I have an emotional freezer. Apparently, we all do. And in our freezers are a jumble of Ziploc bags, each filled with an unpleasant emotion.
In reality my freezer is full of frozen berries, and individual chicken potpies. Also some scallops, smoked trout, and a few bags of frozen shrimp that are just itching to jump on the barbeque. There is nothing buried at the back, nor anything gross or unrecognizable. My emotional freezer is another story.
The well-adjusted one.
This theory came from my yoga teacher. She said that it is human nature to want to present oneself as a pleasant, capable person. And even though we strive for happiness and stability, achieving it is completely unrealistic. Life is uneven and unfair. Devastating events will occur, and we may not be able to absorb them. Maybe we don’t have the tools – or the time. Or, we’re forced into battle mode, where it may be impossible to deal with our pain and fragility. So in order to move forward, we take all our inconvenient emotions, and stuff them into bags.
Because the teacher presented her theory at the beginning of class I had 90 minutes in which to consider my own personal history. Cancer is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever been through, and it was a heck of a job. But because I was busy being a warrior, I didn’t have time to be fearful. My friends told me I’d ‘sailed’ through treatment. And it certainly appeared that I did! But at the same time that I was putting on lipstick and making ginger cookies for the chemo ward, I was also filling bag after bag of troublesome emotions, and jamming them my freezer.
And I am certainly not alone. This has happened to many women who went through treatment. And to many people who have had to struggle with a death, or conflict, or those who have been forced to move ahead in the face of danger. Emotions ignored. Emotions stored.
Now, running a freezer takes a lot of energy. The lucky ones may have only a tiny bar fridge - built to hold nothing more than a small vodka bottle and six cubes of ice. But there are also industrial size freezers – 79 cubic foot capacity, constructed of stainless steel for maximum durability and protection from corrosion, an aluminum liner, bottom mount compressors, and three doors that lock.
But even industrial style freezers can’t protect things forever. Sooner or later someone will leave a door open and a bag might fall out. And this might happen when you least expect it. The bag will start to melt and you’ll feel it in your head, or your heart. Or maybe you’ll be reaching in your freezer for a thought, or a memory, and you’ll accidentally open the wrong bag and cry for no reason. Or – heaven forbid, you run out of energy to keep your freezer running and everything thaws, creating the mother of all breakdowns, leaving you a soggy wreck, collapsing under the weight of hundreds of melting pain bags.
Of course – I’m paraphrasing. The way my yoga teacher explained it was much more eloquent. Also, I suspect she has only has an itsy-bitsy freezer as she is very young, her parents are still happily married, and she recently adopted a cat which she named ‘Shanti.
But her analogy is a good one. It allows me to understand how circumstance and reaction may be on the same menu, but not necessarily served on the same plate. And it allows me to offer positive reinforcement to those souls who fall apart for not apparent reason.
‘What is wrong with me?!’ they’ll cry in confusion. And I will tell them that nothing is wrong with them. It’s simply time to clean out the freezer.