The Miracle of Life. Or, I'm Just Molting.

They say that death gives people a new appreciation for life.  I beg to argue, since the only thing I've done since my mother died has been sit on the couch, cry a lot, and...well that's about it.  But something did happen today that touched me in a way I forgot I could feel, and who was responsible?  A crab.  

This is my crab.  He has a very long name, but he goes by Nebby.  He was a Valentine's Day present from my au pair family.  We've been close, we've been partners, for a year now.  He lives in Henri's apartment but he's still mine.  He's a sweet little rainbow crab who has the nicest most adorable crabby face I've ever seen.  I know a crab is an unconventional pet, but I really am a crustacean fanatic.  I think they're miraculous little things and they just capture my heart. 

Anyway, I've always had this theory that the comparing of human life change to a butterfly metamorphosis is bullshit.  We don't wrap up in a cocoon as a fuzzy worm and then triumphantly emerge as a beautiful delicate winged thing.  And then die after a week.  No, we're more like crabs.  What happens with crabs is, they grow too big for their hard shell, and so it breaks.  And what do they do? For sustenance, they eat their old selves.  And become strong again.  And repeat this process dozens of times, as long as they live.  

At least I identify with the second analogy more.  You sometimes grow too big for the person you have been living as, but you take that hard-earned, well-loved part of you with you, you ingest it and it stays while you continue to be bigger and better.  If you do life correctly, you too can have several of your own skin-sheddings.  Your own molts.  

I think I'm molting right now.  I don't know who I am, but I know it's not the person I was before my mother died.  I am something different, and I don't think it's something bad.  The only reason I feel this way (not from the 3 hour crying spells on the couch) is because I never knew I cared so much.  I guess I often want to believe I don't care.  I spent a lot of time building up a shell, no pun intended, from the harsh things my parents threw at me.  I was so proud of that shell and so proud of not caring and not being crippled and of saying fuck you, to their abuse and living my life, that I never dreamed that I do care, and that I miss and love my mother.  

Molting is a delicate process.  For humans and crabs.  At least it is for crabs.  They are soft after they pull off the exoskeleton and any jostling or stress can kill them.  They're best left in the dark for a few days while they eat the exo and get strong again.  Is that what I'm doing?  Am I eating the exoskeleton?  It sure tastes bad.  Like salty tears and nosebleeds.  I digress.  The point of this story.

I had a nightmare yesterday afternoon where my crab was hurt.  He was flailing around in his tank.  I bolted upright, still hearing strange tapping-on-glass noises, and frantically tried to see what the noise was.  As it turns out it was a bunch of birds fighting at the window and the knocking on the glass confused me.  My crab usually knocks on his tank when he's bored.  Then I realized he's been pretty quiet, and I crept over to his tank.  I could see one of his legs sticking out from his cave, but when I tapped on the glass to get his attention, I saw something that moved me to tears, and for the first time, it wasn't something sad that reminded me of death.

What I thought was his leg was his exoskeleton.  He's molted.  His third successful molt in the year we've spent together.  He was sitting beside his skeleton and pushed it out gently toward me, I think to probably confuse me into taking it if I were a predator.  The suit of armor that housed my crab was just a hull, and it flopped through the water uselessly while he sat, snug and safe, soft and alive, in his cave.  

I'm not sure why knowing that my little buddy is alive, is doing that miraculous thing he does every so often, made me feel so fantastic that I sat there and cried with joy.  I think part of it is because I love him so much.  I love that little spidery creature more than words.  I identify with how he feels right now, scared and unenergetic and only halfway through a difficult task that could easily kill him if he let it.  And I think I cried because I saw something growing, something changing and moving forward, and I haven't seen that in the world in the past three weeks.  

Here's to another successful molt.  


  1. This post is so perfect and is such a great description of change! It describes me so perfectly after my miscarriage because there was definitely a change within me. I knew I was no longer the same person as before, and it wasn't really a bad thing. I'm glad you're figuring things out. <3

  2. although i still relate to the butterfly (obviously), this was a beautiful analogy.

  3. From now on, this is how I want to think about life. I love it. I'm glad you are finding some solace and strength. x

  4. Thank you so much for writing this post, what a wonderful read it was. I love the crab analogy, and can identify so much more with that one than the butterfly one.
    Also, I am so sorry about your mother (I wish I could give you a big hug, even though that might be creepy coming from a stranger), but I am so happy that you had this experience that could remind you that you too are in the process of molting, and that you will come out stronger in the other end, even if that feels very far away. xoxo