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From An Icy Shell Emerges

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March 18, 2013 by Dragonfly Diva

In our area the saying about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb is generally pretty true.  We’ve had some on again, off again warmer temps over the last two weeks.  Just enough to make me begin to long for spring.  Then yesterday the air got colder and the forecast was predicting snow, or sleet, or freezing rain, or a mix of all of that depending upon where you are.  Winter is not quiet done yet.  Throughout the day we got just what was predicted, and at one point I was walking through the kitchen when I spied the tree branches out back – covered in ice.

Ice covered branches

Mere hours later the temperature had risen enough that the branches were now free of their brittle shell.  Looking at the branches I could not help but think about the comparisons to times in life when we are the unprepared recipient of a curve ball of hard times.  Even given a warning sometimes we have to retreat into a shell of sorts to lick wounds, heal, regroup, and strategize before we move forward.  Sometimes those shells are even self-imposed, whether due to the impact we feel from world around us, or to allow us to get from point A to point B successfully.  Some icy shells might be short-lived like today’s storm, others may be long and thickly coating the strong trunk of our life, and keeping the new shoots and buds of growth from bursting forth.

I’ve had an icy shell of my own over the past few years.  At some points it was very thick and inflexible, I was dormant and merely trying to maintain my existence.  Then the sun would come out and thin the ice some, allowing me to bend and stretch a little.  My journey to that icy hibernation started, I think, due to many of life’s little problems happening in such rapid succession that I wasn’t able to process one issue and find a solution before another presented itself.  That type of life change is not debilitating, but it is tiring.

Then the long winter hit.  My sister, who had been valiantly battling breast cancer passed away.  Her long months of chemo, mastectomy and radiation for naught.  They knew after the surgery that there was still some left in her body, and that it would continue to be a long fight.  What we only found out the day before we lost her was that there was a tumor behind her heart.  How long it had been there growing we’ll never know.  I’d talked to her the weekend before, and we’d texted a couple of times since, but I did not get to talk to her before she was gone, because she was already sedated when I managed to get to the hospital.  And so began the build up of ice in my life for quite some time.  I kept my needs buried to support my parents, my brother-in-law and others during this time, I kept on keeping on at work and at home.

The ice became thick enough a couple of times to break of a limb of my emotional strength, and a day long crying jag or a ranting, screaming session at a loved one who was more than likely clueless as to why something little was being made into a mountainous tirade.  Five months later, in an effort to bring some of my strength back inside I made a huge decision to go back to school for my graduate degree.  It was not the best time to start such a thing, but it made me feel like I was doing something for me.  The school work thawed me on one side, but added ice to the other.  Full time work, wife, mom and part-time school do not leave much for the continued healing I needed, but it gave me an escape from the thoughts that I could not face.  It gave me a reason for being over-stressed and at times unable to handle all my tasks, why my to-dos were spinning off my plate as I tried to keep it upright.

So over the next three years, my ice thawed and froze, until this past December when I finally emerged from my icy covering – mostly.  I finished my masters degree and regained those additional hours in my day.  It was the bursting forth of a tree finally beginning to grow again after an unusually harsh winter, a joyous and proud emergence.  And, yet it was a crashing stumbling reappearance, reminiscent of standing up after sitting on your foot for too long.  My psyche rebelled, and I was stressed out (cause maybe there wasn’t anything to stress about any more), didn’t know what to do with myself and tried to keep that plate filled to overflowing so that I would feel comfortable – comfortable with the maxed out life I’d been living.  I got sick, had panic attacks and spent far too much time visiting doctors that first month.  February was about getting over the flu (it really does take at least 4 weeks to get to feeling normal!) and learning to relax – well a little bit.  So here I am in March feeling like I’m shedding more of that now slushy ice.  There is still some there – I think it will take decades if ever for me to truly melt the shell from loosing my sister – but more of the new me is emerging and stretching my branches toward the sun that is peaking out behind the clouds.  Just like the branches of the tree in my yard – offering up their very young new growth and buds to the warmth of the spring.

My roots are stronger, my bark scarred from the effort, but this new me is ready to see what positive challenges I can seek out, where the benefits I gain from my efforts will take me to new heights, without need of a shell to protect me and shelter me from the onslaught of the storm.

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9 thoughts on “From An Icy Shell Emerges

  1. I can relate so much to this post, after the death of my father I thought the horrific pain of that day would destroy me, and although there is still a great sadness about me from his passing, positive life changes are helping me return to the land of the living even though there are still some rough days. Healing is a process and must be taken in baby steps. ~Irish~

    • Irish you are so right! I know myself sometimes painful situations I want to solve immediately so I no longer have to hurt, but sometimes, in some situations you have to realize that the healing and solutions come slowly over time. Some days two steps forward and the next day another two steps back right where you started from. I know deep down I’m still not through with learning about how my inner self is really dealing with her loss and how it has changed me. Rough days come and go. On April 2nd, it will be four years. That will be rough, but it is a stepping stone moment too. I’ll be looking for ways to take learning from that day – how I feel and how I handle those feelings – into the future. Thank you for your comment.

      • Yes it is very easy to fall into the thought process of trying to get everything solved to help the pain be less intense and sometimes we need that process to get passed the initial shock of loss. I have lost a sister, all of my grandparents and my father, my father being the hardest on me and I believe I acted like a robot for at least a year.

        You are so correct, sometimes you take two steps back and you loose the ground you thought you had finally gained, its a long process and I am still in the middle of it. January 27th was the third year mark of my father’s passing and each year that time has been very rough.

        While I am sure I will never “get over” the passing of my father, because I do not think there is a way to do that, I have learned so much since that day to this about myself and it helped me realize that I needed to be even more diligent in how I interact with those I love and how I deal with my own emotions. I had to teach myself that it was okay to feel what I needed to feel and I found that helped tremendously.

        My condolences on your loss and my very best thoughts to you as you move through this time.

        ~Irish~

  2. Thank you for your heartfelt post. I’m so sorry for the loss of your sister. I have one sister and I can’t even imagine how painful it’s been for you. Take care of yourself.

    • Jill, you are welcome. I am a sharing type of person. I had someone tell me once it makes me a good leader because others can see my strength and use it as an example. What I’ve learned these past four years since my sister’s passing, is that it is possible to take that strength too far. Keeping strong and not seeking support from others leads to breakdowns. For me if I was maintaining an emotional even keel, then I’d break down physically with illness. If I was ok physically, I’d break down emotionally with crying or venting over silly little things bottled up over time. Right now I’m working to know when to reach out, and finding new ways – such as blogging – to gain and give a new perspective on all these little and big things. My sister was my only sibling so, although we lived in different states, has been a huge change for me and for my parents. Seeing that iced up tree yesterday just really got me thinking and I decided to share.

  3. cuchita49 says:

    So sorry for your loss! My sister is my absolute best friend and I cannot imagine losing her as you have lost yours. You are brave and I have enjoyed reading some of your posts. I am living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and have had to develop quite the tough shell in order to deal with such a chronic illness. My method of coping is with humor. It helps so much! I look forward to reading more of your posts. 🙂

    • Thank you. I have an aunt with RA, and my Mother suffers with Fibromyalgia and spinal problems that have her in pain much of the time, so I can empathize with you on dealing with a chronic illness. My Mom just seems to cope, in ways that I can’t imagine. I think I get my strength from her. Humor really does help in so many situations. I am so glad that you’ve enjoyed reading my posts – to the point of wanting to come back to read more. 🙂 🙂 This is a new adventure for me and I’m finding I really enjoy it.

  4. Jackie says:

    I understand this post more than I can tell you! I went through a similar period when I first got sober. I still am discovering who I am, and the world is still sort of a scary place without my “buffer,” but it’s gotten easier. My shell is still present; I think it always will be. I think I need it (which may or may not be true.) to deal with my extreme sensitivity to my surroundings. We learn a lot about ourselves, take what we learn, and do the best we can with the information. I just keep telling myself that there is more than one “right” way to live.

    I’m sorry to hear about your sister. I know how hard it can be to unexpectedly lose someone dear to you.

    • Congratulations on sobriety! You deserve to be very proud of what you’ve accomplished!
      I can imagine how similar the emotional part of that effort would cause one to turn inside themselves deeply. I believe that once a person finds themselves in a shell of sorts it is possible for that shell to never fully melt away. I’ve had times where maybe only my big toe still had the icy fringes on it, but then depending upon circumstances I can feel it spreading. What I’m trying to do now is what you refer to I think…learn to feel the ice spreading, and strategies to halt it’s progress. I’ve definitely learned to open up more to my husband and be honest when I need help to get me through something. Or to approach a situation acknowledging emotions exist and are valid, but won’t help solve the problem. I was able to do that yesterday. It was surprisingly a shock when I realized that a difficult conversation went more smoothly just by acknowledging those emotions were building. You are soooo right! There is definitely more than one right approach to life! Thanks for your kind thoughts, too.

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