Hermit Crabs, Growing Pains, and Letting Go

I remember waking up in the middle of the night as a kid feeling like my legs wanted to run a marathon. This usually happened when I was going through a growth spurt.

During these periodic growing pains, I felt deeply uncomfortable. One part of me desperately wanted to go back to sleep, while another wanted to get up and move around.

Growth of any sort usually leaves us feeling restless in some way or another.

Probably because most of the messaging we see on a daily basis is about escaping or numbing discomfort rather than learning to live alongside it. So when we know things are changing, but we can’t see the whole picture yet or are uncertain of how things will turn out, we tend to get restless.

In many ways, this has been my life over the past year. I’ve had to learn to sit in the discomfort of emotional, relational, and spiritual growth (not so much physical anymore, I’m pretty sure I’ll stay 5’8″ for the rest of my life unless I start shrinking like my grandma eventually).

As a result, patience and I have become the best of friends. (Even if I wasn’t the one to intiate this friendship).

The most recent growing pains have been about letting go. More specifically, deciding what to leave behind.

It’s like when you’re growing up, and suddenly your favorite shirt no longer fits how it used to.

At some point, you have to let it go.

Otherwise, you’ll walk around with the sleeves bunching under your armpits, constantly feeling like you’re being pinched.

We expand beyond our containers at times.

And until we start to see the new container taking shape, we can feel uncomfortable.

It’s like when a hermit crab gets too big for its shell. It has to leave the old one to find a new, more expansive shell. But there’s a part in between where it’s shellless, vulnerable, and exposed.

It’s the same for us.

And in those moments, we either look to the past, longing for the safety of our old shell, or persevere as we search for the new.

So much of life is about letting go of things that may be good but aren’t serving us anymore.

I’ve had to let go of many things throughout my life…

Comfortable contracts.

Gluten (this was painful at first, but easy now).


Old stories I played on repeat that really weren’t helping me get where I wanted to go.

But in letting go, I have gained so much more.

That doesn’t mean letting go was easy.

And it certainly doesn’t mean I know how to do it effortlessly.

But I’m adamantly convinced of the benefits of letting go, so when presented with a new opportunity to do so, my goal is to do it just a little bit faster each time.

When we can let go of an intense emotion when we’re in the middle of a tough conversation at home or work, we can see the underlying unmet needs much faster.

When we can let go of an old story we’ve been telling ourselves, we make room to write a new one.

When we choose to let go, we become lighter.

We stop clinging, thereby allowing ourselves to unwind in new ways. This leads to expansion of some form or another and expansion feels oh so good.

So does shedding the weight of emotional baggage we carry through conversations.

Growth is beautiful because it means we’re consciously choosing life over decay.

Like plants, we either grow or we wither.

Unlike plants, we have more choice in the matter. And unfortunately, we have this thing known as our mind that loves to get in our way and makes us forget just how much choice we have.

Are you willing to sit with the discomfort?

What have you been growing through recently?



P.S. “Choose life” was one of 45 lessons Regina Brett shared in her most popular article, “45 Lessons Life Taught Me.” She recently republished it in light of her 90th birthday.

Geoff and I went through each of the lessons and discussed them in a recent 2-part episode of the Make it Mentionable show. Geoff’s favorite comes up in Part 1, whereas Part 2 holds my favorite.

Which lesson of Regina’s stood out to you the most? What came up for you? Geoff and I would both love to know in the comments. (It’ll give us something to talk about over another round of espresso martinis 😉).

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Alyssa Kulesa

Alyssa Kulesa

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