Jung and Pauli suggested synchronicity is essentially direct insight into the hidden confluence of psyche and matter. It shocks us into broadening our view of the world and the fabric of reality. – Iona Miller, Synchronicity: When Cosmos Mirrors Inner Events, Scientific GOD Journal | March 2012 | Vol. 3 | Issue 3 | pp. 251-279
The polar vortex and its brutally cold temperatures got my attention at the end of January. I’m not one to fuss too much over winter weather, growing up in Michigan and living in the Midwest my entire life. Now that I have my own counseling business, though, I had to tend to the practical matters of cancellations and attempting to reschedule some sessions by phone or video link. That whole week become one of feeling off-kilter on schedule – not doing what I would typically do on any given day; missing the time of one phone session by a few minutes and then not being able to get in touch with the client; being in bed much more than usual to stay warm; and so on. I wouldn’t have thought so deeply about being connected with the weather itself, except for how it disrupted my routine, had not another one of my clients helped me do so. She hails from a warmer part of the country and had been very frightened by the talk of the “polar vortex” on TV weathercasts. After our session, she called me excitedly at the end of the week after being home from work about several epiphanies she’d had regarding her history with bipolar disorder, finding that it occurred during the polar vortex highly ironic but also satisfying. It got me thinking not only about the meaning and significance of “polar vortex” specifically, but my/our bodily and psychic connection with major weather trends in general.
I found out, in researching the “polar vortex”, that it always exists as a low pressure area (a wide expanse of swirling cold air), but is generally stays near the North Pole, when it is working strongly to keep the jet stream further north. However, sometimes the polar vortex weakens and part of the system breaks off and comes much further south. So our experience with it several weeks ago meant the polar vortex had actually weakened, not strengthened. (https://scijinks.gov/polar-vortex/). I also think about the bipolar nature of things, like the Earth, and about a vortex – a swirling circle that pulls us into a center point.
So what does this mean for me? What about when the cold, frozen archetype of winter sinks down south enough that I must encounter it? That it stops me in my tracks and swirls me in its grip, and I can’t just keep going through winter trudging along, like my Michigan toughness encourages me to do? What synchronicities shock me into broadening my view of the polar vortex?
One of the things it asked of me was to explore death – the cold, barren, brutal, killing part of winter. A family member has Stage 4 cancer and is going through chemo. Needless to say, this has rippled winter very profoundly through my family as we all look death in the face, or try to look away. I’d been struggling with trying to talk about death and feeling no one else wanted to. During the polar vortex week, I felt very disconnected from my family, but also somehow came to the conclusion that we are doing the best we can; I let my expectations of “doing this death perfectly” die, and I also let die my hubris that I somehow knew best how to handle it. I made arrangements to visit several weeks later, which was lovely, and helped us all look at death and the importance of life and love together. Winter reminds us that snow, like grace, covers everything equally – there is no ego or individuality when a blanket of snow-grace descends.
I also had a friend several years younger than me who had a massive stroke during the polar vortex, and lay in the hospital through the brutal cold, having several surgeries and then family making difficult decisions about life and death. Those of us who loved her spent several agonizing but also powerfully loving weeks praying for her and her young adult son, who was her legal medical representative. I had profound questions and curiosity during this time about what she was experiencing in her semi-conscious state and wondering if it was a cold, barren, snowy place, or a place of immense awareness and spring-like wonder? Two days ago I attended her funeral on a bright, sunny day, and heard and felt so much love as people talked about her love for them, while also feeling so much grief, that I thought something in me would burst and break free . . . like the polar vortex . . . and like the clots that had caused her death.
One that’s harder to talk about, because I think it’s less conscious for me, is the Snow Queen archetype that accompanies the Polar Vortex . . . the story behind Disney’s film “Frozen.” The general idea is that the snow queen attempts to live in solitude to control her powers to create ice and snow and freeze everything. I find, as a therapist, I can get into “Frozen” space for several days sometimes, where I feel as though each relationship I’m in seems to be freezing, or that my capacity to be an effective therapist and business owner is as barren and frozen as those late January days. That client whose call I missed, I know is hurt by this and has canceled further sessions. I’ve had to chat with my internal Snow Queen who thought she should isolate herself for this as a bad therapist, when other parts of me know this was a crucial event in our relationship (that is much about the client’s own frozen ability to be safe in relationship) and invites some profound conversation to thaw things, if we are both willing. When people decided to cancel instead of talking on the phone or over video during this dangerously cold week, I often froze for a time wondering why. Had my personal ice frozen something in our relationship? Other spring and summer parts of me (that allow feelings to simply come without freezing them out) know that every client is a whole person capable of many things, including not seeing me for a week . . .
Then there was also the warm, cozy, snuggle-up-by-the fire part of me who was home all week with my wife – unlike a typical work week – and I enjoyed the relaxing stay at home without having to get up early, get dressed, and get out the door. There were memories of Midwest blizzards I’d experienced, that were defining moments in my childhood – 1967, as a young child – and 1978, as a high school student. I recall fondly as a 6-year-old walking down my driveway feeling like I was in a tunnel with impossibly high sides where my tall Dad had shoveled the snow higher and higher. Or walking to the grocery store with a sled in high school since driving wasn’t possible for several days. As with this year’s polar vortex, back then we hunkered down and worked together and all allowed ourselves to really surrender to the power of Nature, because we had to and because we agreed to. There is something powerfully binding about that experience.
I’m finishing up this piece on an evening with a high wind warning and concern all day about losing power. What will this wind blow in, clear out, or break down? How can I stay in good connection with “all my relations” (honoring the Lakota people), within and without? What is your inside weather report in this lingering wintertime?
“When we say Mitakuye Oyasin, ‘All Our Relations,’ many people don't understand the meaning of those words. The phrase Mitakuye Oyasin has a bigger meaning than just our blood relatives. Yes, it’s true; we are all one human race. But the word Mitakuye means relations and Oyasin means more than family, more than a Nation, more than all of humankind, everything that has a spirit. The Earth herself, Maka Unci, is our relation, and so is the sky, Grandfather Sky, and so is the Buffalo and so are each of the two-leggeds, the four-leggeds, those that swim, those that fly, the root nation and the crawling beings who share the world with us. Mitakuye Oyasin refers to the interconnectedness of all beings and all things. We are all interconnected. We are all One.” —Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Excerpt from his book White Buffalo Teachings.