The Art of Unfreezing

by Mimi McMillan

Molecular Structure of Ice

Cold, frozen, icy, frosty. These words can connote an unemotional state, a distanced way of interacting in the world. But why the term cold? Why frozen?

I’ve been trying to understand this scientific metaphor. There are two elements that register with me: the molecular speed and structure of ice.

When the water molecules cool, they slow. While in a liquid state, the molecules can move throughout the substance. As they freeze the range of movement becomes confined to a smaller space. These fixed positions form a crystal structure. The Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms from a hexagonal shape that repeats throughout the substance. It’s crystalline lattice work.

This repetitious perfection is rigid; it’s easily breakable. While this can be and appear strong at times, what it lacks is malleability, the ability to adapt bounce back from change. Being unfrozen is being receptive to change. It’s resilience.

I want to thaw to people and unfreeze to the world. When I feel warmer I am better able to absorb the good parts of people and my environment and bounce back from the negative aspects. The malleability is hopeful. It is easier to be creative because I express myself more fully.

But sometimes the cold comes in so slowly that before I notice, I turn to ice. To recognize this, I tell myself, “Check your freeze.” This phrase means many things to me, but most importantly it means raising awareness of how I am interacting with my surroundings. Am I closed off? Am I receptive and warm towards people I care about? What causes this change?

Occasionally recognizing that I’m growing cold can prompt me to dethaw. Other, most times, it’s not that easy. It’s not like I can just thaw once and remain that way forever. These are some things that help me bring in a little warmth:

Appreciating art. Go to a museum. Google artists you’ve heard of but are not yet familiar with. Listen to new music.

Creating art. Start a journal. Doodle on a coffee cup. Fold a newspaper into origami. Play with the texture paint.

Interacting with the natural world. Go for a walk. Stop at interesting flowers and study them for a while. Look at how the wind and sun interact with tree leaves. Let the beauty of the world begin to melt the ice.

Finding people who take up space and express themselves boldly. This often means finding inspiring people virtually. When it seems like you’re alone, it hopeful to know there are people out there.

Connecting with people you enjoy in real life. Go for a walk/hike. Meet for tea/coffee. Call/Skype/FaceTime a friend. (I have a mental list of people who love me for the weirdo I am and will listen to my shit. It’s taken me a while to acquire this list, but I highly recommend starting it. Also, yes, real calls are great!)

Writing this list helped me realize a common theme between these suggestions: actually feeling emotions. It seems simple but living in a culture determined to deemphasize the importance of felling, working towards being warm is difficult and courageous. Let’s check our freezes and talk about our different experiences with the ice crystal syndrome.

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