Re-Inventing Yourself: Learn from the Lizard

One of our cats was paying rapt attention to something on the rug. He had that ears-cupped-parallel-to-the-floor look, and was holding absolutely still, eyes wide open. He does this only when there is something of great interest to him, and that is almost always something that is about to become dead.

Lizard image:

Lizard image:

I got up, and looked at the spot on the rug. It looked like a stick. Suddenly, almost all of the spot on the rug shot across the room, leaving a wiggling piece behind. Nature works really well. The thing was a lizard, and it had dropped its tail, which wriggled appealingly, allowing my cat to focus on it, while the rest of the lizard scrambled across the room.

Picking up the now-tailless lizard with a paper towel,  stepped out the door and shook the paper towel out gently, close to the ground. The little lizard body tumbled out.”Must have picked it up too hard,” I thought, feeling sorry. Just as I thought it, the lizard pulled out of its frozen position, and shot, tailless, up the lemon tree to safety.

“Must have scared it to death,” I thought. But the lizard quickly recovered and scuttled up the lemon tree to safety.

I knew that some lizards dropped their tails, but I’d never seen it work so well. The cat was perfectly happy to let the business part of the prey escape if he got to keep the  funny, wiggly part.

It seems like such a good idea to be able to drop a non-vital body part to save the important working parts. We don’t come equipped with convenient tails, but we do drag around burdensome “tales”–the stories we drag around as baggage. The sad story of how our parents didn’t give us what we needed. The mean roommate in college who was so thoughtless. The boss who wasn’t a mentor we’d hoped for, but gave us all the drudge jobs.

All those stories pile up and slow us down. They make us prey for anger, stress, decisions based on revenge and stored-up resentment. We can drop our “tales” of hurt and pity, leave them wiggling for someone else to become fascinated with. Because they aren’t helping us. No doubt, it’s hard to give up the story we live, the perspective we have on them, how we make choices based on past hurts and injustice.

Recasting our past is hard work and not appealing. The work of letting go the past means admitting that our perspective isn’t working and deliberately looking for a new perspective, one that allows us to live a less-burdened, less blame-riddled life. It won’t be done in a single day, but the small steps and work is certainly worthwhile. My clients have experienced it, and not a single client regrets the work of re-invention.

We can’t change how our story began, but we can change how it continues and build for a happen ending.

Note: this post was originally written for’s blog.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and certified creativity coach. She has a coaching practice for people in transitions and those undergoing changes in thier lives. See her business site at and journaling site at