05: Freezing Or Frigid


I love the saying, “I can’t wait!”

Because it usually follows with the waiting.

You can wait, actually. In fact, you have to.

With the wanting, there’s always the waiting.

Constantly threatening to drown me is a panic on slow boil that I’m not doing enough, seeing enough, tasting enough, living enough. Half my energy goes to keeping this uninvited energy calm, which means I am perpetually exhausted, maybe frozen into stillness. Which means I’m not doing enough, seeing enough, tasting enough, living enough.

Have you ever spent a day laying down and looking at a wall?

We’ve all heard of the term flight or fight. I always considered flight its own form of fighting, but technically speaking flight is where the prey runs away, and fight is where it stays to, well, put its dukes up against the thing that wishes to bring it great harm.

Only recently did I hear of freeze, the third term du jour in this holy trinity of alarm responses.

Freeze is also exactly what it sounds like. You’ll feel stuck in a body part, cold, stiff, heavy. You’ll hold your breath or have restrictive breathing. You’ll be arrested under a fog of dread.

The go-to example of this in the animal world is the possum. They will pretend like they’re dead so the hungry coyote or pissed off farmer will leave them alone, figuring their work here is done. A possum’s tonic immobility is legendary. “Quit playing possum!”

My favorite example of it though, is the fainting goat. This domestic animal’s muscles will freeze entirely when it feels panic. So, say some rowdy teenagers with nothing better to do startle the poor goat and film it with their iPhone, the goat falls over like a statue to its side. After about 10 seconds it gets up and runs away with what one can only assume is the goat-motion for the middle finger to the kids. Baaaaa-d boys.

Rabbits and chipmunks can lay motionless for minutes at a time.

I usually lay for 48 hours every couple of months. Nothing in particular startles me. It’s that slow build rather than, like for the goat, a boy with wind burnt face and too much time on his hands.

My legs become stiff, but this is imagined and I know it. Walking to the bathroom takes great energy. The sleep is heaven sent.

The worst part is the terrible guilt I feel afterward. At least in the middle of my frozen-figuring I feel productive. There is action in freezing, the same way there is flighting in fighting. Freezing means I’m thinking, even when I’m hiding.

But afterward I feel lazy and the time that’s ticked by seems to taunt me with its wasted wickedness. My stomach aches, because you do not eat when you are immobile, and I wish to be a wolf and not a bunny. I’m ashamed of my weaknesses because I know the potential I have to be strong, to call out into the night to my wolf brothers and sisters and eat the throats of our enemies.

Did you know we now have the attention span of a goldfish? Unfortunately, I’ve chosen art and art takes time and solitude and there’s nothing fast about it. I worry that the space I make for it won’t leave space for the other things I want.

Freezing requires you to come back with answers. All you’ve been doing is sleeping and staring at a wall. What have you decided?

I’ve decided I need more time to build a home for the things I want.

All we can do is wait.

And pretend to live when the world’s not frozen.

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