Story Saturday (Mar. 20)
Watching Frozen 2. Twice.
In the film Frozen 2, Elsa meets a spirit that she had been looking for all her life. This spirit is someone that only she can detect and hear. In the end, this spirit that she embodies is central to saving her kingdom of Arendelle and bringing balance to the elements in the land. Prior to meeting the spirit in the Ahtohallan – “where the North wind meets the sea/there’s a river full of memory” – she calls out to the space, triumphantly, “Show yourself/Step into the power/Grow yourself/Into something new/You are the one you've been waiting for.” This is clear that while Elsa has never met this spirit, there is something familiar about it that makes her feel more herself and safe.
I had my Elsa moment several years ago, similarly in a land of frozen snow and ice. It was somewhere in upstate New York, and while not an Arendelle, it was definitely far away from the grubby streets of New York City where I had been attending law school. I was depressed, anxious, and lost – not unlike a young Elsa – and looking for a sense of direction. The retreat for law school students offered a variety of activities, and I, being the ever adventurous one, picked up cross-country skis. I went by myself into trails not quite marked until the voices of my peers faded into the snow. After about an hour of trekking, I came into a clear end to the path I was on, and it was soon to turn back, as day was turning into dusk. The snow hit the angle, and in this moment, light enveloped me. It was a moment of sublime quiet and thunderous epiphany at the same time.
Though I joke about being Olaf more than anything, I do relate to Elsa. Her battle with depression and anxiety mirrors my own battle with it. Her past history is her present power, and her present power, her future purpose. When Elsa finally finds the last spirit to complete her transformation, she becomes literally frozen before she melts again and becomes a whole new person. Her temporary “death” completes the circle of her first life, and in her second one, she can move seamlessly between the world of ancientness and modernity. Instead of shutting people out, she realizes that openness and expanse is what allows her to be the freest. She is now able to harmonize with the spirit, instead of fighting it.
If Frozen I was about letting go of inhibitions, the Frozen II was about embracing who you are – a powerful story of acceptance even though not all parts of your past self may be comfortable to bear witness. We thought that Elsa, in becoming queen of Arendelle in the first movie, is finally able to gain the acceptance of her friends and fellow citizens. But it is when Elsa relinquishes the power of the throne to her younger sister, and goes to pursue a life that is more fitting for herself, she shows that water can occupy more space and be more fluid than a frozen, immovable block of ice.
As Olaf remarks many times in the movie, water has a memory. That memory – though – is either stuck in the past, or allowed to be seen openly. Elsa, in her ability to transform water into ice, thus holds an enormous responsibility in her hands with her power. She can continue to let the moment move forward, or she can choose to keep it stuck. In the same way, the way we process the memories of the past can also depend on if we choose to move forward or stay stuck. When we fear that the water will destroy our sense of home, just like Elsa and Anna feared that breaking the dam in the Enchanted Forest would flood their home of Arendelle, their fear actually prevents them from finding where they truly want to reside. Therefore, Elsa, despite being born in Arendelle, sings as she approaches the Ahtohallan: “I'm arriving/And it feels like I am home.”
This sense of coming home is how we know that we have started to fight our worst enemy: our darkest shadow, our harshest inner critic, our most malicious doubter, and our most shameful monsters. When I feel at home with myself, I am the most relaxed, my body is satiated, full, and free of pain. I’ve gotten enough sleep, and I feel warm at my core. My heart is open and unafraid of receiving new experiences. In my “home,” I know where everything is. I’m not afraid or resistant to any memory. I feel rooted and grounded in the world around me, and at the same time, I feel like I’m on top of the world.
Each breath that I take is rich, pleasurable, and meaningful. I feel like I have all the time available in the world. I also love my own body, to the point where I have no judgment, only love, for my so-called imperfections. Everything that is a part of me has its own place, meaning, and purpose. Likewise, I understand and embrace my own place, meaning, and purpose.
This is a haven in which I retreat to not because I’m fearful or sad, but because it is the birthing place of new and exciting ideas. It’s the bottom of the ocean that has never seen the sun, yet contains within it a tranquility that the tumultuous tides above have never understood. It’s the space where the lights of the stars echo in the palaces of an ancient glacier. It’s a place where I can sit forever - nothing to do, nothing to achieve, even nothing to be. Where my ego is quiet, and my heart is big. There’s a sense of security, not in the sense that I would be impervious to harm, but that I’m enough. I feel most at home when I don’t wish to be somewhere else, or to be someone else.
I’m simply existing on a plane that covers all possible permutations of the universe, which is both infinite and complete in itself. Like me. There are no chores to be completed, no to-do lists to be had - only the wide expanse of possibility that stretches out like a rising sun on an enormous plain covered in snow.
There is not a sound to be heard and yet the whole earth is awake, awake with the beating of a thousand hearts, such that the entire space vibrates and pulsates with energy. To be home is to be alive, and to be alive is to be free. There shall be no boundaries in my home, no missed connections, no sorrow, no pain. Only love, to which we can transmute fear. Love turns tears to rain; it turns cries to wind; it turns broken hearts into dust that nourishes the earth from whence it came.
And love turns ice into water — a giver of life.
And each pinprick is instead the constellation of stars that emerge at night — beams of light peeking through the fabric of darkness, guiding you with a light all the way home. Home, sweet home. I’ve looked for you in so many places, and how foolish was I. For I am home, and that’s enough.