Sitting comfortably in my dining room, shielded by my house and comforted by the clickety-clack laptop keys, I thought, again, how easy it is to play pretend. Lulled to complacency by nothing bad happening right now, I can breathe the free air and not have to think of what might happen. I say I know better, but do I? I say, Of course bad things can and will happen. They’ve happened before, of course they will happen again. But do my actions match my words?
Although I take Ninpo (traditional Ninja martial arts) and own a self-defense business with my best friend and her sister, I still like to take dips in that famous river — Denial. I’d rather not ask myself the important questions. I’d rather just think I can go about my everyday life pretending everyone around me is innocent and safe, that even though I’ve had lessons to the contrary (including two rollover car accidents, for example) — I still think I can walk into any situation and be A-OK.
Denial. Denial pulls me into the thinking that I can endure a self-defense class and leave all the information I just learned on the mats and walk away. Denial makes it just a class instead of a lifestyle. Denial leads me, eyes half-closed, mind distracted, into thinking I don’t have to do the hard work of not only showing up to class but retaining, and retraining my mind. That’s hard. I’d rather go back and binge watch some Downton Abbey episodes to prep for the movie instead of reviewing my self-defense and Ninpo material.
But a few minutes listening to the news jerks my mind back into reality: like it or not, bad things will happen. Yes, they will. How I emerge from them depends on how I prepare today — when things seem okay and nothing bad is happening. My very life may depend on today’s training.
I have to shake awake, shove denial aside and ask myself questions like these*:
How far will I go to defend myself?
What if someone walks into my work place with a gun?
What if I’m in a store or bank that’s being robbed?
What if my plane is hijacked?
What if I wake up and a stranger is standing by my bed?
What if a noise wakes me up and there’s an intruder in my house?
What if I’m walking by myself and someone’s following me?
None of us wants to think about these questions — oh how I wish I had an invisible bubble I could shield myself in so I didn’t have to think about any of this! Even typing the questions I felt fear well and swell in my belly. But if we’re wise, we choose to go there, to actually strategize.
What would I do? Do I even know? Many of these questions just make my head spin. Fear can do that to a person. My go-to has been to freeze. But freezing up when being attacked pretty much guarantees I’ll be damaged — or dead — after an attack.
Like it or not, we have to think about these things. And knowing I don’t know pushes me to go where I can learn. And also is a huge impetus behind why we do what we do — learn self-defense and offer it to any woman (teen and older) who crosses our path.
I choose to do the hard work while what I’d really like to do is slip into apathy. I choose to put myself out there to be hurt and pushed and scared in a safe place, so when bad things happen I’ll push back and emerge a victor. I choose to run toward what’s hard. And I throw out my Denial swimsuit and stop walking down to its shoreline. Accepting reality and adjusting as needed sets me free.
I recently took the next step in accepting my bipolar diagnosis, and started seeing a therapist. After a few weeks of setting a groundwork, we’ve started to dig deep and it’s hard. I don’t want to relive the painful junk that gives me PTSD, the stuff from way back that formed my current self-destructive thoughts. In some ways it’d be easier to just muddle along. But my kids are watching, and frankly I’m sick of living a life where I’m leaning on breaking crutches just to get through the day.
Ah, reality. Hard but good. And the only path to freedom in this life.
It’s time to step out of denial. It’s time to face reality. It’s time to do the hard work, to run toward it, and finally be free. There’s no shortcut. Just lace up your shoes and get started.
*From the article “21 Self-Defense Questions You (and Your Teenagers) May Want to Think About” by Lori Hoeck