prayer for a baby.
When they share a moment of closeness amid their sorrow and build a baby out of snow, they whisper secret plans that can never come true of the daughter they will never have.
"I would name her Ilise." The king says, "I read it in a book. It is from the southern lands, and it means blessed."
The queen drops a sweet tear on the snow baby in her arms, and the little snow figure disappears.
Then a soft voice of the Winter Angel tells them that their prayers have been answered, and their Ilise, their blessed one, will be born next winter. "And she will be a special child."
Overcome with joy, thus starts a fairy-tale that has unexpected results for the royal couple.
Their child is pale, perfect, and lovely. Studious and proper, she is does everything just as she ought and there is no room for improvement on this delightful gift.
But as her parents cuddle and coddle her, just how "special" the Angel meant becomes clearer with the years, and she goes from tracing the frost on the window to making it, from showing off her talents with pony ice sculptures to ice automatons, to the full blown fortress of ice that she eventually immures herself completely inside.
Her story is too long to share here, but she is not the only one who freezes those around her and shuts herself off from the world.
There are those among us, though born of less fairy-tale means, that have the power to psychologically "freeze" those around us, and we too retreat into our towers and refuse to come out.
Although in the real world this has limited repercussions compared to Ilise's dramatic problems; it is still not healthy and we need to find ways to release the grip of ice on our hearts and learn "how to thaw".
I know this because I am/was one of them. A middle child finds it easy to feel forgotten, and a quiet one simply retreats further within.
My family is rife with choleric personalities, so for someone who hates conflict (which I truly do) I found myself in that kind of hot seat quite a lot over the years. Since I didn't have the roaring fire of a powerful personality on my side, I had to reach for other ammunition, and since logic and facts were respected in my house, my intellect became my archery squad.
Many of the fights never should have happened, but like most families, our parents were elsewhere and childish tempers raged... even well into the teens. (Actually, cross that out, because they still do from time to time.)
Anyway, my point is that where some of my siblings grew fire, I became an expert on ice. I would shut down, tune out, and my words were my whip as I responded to my perceived attackers. I never let them see they'd hurt me, because that would give them the victory. What I don't know is if I ever hurt them. One of those things we'll never know, the "might have been".
(To my credit I was always the "peacemaker" of the family, so I didn't let my strengths carry me away as drastically as I could have, since I was always in the back of my mind calculating how hard to recover from each barbed word would be.
The ones with lethal hit points I generally choked back and kept in the arsenal.)
I always thought of myself as the "good guy". After all, it wasn't me raising my voice and getting red in the face. My pulse would race, but my lid never flipped.
It wasn't till I was in my late teens that I began to see just how damaging the "cool cucumber" bazooka could actually be; not so much to others... but myself.
The more instances I saw of my kind, the more I noticed it could get very out of hand; so distanced from the world that some of us had quit feeling anything. Or had at least convinced themselves so hard that we believed it.
As I assessed other people I met, and it became evident that whatever reason we had originally started to "shut down and tune out" as a defense mechanism was generally long gone, but the response was still there, shutting us down.
Sometimes we were snippy and trigger-happy, jerking off shots at anyone below us within reach of our "freeze". We were showing the world that we were better than it. We were untouchable. We didn't need friends and we didn't care if you knew it.
Even with a general desire to be liked and accepted, our "ice veins" couldn't be thawed, and our habits were chilling everyone around us.
Others of our ilk had turned inward to the point that we stopped interacting at all, maintaining a stony-cold silence throughout any event; distanced by a gulf so wide that mountains might as well have towered in it.
As an outsider I could see that what while we were cutting ourselves off from present joys, those past hurts were trapped inside our ice towers with us, as stinging today as they were the first time we faced them.
As many different reasons we all had, almost all of them were in our far past. Whether the insults were real or imagined, from a wrong turn in a basically normal childhood or from real abuse in various forms, we were all now trapped by the very thing we believed was protecting us.
And we had no clue how to melt it and step out of that cold prison.
I didn't. I remember wishing I could react in a different way, even picturing the whole thing, but in the end I didn't have the courage or the strength to even try.
As I studied our collective problem more and more I finally came down to a base, fundamental truth.
It was a form of pride that made us unable to release our cages.
And all pride is selfishness... and so the first step was fighting myself, the worser parts of me that whispered "They hate you anyway, don't give them a chance to hurt you."
"Nobody likes you, and why would they? Show them you don't need to like them, either!"
The path to a better self is always strewn with ugly battles... and those various monsters seem to rear up again and again long after you think they're dead. But in the end they do get dead-er, and the inner warrior grows strong enough to withstand their weakened darts of doubt and shame.
We "ice maidens" and "ice men"; we have so many things going for us. Invariably, we are strong, determined people with intelligent minds and an ability to focus that can be a massive benefit. But when our strengths are used against us, we flounder and freeze into a pillar that is stuck in the middle as life blossoms all around us.
It still hurts when my attempts to be friendly are shot down, or when someone I love says something the stings. But I've learned how to thaw, and that's allowed me to be open to new warmth as it shows up, as well as the old hearth-fires that bond family members in palpable affection.
I don't know how many others out there share my strengths, and my weaknesses, but I'd love to be able to touch their hearts and inspire them to melt, too.
The universal laws apply to this as with any strangle-hold selfishness may be exhibiting itself through; and so the same rules can kill it back:
Sincerely apologize as soon as possible after you realize selfishness scored a point.
A true, authentic apology is so hard to do, but think of it as kicking selfishness in the teeth. I tell you what, that little monster takes a major hit every time you go the distance to genuinely apologize and then make it right with a honest heart, and the next time the scenario rolls around it hasn't got nearly as much power over you, by a long shot.
Ask those you know can help, when you need it.
I've learned how to ask for affection when I'm feeling distanced and like no one likes me, instead of allowing selfishness to say "If they loved me, they'd know." Even though we may pride ourselves on reading others ( a trait "cool cucumbers" major in) a ton of people aren't that observant. (Besides, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you don't know all the time, as much as you think you know.)
And finally, be open to the idea of rejection/pain.
Westley says "Life is pain, Highness. Anybody who tells you different is selling something."
While that may be true, life isn't all pain, and if we run into hurtful spots, a better way to deal with it instead of clamming up and scrambling back into our tower is to say "I can weather a bit of pain. This isn't going to kill me, I am stronger than this."
Growing up rural, in the mountains and plains, on farms and ranches, we kids got used to pulling splinters our of our hands, skidding our knees across gravel, falling off of horses and getting our toes stepped on by hoofs large and small. The first time shocked us, but we soon adapted and would be more concerned about getting on with our plans or bragging rights than how much it hurt.
Why can't we be that way with emotional hurt?
In the end, we should be in such a hurry to do our next thing the "slights and stings of fate" should be no more than a temporary knock.
And finally, we should always look to our Great King as our source of importance, not whether the world likes us or not, approves of us or not, or even loves us or not. The more we battle selfishness down into it's hole and put a lid on it, the clearer we are able to see that our Maker is the only One who matters... and our relationship with Him is our best and greatest alley.
And with Him we can never be alone.
(P.S. Disclaimer: those out there that are "Fire hearts" have their own problems, and they need to take care of that. Don't let their behavior tilt your boat... we are responsible for our own vessel sailing straight, so just do our best with "fire ships" that could temporarily sink us. Charting a course for clear water is not the same as freezing over and sitting completely still. Please don't confuse the two! )