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.

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.