Friday, November 6, 2009

A good question: What is worth protecting?

For several years I worried a lot about protecting an image, but today I have understood that the image cannot be preconceived. Shakira
Over at Maureen's 'All Art Friday' blog today at, Writing Without Paper, she poses a question that artist M.K. Guth will ask at a collaborative art event she is creating, "Ties of Protection and Safekeeping". "What is worth protecting?"

A good question.

At the Free Online Dictionary, 'protect' is defined as 'to defend from trouble, harm, attack, etc.' It can also have economic implications -- to impose protective tariffs, to protect against default of payment.

What is worth protecting?

After I had moved back to live with my daughters in this city at the foot of the Rockies, we felt pretty safe. Conrad was in jail (again) and I did not think about his presence on the streets around me -- or in my head! When he was released from prison the year after I moved back, I was worried he would try to find me and impose his power over me. Alexis and Liseanne shared my fear -- and I didn't want to have them live in fear. I wanted all of us to live with peace of mind, joy and love.

To nullify our fear, I met with Brian Willis of Winning Mind Training to get some guidance on how to create a safety perimeter -- around our home, and ourselves. The best way to protect yourself, said Brian, is to educate yourself.

My life was worth protecting. My daughters lives were worth protecting. And more importantly, by taking positive measures to protect what was most important to us, we created peace of mind. We educated ourselves so we could let go of fear and walk easily in the world.

I had never thought much about 'protection' before Conrad's parole. Hadn't thought much about my right to protect myself. Or even the need. I hadn't give much thought to the value of taking concrete steps to create safety in my environment. But, after being jumped by Conrad one night while visiting my girlfriend, and his subsequent return to prison and parole, I needed to take action, and responsibility, for my own safety. "The police cannot be with you twenty-four seven," Brian said. "The courts nor the police can protect you, unless you're in protective custody. Take responsibility."

Taking responsibility was an eye opener.

One of the first things Brian recommended was putting my 'fear' into perspective. Is Conrad a violent man or is he a coward? Now, my fearful mind wanted to scream out -- he's violent! Really, really violent.

Reality was, after talking about what my intuition and my experience with him knew -- he wasn't violent. He could be dangerous. But he was, first and foremost a coward. The real monster of Conrad had grown up in my mind. He had taken on a greater than life aura in my head that caused me to view him through the filter of my fear and sadness and sorrow and shame of all that had gone wrong. In cleaning the filter of my thinking, I put the real man into perspective. He did what he did because he was terrified of living without lies and deceit. He was terrified of his human condition. He did what he did in my life because he could. It's what he does. And because I didn't stop him from 'doing what he does' in my life, he terrorized me and those I love. He was a coward. I had been a victim.

I wanted to be a victor.

In the course of creating the safety perimeter around my home, or, Target Hardening, as Brian called it, he worked with Alexis and Liseanne and me on personal safety training. "It is your right, your duty, your responsibility to protect yourself," he told us. "Whatever it takes."

The whatever it takes was the scary part. "You can't let your thoughts of, oh that's not a nice thing to do, interfere with your responsibility to take care of yourself," Brian said. This was after demonstrating to us how to use our voice and limbs as tools to deter an attacker. "Tactics for personal protection must be easy to use, and effective outside the training room," he said. "Avoiding confrontation is always the first step. Don't trick yourself into believing that in a confrontation you can 'talk' him into being nice. He wouldn't be stalking you if being nice was part of his agenda."

Think like your enemy. Take action, he advised.

In his book, Fear Less, Gavin deBecker writes, "Others can choose to make you a target. Only you can choose to be a victim."

Victim's abdicate responsibility for their well-being to the courts and police and other people, writes Brian in Creating a Safety Perimeter an article he wrote for my book, The Dandelion Spirit.
"A Victim has an external locus of control and feels they are powerless to stop whatever is going to happen to them. As a result they give up their power and control to others. Their lives are filled with worry, anxiety and fear. A Victor accepts personal responsibility and takes action to make themselves and their loved ones, 'Hard Targets'. They have an internal locus of control and understand that they have the power and they are in control. The 'Victor' mentality not only makes you safer, it allows you to live a life filled with awareness, confidence, fulfillment and empowerment."

What is worth protecting?


Target hardening my home, my workspace, my environment were simply measures to provide me the assurance that I had done, whatever it takes, to protect myself and my daughters. I couldn't control what Conrad, or anyone else, with evil intent would do. That wasn't my agenda.

My purpose was to make it hard for anyone to do something that took away my peace of mind, that robbed me of my right to move with ease through my day without fearing what lurked in the shadows around me. My purpose was to Live without fear.

Looking over my shoulder was part of my fear. Making my life a 'hard target', gave me the peace of mind to keep my sights on the road ahead of me. Knowing I had taken responsibility, done what was required to make it hard for him to break through my safety perimeter gave me the space to live my life with joy, without looking over my shoulder in fear.

Today, I don't fear what others will do in my life. Whatever they attempt, I know that I am safe when I take responsibility for creating the life of my dreams -- and that includes shining light on the shadows around me.

In protecting the sanctity of my environment, in creating a safety perimeter around me, in consciously choosing to be aware, to listen to my intuition, to not let fear drive me away from being courageous, I step confidently into my day knowing, I am 100% responsible for my life. I don't have to live with fear. I have to take action to live fearlessly.

The question is: Are you fearlessly living your life by lighting up the shadows you fear?


Maureen said...


You write an "of the moment" piece. Since hearing yesterday afternoon of the horrible shooting at Ft. Hood in Texas, I find my head filled with thoughts of the artist's call to consider what is worth protecting. I think that even when the shadows are lit up, we sometimes miss what lies within them, what they are showing us. In the case of the Ft. Hood murders, the shooter, who was not feared, left signs that might have been heeded but perhaps the shadow he was casting was not yet long enough to be understood as threatening.

Thank you for being inspired by an item in my post.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Maureen, it wasn't until I got home last night that I had a chance to read about the Ft. Hood shootings.

Tragic. Sad. And unfortunately - a tragedy that could have been averted had the shadows not hidden the turmoil within and around him.

I think one of the challenges of the shadows someone casts who is in mental distress is that we, those around watching or interacting with them, do not see inside them. We are busy coping with our own lives, expecting life to be 'as usual' as we go about living. And we as human beings have become incredibly adept at hiding our turmoil within from the world around us.

What I find so sad is that for this man -- that 'something' that snapped has resulted in destroying the very thing his oath had inspired him to protect and preserve and save -- life.

And in that decision to destroy what he swore to protect, he ended the lives of innocent people and created a world of sorrow.

Anonymous said...

I continued to return to my abuser over and over again. One reason being my fear. I thought that at least if I was in contact with him, I would know what he was up to. I finally read The Gift of Fear, and it helped me in many ways. We can walk around with our heads up, instead of down.