The 3 F’s: Reflecting on FREEZE

I spend a large part of my job talking to people who have experienced significant trauma — true trauma that results when a person is fearful for their life. When those type of situations happen, the brain floods the body with a cocktail of hormones which results in one of three options: fight, flight or freeze.

Your brain and body respond to trauma the same regardless of the situation  — be it having a gun pulled on you (in a parking lot, on the field of battle), getting in a car accident, or experiencing a sexual assault. When your brain thinks it is in danger, the reptilian brain stem responds before your frontal lobe can process.

There is no telling what response you’ll have — as much as law enforcement, the military, or gun lobbyists want you to believe. Studies do show that sexual trauma has a higher likelihood of resulting in the freeze response, which is why so, so many victims report that they wanted to do something (run, yell for help, fight their assailant) but for some reason couldn’t move. That’s called tonic immobility and this pseudo-paralysis is a result of the hormone cocktail your brain is dishing out.

In addition to the spending FREEZE I personally challenged myself to this month (I did quite well actually, aside from some frivolous spending when dear friends came to visit), I also spent most of my work days listening to people recount some of the worst moments of their life. People who would discuss the feeling of tonic immobility and wonder what was wrong with them. And I, due to the impartiality of my job, wasn’t able to explain to them that feeling was normal.

So how is this relevant to our VOW? I got sick (again) at the end of this month and was out of the office for a couple of days. I have two tendencies when I get sick: I get bored very quickly and highly emotional. Usually I’m either clingy or weepy, but this time I felt restless. Not because I was essentially bed-ridden but moreso that I wasn’t enough. I felt stuck professionally, spiritually, intellectually, physically. Which is insane because I have so fucking much going on right now — we’re thisclose to closing on our house, I am mentoring a new colleague, I’m kicking ass at classes, I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever known.

I felt so confused about why I was feeling that way, because let me tell you, it was strong. Palpable. I felt FROZEN in my life. And then I realized that perhaps what was happening was a sort of psychological immobility because of the physical manifestation of my illness. Or residual second-hand trauma from my job.

Either way, I decided to grant myself grace. To remind myself that the feeling of being at a standstill wouldn’t last long, and that it was probably only a temporary response to my current situation. That maybe there was a cosmic third-party who could understand my confusion as a normal response.

And here I am, a week later and feeling rejuvenated again. Last month I found something I didn’t realize I needed to see This month I plan to be more active and SEEK out what my soul needs.

Reflecting on #VOWfreeze & Preparing to #VOWseek

I’ve said it before–I’m a woman who does well, exceptionally well, with days that require double what it takes.

What I don’t do so well with is down time. The days in between sticky note goals.

I just finished my 200-hour yoga teacher certification. Just as in yesterday.

It’s been a nearly six-month journey. And I made it. I’m not entirely unscathed, but I’m doing my best to make sure the surface wounds don’t scar.

A dear friend, last year, pointed out this pattern I have…to thrive, survive, and then not take a break. I tend have the next “thing” lined up. And I dive right back in, with barely enough lungs in my air to make it out alive. He encouraged me to remember that, when I was done this time.

I heard him, and I promised myself that after YTT was done, I was going to breathe. I was going to spend time on the surface. Letting my pale skin see some sun.

And when I went to bed last night, it sounded so the plan.

But then I woke up, on a dreary Monday, bone-tired, and I felt it. The little tick I get. My brain is already waxing on the what’s next. Whenever I have a moment of not actively thinking about something, the plans start running around the track. Different ones taking the lead with each corner.

And I start to feel a little sunk already.

But, this time, I am refusing to lean in. I’m swimming up. I am declaring a freeze on making plans as I head into March.

Not all plans…I made some serious weekend ones:
My car’s first roadtrip. A first getaway with the man. A couple days of untimed space to just be.

But the kind that my brain is already starting to taunt me with…I’m saying no.

Because I want days off. Days to appreciate the work that my brain and my body just put in.  Time to figure out what I want to do with that certification. Weekends without alarms. Open calendar space. Nights to dream about what’s next. What I really, really want.

A chance to seek again.

And with that, we head into March.

#VOWfreeze Frame

I’ve been thinking a lot about photos lately.

I take them all the time.
Beauty of an iPhone that is basically another appendage, I guess.

But I don’t print them all that often.
I think I should do more of that.

.  .  .

Jim and Pam used to take pictures of each other.
Mental ones.

They made that camera gesture, and in a single moment, they told each other so many things:

This moment matters to me.
I want to stay here for as long as I can.
And because I know I can’t stay as long as I want to, I want to take it with me.
Because there’s something happening here.
You’re happening.
In all your ridiculousness, you’re adorable.
You’re you.

.  .  .

Pictures of happy people are my favorite.

And by happy, I mean pictures of people who you can just tell–you can feel it–are exactly where they wanted to be in that moment.

It’s like they were enjoying the best glass of wine they’d ever had.
Big, bold, and red.
And they just kept sipping it.

For as long as they could.

Exactly this…

I attended a summit on human trafficking on February 9th — if you want a topic that will FREEZE your blood, human and labor trafficking will certainly do the trick.

One of our sessions discussed social media and the plight (and danger) that is the internet. This landed throughout the entire audience of professionals, parents, and clergy, all with dedication to want to prevent people (particularly children and adolescents) from getting entrapped by very elaborate schemes to groom and ultimately abduct them.

Facebook in particular seems to be the perfect hunting ground for predators. The information I learned blew my mind and made me reconsider all the more my relationship with social media. I have felt desperate to disconnect from pretty much everything besides LinkedIn. But I’m a semi-Millennial living in a modern world and I know that if I totally phase out, there is a huge number of people I love and care about who will slip into the void.

Plus, I’ll be honest, I get a lot of my news from my various Feeds. I hate frequenting (it stresses me out and the app drives me bonkers) so how else will I know what’s going on if NPR doesn’t feel like reporting it?

Lo, I came across this article today that perfectly resonated. How to FREEZE your social media use without becoming a total hermit.


How to Disconnect from Social Media but Stay Connected to the World (Lifehacker)

Essentially, author Green encourages us to use RSS feeds (Sis and I use Feedly so — check) and Newsletters (again, lots of self-improvement zines come to my inbox so — check). Green suggests subscribing to Vox Sentences, TWP Daily 202, No Complaints, and The Ann Friedman Weekly, which did motivate me to do some additional sleuthing this weekend for more news-centric subscriptions. Of course there are old-fashioned newspapers, which made me realize that I somehow am missing NPR’s app on my phone. Substituting one technology for another feels a little like cheating but for reals, the less I scroll through Facebook these days, the better I feel.

exactly this: Warren Buffett Says This 1 Simple Habit Separates Successful People From Everyone Else

By Marcel Schwantes, this article offers a list of seven things that we might consider saying no (#VOWnarrowing) to:

Here are seven things the most successful people say no to on a regular basis. Perhaps you should too?

1. They say no to opportunities and things that don’t excite them, speak to their values, or further their mission in life.

2. They say no to superficial networking events in which people swap business cards and never hear from one another. Why? Because successful people don’t network. They build relationships.

3. They say no to spending time with uninspiring, critical, or negative people who drag them down. Time is precious — choose a small circle of people who will energize you and challenge you to be better. 

4. They say no to overworking. While it’s true some successful people and many entrepreneurs put in 60 to 80 hours per week, very successful people aren’t workaholics who neglect self-care and family. They recognize that if they can’t take care of themselves, everything else suffers. 

5. They say no to doing all the work. This comes down to one word:


6. They say no to giving the steering wheel of life to anyone else. Another Buffett quote affirms this: “You’ve gotta keep control of your time and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”

7. They say no to people-pleasing. Successful people don’t neglect their deepest wishes and desires to accommodate and yield to others’ wishes and desires. 

The whole article is definitely worth a read; click here.

Waiting for the Thaw: Reflecting on #VOWcharge & VOWfreeze

My favorite yoga teacher used to tell us, “When the climb gets harder, make your world smaller.”

Funny thing…sometimes that narrowing happens all on its own.

I’ve been in training to become a yoga teacher since October; in two weeks, I’ll be finished. That end cannot come soon enough.

I think I knew that January and February would be a slow slog through endless hours of poses and assisting and karma classes, but I didn’t anticipate it would be this difficult. How small (and petty) my world would become. While I’m thankful for the experience as a whole, it is lacking in authenticity, and it has made little space for me to bring mine into it. More than anything, it has taken my joy, and I know it will require a steady fight to get it back as soon as March hits.

I didn’t anticipate Charge being so filled with its opposition. I have big plans for this year, but instead of being able to jump in and run towards my goals, I have been forced to crawl towards one. Painfully slow. With red ants crawling all over my body.

Maybe my One Word (Narrow) is trying to tell me something.
Maybe this month it actually has.

What I did do in January was re-charge, as often as I could. When I had the chance to unplug, which wasn’t often enough, I did. I had to. My survival depended on it.

When I had an opportunity to go out with people, I chose Tribe or nothing; now more than ever I need to be surrounded by those who make me light up, who love to see that fire.

I started dating someone, and I’ve been taking slow sips instead of draining my glass.

And as I continue on in February, as we Freeze, I choose to focus on these moments:

The ones when I have a chance to breathe without being cued to do so.
The ones spent with my people.
The ones when I wake up with him.

And I try to build on those.
To invest in myself and my squad and someone who could become my person.
To give myself grace and space to do just those things.
As I wait for spring and the wild things.


Penny pinching: Working on FREEZE

All is well on the home-buying front, though movement is far slower than we anticipated. Fortunately for us, we don’t have an urgent need to get out of our apartment immediately so a sluggish process isn’t the worst.

For weeks my mind has been spinning and planning and dancing about all the ways we’ll be able to make this new home truly ours. Picking out carpet and paint for the one room that needs some fixing, brainstorming how to fill the huge empty wall in the kitchen, researching concrete patio pricing for the backyard oasis we plan to install this autumn. I may have spent a few hours last night researching clawfoot bathtubs for my ‘spa’ bathroom.

I’ve fluctuated between sheer excitement and unbridled dread of the monetary commitment. The thing about buying a house is that it requires a lot of money. Not just the financial cost for the big ticket things like flooring or furniture, but the little stuff like attaining moving boxes, replenishing your cleaning supplies, and filling in walls to make the space feel lived in.

So after setting aside a chunk of my tax return for our upcoming Cuba trip (52 days…) I’m placing myself on a budget. Doing all the smart pre-moving things like using what we have rather than buying more. Purging the things (mostly: clothes) that no longer serve us (which is so much more satisfying that nearly anything you buy). Squirreling away money for tomorrow will pay off in a big way.

So as of today I’m on a financial FREEZE for the rest of the month(s) until closing. Historically I haven’t always done so hot in these challenges but I have faith (and recently developed penny-pinching strategies) that will carry me through.

Soldiering On: Reflecting on CHARGE

We’re a month in and I’m still scratching out the 7 when I write the date, or doing the awkward turn-it-into-an-8 thing. Which, let’s be real, lasts until March for most of us. But January flew by, making CHARGE so apropos for the month because I soldiered on right along with it.

The switch from weekly to monthly posts is a god-send, I must admit. Starting my second semester of grad school my time is increasingly valuable since my freedom is dwindling. There have been nights — so many nights this month — when I was entirely unmotivated to do a thing. Drained from pushing onward, moving forward, striving upward. Though that’s our natural state, Steph’s and mine. We’re Evolvers and to CHARGE ahead is the only way we know how.

I spent a lot of time pondering other meanings of CHARGE this month.

  • To move relentlessly progress despite obstacles
  • To spend money you don’t have by putting them on an account to worry about another day
  • To (re)charge one’s energy
  • To make demands or accusations
  • To trust something into another’s possessions

Perseverance is a word that has resonated with me since before my divorce. It has always represented a standard of living that I respect and a trait I try to embody. I’ve found strength in it; knowing that regardless of what I encounter I’m not one to get stuck. So this month in the midst of home-buyer remorse (which I can say has abated as time has progressed), too many open cases at work with too many interviews yet to conduct and too much pressure from higher-ups to get them resolved, and an enormous pile of academic articles to digest — I would pause for recalibration. To reCHARGE before I CHARGED forward yet again.

A depleted battery will ultimately fail to get you through the day.
Demands can always be honored but only if given the margin to gear up for it.

January I geared up for the year ahead and all the energy it will surely drain from me. These days I’ve put into practice setting aside self-care time (tarot reading, the occasional House Hunters and wine binges with my beloved, and moving my body in a way that feels good). Funny how at 32 you still have to re-learn those things, but that’s evolution. Sometimes things don’t progress in a perfect lineage. Incrementally you see the shift; it may not always make sense but you know without a doubt that things are not what they once were.

February we FREEZE
(though some of us less than others… i love you subtropical climate)

Check out Steph’s #VOWcharge post (coming soon!)

image accessed via Reddit

Getting Ready to #VOWcharge into My Saturn Return

I remember the day I started showing up for my own life.

It started with a girl. It ended with an email.

. . .

Two summers ago, I kissed a girl, and I liked it. And not in the we-were-drunk-at-a-party kind of way. Actually, now that I think about it, we were, drunk at a party. But, I was completely sober when I sent her an email that afternoon telling her that I liked kissing her—not girls, just her—and that this was the kind of email I’d never sent before.

. . .

Before I go any farther, I need to tell you that this is not a story where I come out. I know that what I say here is going to be new information for some (I’m sorry, Madre), but this is not an entry about how I found out I was a lesbian. I’m not. I don’t believe things are that simple. I believe, as I think most humans who have gotten curious do, that sexuality is a spectrum, and I knew pretty early on in high school that, at least for me, it was.

. . .

That same summer, I read You Are a Badass by Jen Cincero. Sister told me it was necessary.

I understood why after.

. . .

Towards the end of that summer, I went on a few dates with a girl.

I think it was the bravest thing I have ever done. Not because going on a date with another girl is brave. But because I was willing to ask a question that I didn’t know the answer to, and I was ready to know the truth and live it.

. . .

She liked my collar bones. I thought hers were the most beautiful I had ever seen.

That’s not some girl-on-girl metaphor by the way (at least not that I know of)—collar bones are seriously underappreciated. I notice them a lot now.

She was lovely.

. . .

I remember a conversation with a friend not long after I had decided that I did not want to date that a woman.

We were at his condo. I could tell you exactly what I was wearing.

He said there was something different about me. That I just seemed like I was exactly where I needed to be.

I remember knowing, in that moment, what authenticity feels like.
In my body.
In that soul-deep place of my being.

. . .

It wasn’t that I had kissed a girl or dated one or decided I was or I wasn’t something.

It was simply the fact that I had shown up and allowed myself to be seen.
For nothing less and nothing more than I was.
Just me.

. . .

I rang in 2017 with pizza, champagne, and a girl kissing me, and I mean really kissing me, at midnight.

She was lovely too.

. . .

I rang in 2018 with a man kissing me, and I mean really kissing me, at midnight.

I liked it better. But only because I know now that that is what I want.

. . .

Nietzsche once said that you have to have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.

Let me tell you, that labor, it feels like fire, and it’s hot.

Danielle LaPorte says it best: “We’re dancing with the Divine because it turns us on to life.”

Sister suggested I read her book too; White Hot Truth…I highly recommend.

. . .

When I think about narrow, about charge, January’s word, I think about that fire. I think about what it feels like when you find a thing that lights you up. When you meet a person who makes you spark.

But more than anything, I think about what it feels like to be seen.

. . .

One of my best friends in the whole world wrote me a letter nearly six years ago in which she said this:

“You’re fire and neon. You need to find someone who can stand to look at you without sunglasses.”

. . .

That’s where I am this year, as I get ready to storm my 29th trip around the sun:

Committed to showing up and being seen as 100 percent me.
Unwilling to settle for less than that light and those sparks.
Refusing to be anything but fire and neon.
Averse to anyone who needs to see me through shades.


Image by Me: SATURN RETURN by SRoshelle [Collage, Watercolor, & Ink]

On Choosing (and already witnessing) #VOWexpand

I bought myself a special birthday treat last August. As a tarot reader, you’d think that I’d have had several professional readings in my time. Not so. The only reading I ever had (aside from friends in my meetup group) has been a nice fellow spread out on the Charlottesville foot mall. It was that one random reading (backed by a lifelong curiosity) that led me to purchase my first deck.

This year I paid off a shit ton of credit card debt. I cut out all superfluous spending for over a year and plugged about 40% of my paycheck (after taxes) towards financial freedom. EMBRACE taught me a lot about money, such as using what I have rather than stockpiling three or four backups of virtually everything (read: fear of scarcity issues). I worked hard and so as my birthday approached, I asked my inner self what sounded like a nice reward to usher in the new year. And my heart said it would like a virtual tarot reading from the incomparable Benebell Wen.

My Twelve Month Reading included a whole host of unexpected and insightful information (Bell is nothing if not an Achiever) and it was she who chose my #OneWord2018 for me.


She had channeled the word as being key for the upcoming year. And the reading she gave supported it. And mysteriously (because I’m still sorting out my beliefs regarding astrology because it seems hokey but that shit is also eerily accurate) many other metaphysical readings I’ve had done in the ensuing months have supported it.

I will admit that it felt that #VOWexpand felt almost too similar to Steph’s 2017 word (Build) but who am I to argue when the Universe places a path in front of me?

Some things I want to EXPAND on in 2018:

my education
my career
my spirituality
my friendship circle here in Bham
my relationship with Josh
my relationship with myself
my definition of Truth

How this shows up is still a mystery. That is the benefit of choosing a word for the year – it isn’t quite what you anticipate it will be. Like a mantra and affirmation, like spellwork, I believe that in the mere focusing of the word it redirects where you will go.

I hope to help it along the way, of course. I don’t fold my arms and blindly demand that the Universe heap mind-blowing revelations on me. Some things I plan on doing this year:

try out kundalini
determine my capstone project
reestablish my meditation practice
read (and re-read and re-re-read) White Hot Truth
buy a house

Let me just clarify that, that last one — buy a frigging house — was not on my list as of January 1st. But there’s the Universe, stepping in and saying oh that’s sweet. you want expansion, huh? how about 2400 square feet?

The perfect-for-us home fell into our laps late last week. Josh and I have kept our eyes on Zillow since relocating. We’ve been happy renters but are so in love with our neighborhood that we knew the ever-burgeoning area would soon outprice us rent-wise. We’re surrounded by cute mid-century bungalows so it felt only natural to set a few alerts in case anything in the right price arose. And as it turns out, there was one house about half a mile from where we live that kept catching both our eyes.

So we booked a showing with our realtor on Friday. And wouldn’t you know it? The sellers had just dropped the price. The layout was the right amount of quirky. The wall colors and flooring were just my style. The kitchen had a big deep sink and fancy fridge included.

It was perfect.

And upon checking my horoscope the next morning, I read:

There’s a great deal of activity for you on the home front. YOu might be involved in a major construction project and if so, you’ll make significant progress today. Your contractors might inform you that they anticipate finishing ahead of schedule, much to your delight. Another possibility is that you could be involved in a real estate transaction and notice that there are absolutely no obstacles in your way. This is clearly meant to be.

And it was. We put in an offer, we seamlessly got pre-approved by a bank, the down-payment requirements is way lower than expected, and this afternoon we got news that the sellers have accepted our offer.

So come March — one year from Josh’s arrival — we will EXPAND from our first apartment together to our first home together.

And as I cycle between ebullience and terror. I’m not scared of buying a house with Josh but rather the financial commitment that comes with it. I’m getting what I ask for, plus a healthy dose of CHARGE (our January VOW) which, when all is said and done, I’m certain will be for the better.

See Steph’s rationale for her #OneWord365 — #VOWnarrow.