Dropping the Tail

Dropping the Tail

One day in August, 10-year-old Sara captured a small blue-tailed skink that was skittering across the patio where we were staying for a few days. This relatively simple event surprised me for more than one reason: How did she catch it? (Why didn’t it run from her?!) How did she know so much about it? (“She’s a blue-tailed skink. Or a five-lined skink.” “I can tell she’s female based on her markings.”)

I marvel at the fact that Graham and I have been raising children who, with every passing day, become more wholly and separately themselves, pursuing their own interests, acquiring their own knowledge, teaching me and entertaining me and humbling me.

When I first saw the skink, it had a longer tail than when Sara showed it to me (and let me snap this picture). “Yeah,” Sara said, “she dropped her tail.” They drop their tails to defend themselves and escape capture by predators.

So, in addition to my internal musings about parenting, I’ve been thinking a lot about that tail-dropping skink.

It came to mind again last week as I was preparing for the Sunday worship service about resilience. In the depleted-surge-capacity article I referenced in the sermon, one of the pieces of advice for coping during this pandemic time is to “expect less from yourself.”

I am generally reluctant to indulge less/more thinking. When, for example, someone says to me, “maybe my expectations are too high,” I’m likely to suggest that it’s not a matter of raising or lower expectations, but rather of changing them. So, I resist the suggestion that I should expect less.

And yet, the pandemic is affecting some of my basic functioning in ways that suggest I really do need to accept this advice. Grocery shopping requires more time and energetic attention if I’m to do it prudently. Collaboration with other UUCC staff members takes much more effort—a phone call, a scheduled meeting, an email … instead of popping my head into an office door for a 30-second conversation. We are experimenting with ways of offering ministry in this time of separation, and trying to remain connected and relevant and vital, and carrying the emotional weight of world events and loved one’s illnesses and deaths and hungry neighbors and weary school teachers.

So, yes, it’s wise to expect less of myself. Like the blue-tailed skink, for the sake of my own survival, I need to drop my figurative tail. For me that means expecting less rigor, less ability to concentrate, fewer tasks accomplished each day.

What do you need to drop, for the sake of your own survival?

With love and solidarity,


  1. Gail Thompson

    Dropping you tail is one thing…regenerating a new one is a whole new way to think. So if I ease up on my expectations for me, at the same time I have been trying to discover new ways to perceive myself. Always my own harshest critic, it is too easy to see the wrinkles and sags. Now I prefer to look in the mirror with my glasses off and smile at me. It helps.
    Sara is really good at sexing a lizard. Never did figure that out even living in California as a kid where such small critters pop up frequently. It is such fun to see our own kids as their own people. It just gets better from here.

  2. Jim Alvey

    In my personal evolution and recovery in recent years, I have often expressed that I lower my expectations. I’ve found that by expecting less or rather not expecting more, I’m less often disappointed. However, I really like the concept that it’s “not a matter of raising or lowering expectations, but rather of changing them.” It’s less negative and feels more constructive. I’ll give it a try!

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