ICE BATH FOR THE SOUL.
By: Lauren Anderson
It’s no surprise that I run hot.
I know I’ve probably talked about it like, a bajillion times. But I’m not kidding. Just under my skin, I feel like the inside of a dragon’s mouth. Roiling and turning, panting and churning, just waiting for the next fire to erupt.
Which is not to say that I’m always angry or upset, or even prone to outburst. Because that’s not the case at all (at least not anymore). I’ve actually been pretty copacetic lately. I’m just, y’know… HOT.
I burn. I’m intense. And sometimes I really like that about myself, because I feel like this is how I can motivate myself and others. This is part of what makes me adventurous, or fun, or even fun to watch.
And other times, I know I can be too much. Intensity is nice, and I believe it is the kindling of great passion, but it’s also–almost always–just two clicks away from “WHOA”.
One of the great challenges of being a person like this, is knowing how to tamp it down and reign it in, so I can keep my friends and stay gainfully employable. It can be exhausting to always try and regulate myself this way. Like trying to keep a forrest fire from spreading. It can be done, but it takes work. And a whole lot of water.
Funny side note (If you’re into astrology… if not just skip this hocus pocus): I’m also an Aries, which is a classic Fire sign. And I find myself inadvertently seeking out and surrounding myself with people who are Water signs. It’s true! I find them to be so soothing and calming. If I haven’t said so yet, my water people, consider this an official “Thank you”.
But I think in part because of my fiery nature, and in part because of genetics, I’m almost always hot.
In the dead of winter, people are often surprised at how warm my hands can be. As a youth, I was kind of sad by this, because my grandma would always say, “Cold hands, warm heart.” And I would feel secretly ashamed. If I have warm hands, does that mean I’m evil?
Haha. No, kid. You’ve just got good circulation.
So you can see why I struggle sometimes with the summer. People are frolicking in the warmth, and I feel like I can’t ever regulate. I get sad or grumpy much quicker because it feels like there is no relief from the heat. Like I’m a simmering pot and I’m constantly about to boil over.
So when my friend invited me up to the North Shore on a writer’s retreat, I knew I had to go. Besides getting a bunch of writing done, one of my favorite things about Lake Superior is that even on the hottest dog day of summer the lake never really gets above 60 degrees. And that’s by the shore where the sun affects the surface temperature.
In other words, it’s frickin COLD.
The minute that I got to the cabin we changed into our suits and went out for a dip. You have to wear shoes, because it’s so rocky. But the water is as clear as glass. Even though the air was in the high 80’s, we kept our t-shirts on to protect from the chill of the water.
True to my spirit, I tried to rush in and plunge. Just get it over with. But Mother Nature was having none of that. The smack of the cold water almost took my breath away, and I was forced to slow down. I waded up to my waist, and then just had to stay there until my body could adapt. Then slowly adding my arms, then up to the shoulders, then finally all in.
All in all, it took about 20 minutes to get fully submerged in the water.
I swear I could see steam coming from my skin. Like what you get when you run cool water over a hot pan in the sink. And I was uncomfortable at first, but then something extraordinary happened. I could feel myself relaxing. I could feel all that pent-up heat dissipate from my body, and soon I felt as if I was the same temperature as the lake.
It was bliss.
(I’m totally floating here. And yes, I did swim in my glasses.)
As I floated around in the vast, cool water a few things dawned on me. For someone who likes to move fast, and can be very impatient… I liked how the power of nature kind of put me in my place.
By shocking me with intense cold, and forcing me to slow down, it was a great reminder that I’m not always in control. Nor do I have to be. It was a good reminder that some things JUST TAKE TIME.
There are forces at play that are more powerful and greater than my will. And that is okay.
This really reminded me of my gym life too. My body may make a great stride one week, and then plateau for months. It all depends. But the important thing is I can’t rush it. And just because the steps forward are small, it’s a good reminder that I am still moving forward.
Things take the time that they take. And that is that.
Second, I was surprised at how much my body was able to adapt to such intense cold. By allowing myself to go slow and “sit” in each new level of water, my body adjusted and eventually flourished. Soon the shocking cold lake felt like a bath tub, and I was splashing around like an otter.
This also reminded me of the Body Adapt classes they teach at Solcana (next session starts in early September!). It can be shocking/intimidating to go from little-to-no-workout straight into full CrossFit type classes. I’m grateful for the Body Adapt program to ease new members in, so that they too can flourish!
And lastly, with nothing but water and waves surrounding me, I can’t remember the last time I felt this calm. Or as Pink Floyd might put it, “Comfortably Numb”.
This immense lake with it’s everlasting chill drained all that fire out of me… and I could feel myself turn back to coal. Which is not as scary as it sounds. Like a major athlete taking an ice bath after a rigorous game, I could feel my body’s literal and figurative inflammation dissipate.
The rings on my fingers that I never take off swung around loosely, and the tightness in my back from the long drive floated away to shore.
As someone who has trouble powering-down and turning off, it felt so welcome. No hotness, heat, or intensity. It’s like someone clicked my machine to “off”, and finally let the battery of my computer cool.
For a while in the water that day, I just was. I just floated.
And when it was time to get out, I was restored.
Strangely enough, I noticed I wasn’t hot for the rest of the night either. Even though we weren’t in air conditioning and it was still a humid Minnesotan summer evening. While others remarked about the heat, I was perfectly regulated. And I was so thankful. I can’t remember the last time I felt like that.
I don’t know about all of you, but as someone who feels the pressure (from myself and society) to Go faster! Be more! Do More! Turn it up, and turn it on! This was such a great reminder of the power of cooling down. Shutting off. And just floating for a while.
I may have to accept the fact that like iron, my body and soul were forged in fire. And perhaps I will always be hot. And that’s okay.
But it took a giant lake of ice water to remind me that iron forged in fire is strongest and most useable only after it’s been cooled.