If you’re feeling itchy, you might just want to consult your closest lobster.
It turns out we may have a lot to learn from our crustacean friends, beyond how good they are with butter. In a viral video from 2009, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski posits a rather compelling analogy between people and lobsters when handling stress.
Lobsters grow, he explains, by discarding one rigid shell for another larger version. This happens when the lobster feels under pressure and uncomfortable, compelling him to go some place safe and discard the old shell. Soon he has a bigger one and can go about his lobster way.
Disney fans might picture the lobsters from “The Little Mermaid” or “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” happily sambaing with their comfy well-fitting shells.
But before it can dance, it has to feel discomfort — its stimulus to grow, the rabbi explains. If the lobster went to the doctor for pills to treat the itchy symptoms, as we do, then he would never grow. The conclusion, therefore, is that “times of stress are also times that are signals for growth and if we use adversity properly we can grow through adversity.”
Now I am the first one to say that taking medication for mental illness is quite literally a life saver for many. I would never not to go a psychiatrist for help. That said, I think we can learn from this when it comes to the ongoing process of figuring out who we are.
What’s itching you now: What makes you feel not quite right, not quite yourself? What makes up your shell? Does it define you or confine you? Is it squeezing so much that your sort of inner fleshy bits are sticking out? Is your inner muchness showing?!!–your own core self trying to break free?
Peter Capaldi as the Doctor may have tried to stop his regeneration by shoving his glowing hands in the snow, but Time Lords must regenerate, painfully at times. We too must keep on growing and changing, all the while struggling to hang onto our muchness.
For those Narnia fans out there, it’s also like Eustace in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” when he is transformed into a dragon by his greed. The scales become irritating and itchy, and he learns that the only way to be a boy again is for Aslan (the God/Jesus figure) to painfully rip the dragon skin off of him. In this case, it’s symbolic of purposefully ridding himself of sin.
The problem for us is that as people (not dragons or Time Lords or lobsters), we have choice in what shell/regeneration/skin we get in. We’ve kept our instincts to itch to molt, to regenerate, but we don’t always know how to change or where to go. Our muchness breaks through, irritatingly at times – but how do you house it?
One key, I think, is to look backwards. Sure, looking down the food chain will work… we must never forget we were and we are animals with instincts for change. But I mean back in our childhood. Kids play at various identities all the time. Toddlers wear their parents’ shoes. Kindergartners act like doctors or teachers or dinosaurs or space aliens. Even into middle school, kids play at belong with one group or the other (are they into pop music? Indie rock? Musicals? The latter is the right choice, obviously, ha). Play is fun for fun’s sake, but it’s also necessary and purposeful.
For fandom fans and jazz handy theater folks, that urge to play never goes away – which could be why the irritating normals out there look down on them. But really it’s just trying on different shells for fun. Every time you see a different “I want” song (the traditional character introduction), you see how much you gel with that character.
One reason the TV show “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” is so wonderful is because the main character Rebecca Bunch tries on a different identity with every song. She’s an ingenou, she’s a vixen, she’s adorable, she’s romantic, she’s nuts… she goes all out on each, with impeccable choreography. And so do we, as we sing along.
In fact, I’d say that the characters we play/see on stage are appealing because they let us vicariously play simpler versions of the characters we play in life. It’s just one person, one scenario, one situation, framed and in focus. It’s easily digestible. It’s an itch easily scratched.
If yoga allows us to simply be, to honor our inner muchness, to sit on our mats as shell-free, wiggly, lobster stuffing–then theater/shows are the opposite. They let us try on different shells, different skins. We sing “I want” songs, jazz hands outstretched, until we find we are singing our own song. Or we watch characters fly one spaceship after another, choose the light side or dark side, or fight for one Hogwarts house after another, until we find one that feels like home.
Yoga can help you visualize this, as well. Star Pose in yoga can be done in many different orientations, and as you try them out, you can picture yourself trying out your possible futures. You could stand, arms and legs outstretched. Or you could lean and lift up one foot. Or if you want a challenge, you can go horizontal: do a side plank and lift up one leg.
By playing and trying things out, then maybe you can feel where your muchness is comfortable. You may start to picture the shell/regeneration you need to have, and what rock/TARDIS you can use to slough off the old one. You can be inspired to live your best life.
Our squishy fleshy muchnesses just might then have some wiggle room, if we can remember our animal instincts to change, and our human drive to dream. At least until the next regeneration, the next shell, comes along.