We often look to the phoenix in times of struggle. A phoenix is beautiful, but when it loses its luster it bursts into flames to be reborn from its ashes. We’re enthralled by the phoenix in its immortality. But, the Phoenix is vain. When it reaches a point where it finds its feathers to be mottled and imperfect, it spontaneously combusts. That is its nature. It is impermanent. It is forever starting over. It self-destructs.
I used to be a phoenix. I used to go through the same cycle – build, grow strong, see flaws, destroy, become my “new” self, build, grow strong, see flaws, destroy, and marvel at the spectacle with a macabre glee. Because I would start again, I felt I was someone new. Because I felt new, I would create something beautiful, perhaps a relationship, maybe an idea. But, I could only enjoy it for a fleeting moment before the downward spiral would begin. Everything was temporary. There was only a brief history of self to build on, and I would find out I just became the same old bird I was before. Phoenixes perpetuate cycles of growth and destruction because that’s all they know how to do, and when I see that tendency in others, I am afraid I’ll be consumed by it. I’m afraid that I’ll explode too, that I’ll have to start again.
The thing is, I’m not a phoenix anymore. Somehow, perhaps during my cycle of destruction, I changed entirely. I became a snake. When a snake loses its luster, it sheds its skin as it moves forward. A snake is not spectacular by any means, it is solitary and unassuming compared to a phoenix in all its glory. But, a snake grows. A snake carries strength in every inch of its body. A snake is poised. A snake unhinges its jaw to swallow life in one fell swoop. A snake does not move backwards. As a snake, I can shed the unnecessary superficial aspects of myself that limit my movement. As a snake, I can bear my scars and watch as they become less visible with each new skin. As a snake, I continue to grow and change while maintaining the essence of myself.
A phoenix gives the illusions of many lives, but is stuck in an unchanging cycle. Do not be fooled by the phoenix. Instead, follow the snake.