned.
Throughout their lifetime lobsters are continually preparing for or recovering from this molting process because they have unlimited potential for growth.
Not unlike humans, no?
To prepare for this transformation the lobster prepares a new soft shell that will replace the old one. It withdraws blood supply from certain appendages that will be lost in the molting process and any heretofore lost limbs begin to recreate themselves.
The lobster’s water intake just prior to molting causes the new shell to swell, breaking open and pushing away the old one.
Without its old shell the lobster is soft, vulnerable, and exposed. It hides itself while its new shell hardens, allowing transformation and growth to take place in safety.
The last 10 months have felt like a kind of ecdysis for me, as I’ve prepared for the transformation to motherhood. It is one of many transformations we humans are privileged to encounter during our lifetimes. Although an experience unique to women, the process of transformation is common to us all.
We all possess an exoskeleton; a shell, both literal and figurative, from which we engage with our worlds.
In animals their shell is used for protection, allows for sensation, supports and frames their musculature, and provides defense from predators.
This is much the same for us humans. Our shells protect us, create healthy boundaries and structure, and can be used as a defense.
What often happens is that as adults we are still wearing the shells from our childhood. Our emotional scars or losses we experienced in our younger years have never been allowed to regenerate.
We engage with the world from a place of lack or longing, when really what needs to happen is a healing from within.
We humans are unimaginably resilient. Like our lobster friend we can regrow parts of ourselves that were injured or lost: a broken heart, low self-esteem, fear of failure, or losing a loved one.
In order for us to heal and grow we must be willing to change. We must be willing to break out of our old shell, expose our soft, unprotected insides, and through this process grow into a new shape, a new shell, and a new stage of life.
We lose a part of ourselves in this process. We are never the same again because we are transformed from the inside out.
Honoring this process means we honor whatever stage we are in and whatever stage we witness our fellow human beings in, whether that be grieving, growing, or shedding.
Whenever the opportunity for growth presents itself to us, may we courageously rise to this occasion in our lives. May our transformations allow us to explore our unlimited potential for growth and authenticity and our true capacity for love and life.
photo credit: The Ernst Mayr Library