If you're a mom like me, you probably have the Frozen soundtrack playing in your head on repeat and shuffle all day, and you've probably seen the movie about a gazillion times since it became available on DVD a few weeks ago. You know I'm talking to you. And, let's not forget the teeny-tiny detail that I'm a mother of two BOYS. Yes, that's right. My little guys constantly request the soundtrack at home and in the car, and I finally broke down and just bought the DVD because my red box rental receipt is getting to be ridiculous.
So, during my gazillion plus one time watching Frozen this week, it finally hit me. Elsa and Anna have not only captured the hearts of millions, these miraculous little girls portray the very core of what has taken me 38 years and a battle with breast cancer to discover.
Lesson #1: Fear and uncertainty can be paralyzing, especially if you resist them.
Elsa grows more and more afraid as her uncertainty with regard to how strong her powers are increases. (OK, spoiler alert for those of you who have been living in a hole somewhere for the past several months.) She starts by freezing the floor in a single room and building some snow hills for her little sister. When she freezes almost everything at her own coronation years later, she becomes so afraid she flees and ultimately freezes the entire town of Arendelle. Elsa is so overcome with fear and the uncertainty of what her powers could do to destroy everyone (not knowing she basically already has) that in her battle to keep herself and her powers in seclusion (read that as suppressed), she builds a giant ice castle, an enormous ice monster and well, let's not forget Olaf.
Here's the key: The more she tries to keep her fears pushed deep, deep down inside of her, the stronger they grow. And, grow. (Hum it to yourself now ... "don't let them in, don't let them see, be the good girl you always have to be... conceal, don't feel...") Eventually, they grow to the point where everything, including Elsa herself really, is frozen.
I know Elsa's story intimately with a slightly different take. Through my own personal journey with breast cancer, from a little girl who lost her mother to the disease to an adult diagnosed herself, I've learned that resisting fear takes a ton of energy. It's exhausting. My mind focuses on that one single fear (the one most prevalent at the time). I repeat it over and over in my head (yep, kind of like that glorious Frozen crack-track). And, it seems to take over my body as my nervousness leaves me without an appetite and on edge constantly. In fact, I've learned that at least for me (though I think it may be true for others), trying to deny or resist the existence of my fears and uncertainty focuses so much of my attention on them that I'm actually feeding their existence and they grow bigger and bigger. Did you get that? Fear breeds more fear, even within a single person. It's circular. It's a vortex, and in Elsa's case, it's a polar vortex.
But the good news is that both Elsa and I figured out the keys to becoming UnFROZEN.
Lesson #2: Love, acceptance and forgiveness are the ultimate healers
In Elsa's case, when she finally has another emotion that is bigger than her fears -- the love she feels for her sister, those fears become relatively smaller. Love melts all things that have been paralyzed by her fears. Elsa can then accept her powers and control her fears through love. She can forgive herself (as does everyone else it seems) and move forward. Cue bright sunshine and the ultimate snow cloud for little Olaf. Pure bliss.
That's not exactly how it worked out in my case. Instead, I learned that by accepting my fears that stem from uncertainty and forgiving myself and others, I could let a whole lot of love in. My biggest fear is that breast cancer will force me from my children and my husband and they will experience a profound loss like I did, at my own hand. Even now, several years out from my diagnosis, I get a pit in my stomach with every new ache in my bones, dizziness in my head or wheezing breath. And every time I head into that CT scan or MRI, my heart seems to start pounding. But, my experience reminds me to remain calm, acknowledge these fears and just let them be a part of me. Yep, that's my "new" normal. I'm not always great at it, but ultimately the love that surrounds me keeps my heart at ease. It will be okay, no matter the outcome. That's my own kind of sunshine.
I don't think that these three life tools -- love, acceptance and forgiveness -- necessarily have to come in any particular order. Rather, they are individual to each person and circumstance. But I do think they are the keys to setting yourself free -- free to live in the moment with the ones you love.
So, thank you Elsa (and Anna for her role too) for finding your way out of the polar vortex. For, instilling in us all the knowledge of what can destroy and what can heal. And, for helping to teach my little guys (at least subliminally), what it took me so long to discover. Do you wanna build a snowman?