There are plenty of movies out in the world that take place in a cold place. It’s not just a shiver, I need my coat cold, but the kind of cold that freezes entire lakes over and people can ice skate on it for fun. It’s the kind of cold that grabs the water and forces it together into a hardened bond that can’t be penetrated, not even by the blade of skates. Sometimes, the hero or heroine ends up trapped on the ice for whatever reason, whether it be saving someone else or trying to escape. You sit nervously at the edge of your seat watching them freeze on top of the already frozen lake when you hear that sound. It’s the universal sound that signals all to stop moving instantly and hold your breath, praying it won’t crack the ice below. That first crunch noise freezes those in the frame. They feel brave after a few moments of silence to continue climbing, running, or whatever they were doing before that sound. A second crunch comes and suddenly cracks appear below and the people freeze again. The ice below could collapse at any moment sending the people above into the water below. The thought sends shivers down your spine because you know what that water would be like; you’ve imagined it a million times in your head, trying to escape with the hero on screen. We relate so easily to the people on top of the ice, trying to escape from impending doom. In this season of my life, I feel like the ice.
When I was younger, my layer of ice was thin. I hadn’t had time to completely freeze the way others could through life experiences. The smallest step would cause me to crack and shatter. It’d take some time but I always froze again, reforming a layer of ice on the surface stronger than before. This process happens repeatedly as I learn to grow stronger and stronger. I was always afraid of the first sign of cracking so I’d do my best to freeze harder, become colder, and do whatever it took to hide that first split in the ice that slivers through like a bullet cutting through the air. I thought that when I saw that crack, it meant I’d shatter and sometimes, I just don’t know if I have it in me to fully freeze again. It’s exhausting, putting yourself back together, especially if you’ve done it one time too many in just a single season of life.
Now that my system is clean of alcohol and other substances that normally fogged me up, I get to be present. I was living a delusion, walking around in a haze for seven years while drowning myself in a bottle. Or should I say multiple bottles, cans, boxes, and whatever container I could find to hold my sweet poison. I came to and saw the mess left behind. There were cracks everywhere that I didn’t know how to handle and the inevitable happened: I shattered once more. I shattered into a million pieces that melted immediately and I panicked, thinking I needed each one. With time, those pieces were forgotten, melting for a reason and I laid back in the cold water and floated. There wasn’t strength in me to rebuild once more, at least not now. I was asked recently how I got to where I am today. This question got me thinking hard and I remember back to when I floated on that cold water, before I froze and once again regained my icy layer of protection. It felt so easy at the time since I didn’t think I was actually doing anything. I didn’t see the strong foundation being built at the edge, slowly freezing its way towards me with each step of recovery I took. I moved forward without lifting a finger physically, meanwhile spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, my everything was being rebooted and I got to experience myself waking up to the world. What a gift, to wake up and see reality. It may not be perfect, in fact, it was painful, but it’s real. I realized that life hadn’t changed at all: people kept on with their schedules, the sun kept shining, the world kept turning, and all around me, life kept on happening even though I felt like I had stopped in the middle of my lake, floating. As time crept on and I learned how to enter the human race and be one of you, I saw that life wasn’t so bad. A new appreciation began forming and I felt an odd feeling later identified as joy. I actually liked life and I hadn’t even realized I was falling in love with it. Laying in the middle of the lake suddenly wasn’t too bad as long as I had the right gear on. All throughout this time, life hadn’t changed one bit. I was the one that had changed from the inside out. I was a flower that had bloomed, completely transforming the external because the internal decided to come out. How refreshing to open my eyes to sunlight and breathe in the rays of life I so desperately needed.
The business of recovering my layer of ice was the next big project. I felt alive and happy, which was a great step to take. From there, the real hauling of old skeletons begin and I have to face each demon, shake its hand on its way out of my life, and watch them disappear. It’s a parade of mistakes off the island of misfit toys. There’s no pretending they don’t exist, not when I can see clearly. The problem before wasn’t just pretending they weren’t there but pretending they weren’t affecting me. It was like trying to run with a ball and chain but wondering why you’re slow. It was like trying to swim with a weight tied around your waist and wondering why you couldn’t float. It was like trying to breathe while being suffocated and wondering why you couldn’t catch a breath. As each step was taken and the closet became cleaner, the ball and chain slipped away, the weight was loosened and sank, and air came into my lungs once more. Sometimes you don’t know just how trapped you were until you taste freedom for the first time.
With freedom, comes responsibility. Life’s pleasures don’t always come for free, but the price is as simple as saying hello to a friend, offering a hand to a stranger, or something even smaller. As time goes on and responsibilities become easier to handle, you’re fully immersed in life and the ice on your lake has frozen just a little bit more. Today, my ice is more solid than before. I feel confident I can stand on it and trust it to hold my weight. I trust that I can move and take in the view without fear of falling back in. I don’t need to fear the shattering. When I used to see the faintest hint of cracks in my layer of protection, I’d panic and freeze harder in order to protect myself. What I failed to see is that sometimes cracks are necessary in order to let light in. It’s possible to be cracked, yet completely whole.
So, if you were to ask me again how I got to where I am today, I’d tell you my story. I’d tell you about my fears of shattering, cracking, and falling apart, but I’d also tell you of strength, reconstruction, and necessity of cracks to let the light in. Darkness cannot be overcome with darkness, only with light. In those action movies of the heroes being stuck on cracking ice, it may seem like the ice always cracks and somebody falls in. But life isn’t a movie. We can be cracked but never completely fall apart. We live in a delusional world that tells us cracks, wrinkles, and any imperfections are demons that must be destroyed with new creams, new therapies, new medications, this and that. The world pretends that humans can be perfect and we can be flawless, but it fails to recognize what a human actually is. We denounce the things vital to survival and promote the self-destructing behaviors in order to line someone’s pockets somewhere. We are told that our own company isn’t good enough and we need this new invention, this new gadget, this new thing to fill the hole inside of us. Most people spend their whole lives trying to fill this hole we are told is inside, but what if we wasted our lives searching for something that doesn’t exist? What if we are perfectly whole? What if there is no hole? What if those cracks are part of being human and fixing them would, in fact, rob us of humanity?
If the whole world was happy, there would be no market. There would be no third yacht for the inventor of the same, old cream designed to erase your laugh lines. When did proof of a life filled with laughter become a bad thing? There would be no fourth sportscar for the inventor of the same, old botox designed to erase your wrinkles. When did signs of aging and living become condemnable? Why are those who lived their lives fully punished for wearing their fullness on their sleeves?
Because if the whole world was happy, there would be no market.
“You need the new mascara!”
I’m happy with my eyelashes.
“You need the new lipstick!”
I love the color of my lips.
“You need to lose 5lbs!”
I love the way I look.
“But you need to fill your cracks!”
I love being a human. Being perfect is exhausting. When I reach the end of my life, I refuse to look back on a life that was spent chasing ghosts and voids I don’t have. I refuse to see someone scrambling to hide their humanness. I want to see laugh lines, wrinkles, the extra 5lbs, normal lashes, a natural body, and cracks. How else will the light get in?