Thursday, March 6, 2014

What You've GOT to Know

You are freakin' powerful. I would've been the first to laugh if you'd said this to me before I read the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker. I'm small - barely over five foot. When I'd get angry in high-school, people laughed at how "cute" it was (because I was so tiny and therefore, harmless.) And I pretty much believed it. After hearing stories about victimized people and seeing shows that are "based on real cases," I was convinced crime was everywhere and there was nothing I could do about it. Except be alert in dark parking lots. Pretend you're talking on your cell phone and walk with your keys poked between all your fingers. 

I've done these things and never felt safe. I also jump in my car and lock the door as fast as I can. I watch my shadow to be sure no one's joining me too quickly. In my mind, these were futile attempts at defending myself. Futile because in the end, I'm small, so I would be overpowered. 

This may be the most exciting thing I've ever told you on this blog. These violent encounters aren't like math where the bigger person always wins against the small. There are more factors involved than brawn (thank God). You are not a lost cause, even against big, nasty odds. You are powerful. 

Where am I getting this? I'll give you an overview, but if you want to feel it inside you, it may require reading the book. I feel like it's lifted my head, so I can look around, evaluate my surroundings and be a player. It's not just predators sizing me up. I'm sizing them up and not afraid of what I'll find. I don't mind if they see me sizing them up either because they might as well know now, I'm not their ideal victim. I'm dangerous. 

Really? If I was reading this before, I'd be thinking, "Are you joking right now?" I'm not. Consider this story: Betty lived in the country and was returning from a walk with her two little girls, who were 18 months and 3 years old, when she decided to let the girls swing for a few minutes. That's when a truck pulled up the driveway. She didn't know why that frightened her, but she gathered the girls while a young man got out of the truck. Her girls, not usually shy, clung to her. The man claimed he wanted to discuss his lawn service, but Betty noticed there was no equipment in his truck. She also noticed he was rambling about everything but lawn service. She picked up her littlest and told the man it was time for him to leave. He ignored her and knelt to talk to her other daughter. When she took a step back, he smiled, said goodbye and headed back to his truck. 

But as Betty was heading for the house, her 3 year old raced ahead and opened the kitchen door, which she'd never been able to do. As Betty was wondering at that, the man hit her over the head. He was dragging her (still holding her daughter) to the house, while she imagined being killed with her daughters. She says, "my baby let out a shrieking, animal-like scream I will never forget." That's when she started fighting. "The power was awesome. I immediately started to punch, kick, spit, growl, gouge, and bite my way through that man." She bit down hard on his hand and slammed him against the house, before ramming his groin with her knee. That's when he started limping for his truck. Betty ran after him, still holding her baby girl, and scooped a huge branch off the ground. She was yelling, "You picked the wrong house! I will hunt you down and eat your heart when I find you." She didn't make it in time to swing at him, but she took out the headlight and destroyed the fender before he could drive away.

I knew there was a reason I always loved the Shakespeare quote, "Though she be but little, she is fierce." We all have inside us, the capacity for violence when it's necessary, whether we like it or not. I, and many other women, never realized that ability until having children. I had visions of leaping off my back steps to take someone out if they tried to take my babies. Other women feel distinctly that they could kill for their child. I even thought differently when I was alone. When I imagined someone lurking nearby, I thought, "Oh no, you can't take me out now. My babies need me. I'm important." It may sound silly, but you're also important, kids or not, and if anyone crosses your path who wants to harm you, I hope you unleash all your Godly furry on them. I hope you know you can. 

It will help if you learn the tactics used to trick victims, but it's more than just that. I've prided myself for years on being logical. What Becker calls the "logic brain" is what society reveres and what tries to talk us out of what our "wild brain" tells us. Our intuition, what we know but can't explain, is something we need to learn is valid. Not to blindly follow, but to take seriously enough to check into the concern - even risk being impolite. That's the hardest part for me - I don't even want anyone to feel uncomfortable! I want us all to get along and feel good every minute of every day. This book basically said, "That's fine, you can want that until the cows come home, but that's not how it is. You know, here in reality." 

I don't want to be so caught up in my fantasies I don't see danger before it's too late. "The logic brain couldn't do a thing for Holly (another story) once the situation became critical. The logic brain is plodding and unoriginal. It is burdened with judgement, slow to accept reality, and spends valuable energy thinking about how things ought to be, used to be, or could be." 

One of my favorite moments in the book, was this quote from a mother:

I am determined to teach my daughter not to be nice to every man simply because she is a female. That would be the equivalent of saying, “It is better to be hurt by a male than be thought unfeminine by the male who seeks to hurt you.” As for me, I’ve learned the hard way that the road to peace of mind is being armed within myself. I will not let anyone take away my openness to the world, but true openness is realizing that the guy across from me is not who I want him to be, but who he is.

I'm learning to accept and appreciate the part of me Becker calls the "wild brain." It's a guide. When I feel a flag go up, I want to look into it - not wave it off because I have no reason to feel that way. There will be unwarranted flags, like when you can't sleep well in a new house because your body doesn't recognize its noises yet, but that's not a reason to write off your instincts the next time. It's the tool I didn't know I had. "...the wild brain obeys nothing, conforms to nothing, answers to nobody, and will do whatever it takes. It is unfettered by emotion, politics, politeness, and as illogical as the wild brain may sometimes seem, it is, in the natural order of things, completely logical. It just doesn't care to convince us of anything by using logic. In fact, it doesn't give a damn what we think." 

There's so much more in this book from warning your kids about sexual predators to preparing them for that first solo walk to school. It covers selection of babysitters, how to detect a child's tendency towards violence and sleepovers. With my kids making friends at school whose families I don't know, I was at a loss. I needed help navigating these waters. I'm so grateful Becker took the time to remind parents of what is certain in such an uncertain world. 

Because this book was exactly the teacher I needed, it's getting added to my Reading Room., which includes most of the books I like enough to talk about here. If you'd prefer to read something less focused on kids, I recommend checking out The Gift of Fear. 

P.S. The link below is an affiliate link, which means that I get a small commission if you follow it buy the book. 

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