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.
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.