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The Ever-Frozen Ground

Monday, April 15, 2013

Minnesotans are know for being cold-hardy. We love winter. We think people from other parts of the country are babies when it comes to cold and snow. We joke about "Minne-snow-ta" and hunker down with hot cocoa as the flakes fall. When we do have to drive through ice pellets and the surrounding opaque whiteness, we shake our fists in frustration at people going too slow, figuring they MUST not be from around here. We bundle up until no skin is visible and venture out to sled and plop on the ground to make snow angels, the angels bloated from all of the puffy layers of clothing.

We love winter...that is, until we don't anymore.

This winter simply won't die. There were promising signs of spring a couple of weeks ago. The snow nearly melted completely. There was rain and even a thunderstorm, the surest sign that new life is on its way. The sidewalks were starting to get reacquainted with footsteps as more people ventured out. A brightness returned to the air. But then the bone-chilling cold returned, bringing with it fresh snow, stifling any green that started to rear itself to reach for the sun.

For me, it's not so much that winter won't end, it's that THIS winter will not end. Every fresh coat of snow is like burying my father all over again. Every snowflake that lands on my face, melting and running down my cheek, just serves as a reminder of the worst winter of my life. I need to see signs of new life, of progression, of growth. I need to not walk on this ever-frozen ground.

This winter has obviously been challenging for me with my dad dying a little over two months ago. He died while I was trying to organize a career change and figure out how I could tolerate my current job until I could get my new career going. From a selfish standpoint, he died right before I was going to need him the most. I was exceptionally excited about starting massage school and could not wait to talk to him about it and get his insights in embarking on my new journey, a journey towards a career path that is truly suited for me. I yearned to share with him my excitement about becoming the person I am, who is willing to go to great lengths to recreate myself and work towards the life I deserve. He died before I got the chance to even tell him about going back to school.

Life is not always comfortable. I am comfortable with this fact. We learn a lot in the midst of discomfort, even if we are too busy to notice as we squirm and writhe to relieve the discomfort. Try as we may, discomfort cannot and should not be ignored. Sometimes simply surviving extreme discomfort is a major accomplishment, if not the best goal to set during such times. The other option is to look the discomfort in the eyes, say "F**k you," and redirect the discomfort into something constructive. Even as the discomfort claws at us from the inside out, we have the power to redirect that energy.

Our imagination provides all of the tools we need to redirect negative or uncomfortable energy. It is through our creative powers that the bad can be reworked to become something good. Imagination can express itself in many forms, both within our heads and throughout our bodies. Sometimes the snow doesn't actually need to melt; we can imagine what lies beneath. The possibilities within the frozen ground become real when they are imagined, and then can become reality through our creativity. Our imagination may come alive through writing, through movement, through music, through art, through spoken word, or through something that has yet to be created.

Jiu Jitsu has been my ultimate life lesson in becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. And I can tell you, I have hardly felt more uncomfortable in my life than trying to fling one 200 pound guy after another as they sit on top of me, all the while fighting off being choked. After an hour or two of that, almost every other situation seems pretty manageable. Jiu Jitsu intimidates me even after practicing for a year and a half, and will probably continue to scare even when I earn a black belt. At the start of a match, my opponent and I watch each other, circling and wondering who will make the first move. As I hesitate I hear my teacher Marcelo say in his thick Brazilian accent, "Don't be scared!" I am learning to dive right in; sometimes my opponent gets on top from there, excitedly crushing me. But sometimes I end up right where I want to be, controlling the match as I see fit. Even when I am in control, there is still doubt and discomfort. I just do my best to remember the moves I have learned and to not repeatedly make the same mistakes.

Lessons from martial arts have been at the core of every major change I have made as an adult. Jiu Jitsu is my favorite form of exercise. It was kickboxing that sparked an interest in pursuing a career in fitness. I have learned to be more patient and have developed the confidence needed to make major life changes. Martial arts has been the ground I have walked upon in becoming the woman I am now, and the woman I will become in my new career path. As I walk upon this ground, I build upon lessons from martial arts by creating: writing, drawing, playing music, moving in different ways. I have found it vital to have that one thing--in my case, Jiu Jitsu--that grounds me and sets my imagination free. From that grounding, I can experiment, nurture, and grow.

I met with my adviser at school this week to arrange my course plan for school. I decided that I might as well tack on a personal training degree, as I only need to take 3 additional courses to complete it with my massage degree. It will only take me 4 semesters to complete the 2 degrees. That means that by the fall of next year, I will be firmly establishing myself in my new career path. I find the thought of staying at my current job much more tolerable now that there is a tangible end in sight.

In the meantime, I am also working at establishing myself as a writer. I have started to look into freelance writing, but I have become engrossed in working on my novels. I find working on the novels to be healing; I can create whatever I want on paper, and I can make my characters as comfortable or uncomfortable as I see fit. I learn about myself as my characters take free reign as they are written. While the writing part of writing is fun, I have also been doing a lot of prep work with organizing novels; in the end, I hope to have published works. So, I have also been reading a lot about writing, scribbling notes in my writing journal, consuming as much knowledge as my brain is willing to take. Writing has been my true saving grace this winter. It is never too cold to write.

The ground will not always be frozen. It will thaw, it will become nourished, it will be dug. There is much to be discovered in the quiet ground beneath us. Right now I am relinquished to hammer at the frozen ground, only tiny bits of frozen earth moving. But I will not always stomp helplessly at the frozen ground, bemoaning the snow covering the stubbornly stagnant ground. Soon I will be able to slip my shovel into the ground, throwing the earth over my shoulder. I may find something I wasn't expecting. I may find a great place to grow new roots, nurturing them from their delicate beginnings until they firmly meld with the earth. But when the world won't cooperate, sometimes we need to get a little creative in exploring the earth beneath our feet.

If the ground is content to stay frozen, then I will thaw my own ground.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
-Marcel Proust
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • CANNIE50
    Ever so beautifully written, Erin, as always. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable - that truly sums up the willingness to become stronger. It is a testament to your love for your father that you miss him so deeply.

    I am so excited for you in terms of school and your new career path. How true that a difficult situation becomes much more tolerable when we stop feeling stuck in it, and know we are just temporarily parked there on the way to somewhere better.
    1520 days ago
    Erin, this is beautiful. Just beautiful. Am so proud of you for the distance you have come, and the persistence and motivation to keep going, even though it sucks. Sorry, but I can tell it just does.
    My family is from Milwaukee and my parents would ship me out there for the winters from CA and I loooooved it. There is just no such thing as a true winter outside of the Midwest if you ask me : ). You reminded me of some fond memories of being a little girl, waking up at 4:00 in the morning to watch the snow plows go by my grandparents house. It was amazing.
    I say keep talking to your dad. Tell him now about your new career pursuits and dreams. He's listening...
    1529 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/19/2013 2:29:35 PM
    It takes a long time to get over the grief of losing a close loved one. They estimate it is one to 2 years and it much be experienced in order to move on. You are doing the right thing, what your father would want. I hope that school goes well and your martial arts continues to motivate you.
    1532 days ago
    I feel ya. It is snow here in Maine too!
    1533 days ago
    Beautifully written! I hope you thaw out soon, too.
    1533 days ago
  • THOMS1
    Susiemt is right. You have really grown in the last couple of months. I can tell by your writing. Keep up the good work and that spring thaw is just around the corner. Keep growing kid you're doing just fine. emoticon
    1533 days ago
    My sister-in-law was in Petoskey, MI this weekend -- still a foot of snow on the ground there with whiteout conditions on Saturday.

    Hang in there girl, Winter is testing you but YOU ARE STRONG and spring, and renewal, will be here shortly. emoticon
    1533 days ago
    Wow! Amazed by those who endure the cold (I just don't like it!) Grew up in southern Texas, give me the heat any day! Wow, also on the writing, wish I had the talent for it, just don't, but would love it. Beautiful post. Keep reaching for your goals.
    1533 days ago
  • PICKIE98
    We in Michigan feel the same way you do over there.. THIS winter will never end.. I do not ever remember one this long and drawn out. .. I need some Vitamin D from actual sunlight!!
    1533 days ago
    Wow! I see such growth in you I am truly amazed! Keep on growing!
    1533 days ago
    Thank for the post
    1533 days ago
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