Did any of you out there read the book “The Gift of Fear” in the 90’s?
I not only read it but bought it on tape and have listened to it several times actually. I listen to books on tape while painting and I’ve done a hell of a lot of painting (walls I mean) in my life. I’ve painted my entire house at least three times turning my bedroom from it’s first incarnation of Neopolitan ice cream (not on purpose but an old boyfriend pointed out my french vanilla, milk chocolate and hint of Martha Stewart geranium pink walls as they collided in one corner by my bed) to five shades of white. Yes, literally five shades of white are on the walls, ceiling, trim, cabinets and some furniture in my bedroom. And that doesn’t even count the tile work. But damn I’m totally digressing now!
kinda like this but messier 😉
The Gift of Fear. A must-read book for any woman or man for that sake.
Now you would think this book is about self defense or tips for protecting yourself in the world as it’s written by a former CIA guy who literally wrote the protocol for protecting the Supreme Court Justices.
And the full title with tag line reads:
The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence
But this book is about something much deeper and more primal. It’s entirely about intuition.
He writes about listening intently to that “spidey sense” inside that signals danger. But not only listening to it; acting on it. 100%. Not talking yourself out of it or rationalizing it away but taking action simply on that feeling; full on committed with no apologies. He reveals how this can save your life.
He gives real life example after example of incidents where people responded to this innate self defense system and literally saved their own lives. And some where they didn’t.
This book will scare you and at the same time wake you up as you sit there nodding your own head over and over in agreement. At least I did.
Shortly after reading this book, I had an incident in my neighborhood where I had to practice the teaching he offers. It also happened to be the day I decided to leave my husband, that very day, and this incident played in to that decision although I never told him that. It was the tipping point.
We lived in a then quite rural area outside of Mesa, actually now that I think of it, not all that far from where Travis Alexander’s house was. We were one of the first to build in that subdivision so although there were homes, not many were occupied yet. It was bordered by some still wild desert which I’m sure is all covered in concrete now but it was very quiet and new at the time.
I decided one Sunday to go out for a morning walk.
I took off down our quiet street and just a couple of houses down noticed a “Dial A Ride” van inching along with the driver looking intently at me out his window. I immediately thought he was lost and looking for an address and expected him to roll down his window and ask me directions but he just kept creeping along as I walked in the opposite direction and he disappeared down the street.
Before I got to the end of our block, he came back around again, still driving slowly and looking sideways outside of his driver’s seat. Again, I expected him to ask directions as he just appeared lost to me. I mean what could be more innocent than a person picking up an old lady who doesn’t drive to take them to church on a Sunday morning which is what I suspected this was about.
Our street ended abruptly at some barricades that bordered the desert and that was my intended goal: to go walking in that desert area to just get some wild space around me. Let’s see if I can describe this. As the street was designed to keep going eventually in to another subdivision not developed yet, it extended about half a block past civilization before it hit those barricades. And all of that was entirely visible.
Meaning as I walked in to that last half a block I had essentially left the cocoon of homes in my neighborhood and was already in a bit of no man’s land.
I neared the orange barricades and I heard him first. The Dial A Ride van creeping along on the opposite side of the road toward the barricades himself.
I immediately felt terrified. I didn’t rationally do the math yet–like how there was no reason for him to be driving in to an obvious dead end— but I knew I was in danger.
I remembered Gavin De Becker’s instruction of what to do in that exact situation. He said what a predator is seeking is prey. That’s what turns them on; fearfulness, so don’t show it. He gave one example of a woman in a parking lot being fearful that a man was following her to her car. He instructs instead of fumbling with her keys in a nervous way, stepping up her gait hurriedly glancing over her shoulder (which is part of the attraction for the predator), turning sharply in her tracks, facing the man, puffing up her body and in a strong stern voice simply ask “are you following me?”. This tactic kills that predatory buzz immediately and since they are essentially cowards at the core, it sends them on another trajectory.
I walked straight up to those barricades, leaned down, picked up two large rocks and held them in my hands not looking at the van and just started banging them together LOUDLY. I pulled back my shoulders, jutted out my chin, got the most “do not fuck with me” look on my face and as far as I was concerned was armed and dangerous. I pivoted and walked straight back banging those rocks together as hard and loud as I could. I was prepared and ready to beat his face in with them and felt it.
He never got out of his car but I suddenly heard the beepbeepbeep of a vehicle like that backing up as he slowly backed out of that dead end following me in reverse now.
What was terrifying to me, on the inside, is that I knew even though I’d reached civilization again once I got that half a block up, I also knew that the majority of those homes were uninhabited. If I even ran up to one of them and it was empty, I was in his trap. I just marched like a fierce soldier banging my rocks down that sidewalk as that asshole backed his van in to the middle of the intersection, blocking it behind me, just watching me. I could feel his eyes all over me as he just sat there.
I finally saw ahead a man come out of his house and open his garage door and could finally exhale knowing I was safe now. He was still sitting idling in the middle of the intersection down at the base of that road I was on, watching me, stalking me.
I dropped my rocks, walked straight in to the middle of the road and double-birded that man.
Then turned and shaking like a leaf found my way home on an alternate circuitous route, worried the entire time he’d show up again and see me as I was walking up to my door thus knowing where I lived.
How my husband responded to that moment was the deal breaker for our marriage. It’s such a long story and not the one I want to tell right now but just suffice it to say I married not for love but for safety and he showed me in that moment that safety was not on the menu in that relationship thus breaking the spell for me. I went out alone in our car as I realized I’d not gotten a license plate and he didn’t bat an eye. I was out of flight and in pure fight at that moment and handled the entire thing by myself. That kind of says it all.
Later that day a male friend, after hearing the story, insisted on calling the Dial A Ride company and found out there was no record of any of their vans being in the vicinity of my neighborhood that day. Legitimately anyway.
My friend also demonstrated how a husband should have behaved. Boom.
I don’t know why I woke up thinking of that story this morning but as I cleaned my kitchen, I was thinking about intuition and trusting that spidey sense and the most important part of that equation: ACTING ON IT.
I’ve had two opportunities for that in just the last two months really. In both cases, I’m putting on my Psych Nurse hat and deciding they are both full blown personality disorders. Those are ones to avoid and back. away. slowly. from. And trust me, your first clue will always be your spidey sense there.
I had to get a little bit stung in one case for not acting sooner although I’d been plagued with the creep factor over this person for months and in the other I think I headed serious damage to my family off at the pass. When I think of it, the first more meaningless situation prepared me for the second–to find my voice and set a firm boundary. To have a practice session at that I mean. The second was more close to home, dangerous and scary to confront and I’d been avoiding it for a decade. Obviously a lot harder to step in to.
I’m proud of myself honestly.
I’m getting stronger and listening more acutely and what’s more important, trusting those signals.
Ruthlessly, unapologetically (if that’s a word) championing for myself, my life and those who are closest to me.
I’m thinking I’m uncovering that inner badass that Ricki Lake saw in me.
And I gotta say, it feels pretty damn good.