What If ...

What if you're wrong about that creepy-looking guy in the parking lot and he turns out to be harmless? What if you're wrong about that noise you heard outside? What if you're over-reacting? What if that way-too-friendly guy at the bar gets mad at you and yells at you? What if you hurt someone's feelings or hurt their body? What if your mother never speaks to you again?

What if you're right and you don't act? What would you do if your daughter, your sister, your best friend or your mother was in this situation? How do you decide how much is too much? What if you try something and it doesn't work? What if you make the situation worse? What if you do everything you learned in your self-defense class and you still get hurt?

Rather than pretending that bad things don't happen, or hesitating to act because you're afraid of being wrong, or worrying about what others might think, we want you to have choices and to be true to yourself. You have the right and the power to be safe and to defend yourself if need be. You don't have to get into the elevator with the scary person just so they won't feel bad. You don't have to be nice to the drunk at the party to avoid making a scene. It is okay if they think you're crazy if you end up alive and intact on the other side of an encounter. Dead right is still dead and no one ever died of embarrassment.

We want you to listen to that still, small voice inside that tells you when something is not quite right about a situation. We want you to acknowledge that tingling "spidey-sense," that prickle on the back of your neck, that uneasiness, or that sneaking suspicion and we want you to act on it instead of dismissing it as being paranoid, over-reacting, or being silly/foolish.

How do you react to a feeling when all you have is a feeling? It was that question that led to the formation of our introductory self-defense course. When we looked at other self-defense training programs, we found that the techniques they taught were designed for an all-out attack. Yet, if you used these techniques because of a "feeling" it was very possible that you would be seen as the attacker and the person who made you feel threatened would be seen as the victim. Instead, too many people would hesitate to use what they had been taught until a physical assault was in progress.

We came up with the idea of the innocuous assault. We define this as a perceived threat that begins as an "innocent" mistake, or an excuse to violate your personal space. Whether the perpetrator is someone known to you (perhaps a relative or an acquaintance) or a friendly stranger, we decided that our participants needed to have tools that they could use to prevent the innocuous assault and respond to it as necessary.

So, how do you prevent the innocuous assault? You start by listening to that voice and acting on it. Is the guy in the elevator feeling creepy to you? Wait for the next one. Does something about the guy at the bar not feel right, especially since he insists on chatting you up even after you told him politely you are not interested? Stop being polite, or pretend to answer your phone and have an important conversation with your mom, the highway patrol officer. Are you walking out to your car and getting a "feeling" because when you parked it, it was light and there were plenty of people around, but now it is deserted and dark? Set your key fob alarm off and find something to do for a couple of minutes. Alarms are loud and annoying. People don't pay attention to them other than to be annoyed by them, so they rarely stay around them for more than a couple of minutes.

But what about the assault that no one notices? How about the male relative that always insists on long, tight hugs that make you uncomfortable? Or the guy who, when you shake his hand, doesn't let go? An elbow that always seems to "accidentally" be in the way is one method to make him stop wanting that hug, as is the habit of including someone else in a "group hug." Pointing your finger will help you resist the grip of the person shaking your hand and "coughing" allows you to get your hand back, or make him want to back up to avoid getting coughed on.

We want you to always have a response, and we want that response to be one that you will use. As the old saying goes, "When your only tool is a hammer, soon every problem looks like a nail." We will help you respond to situations that require something other than a hammer, and if the situation does call for one, we'll help you choose between the claw hammer and the 5lb. Sledge.

Who's Got Your Back

For some reason, Grif and I have the best discussions while we're washing the dishes after supper. (We used to have these discussions over coffee on lazy Sunday mornings or over bottles of good wine on Friday nights after work, but times have changed now that we're parents and "grown-ups.")

Last night's dishwashing chat-fest centered around the soon-to-be-launched Stir the Embers workshops and my struggle to balance a desire to make sure everything is researched, rehearsed, thought-through, organized and otherwise perfect with a screaming impatience to JUST DO THE DAMN THING!

I would guess that most of the rest of the Stir the Embers team feels the same way. We're all pretty passionate about this work and have had a great time putting together our first workshop. We've spent many hours brainstorming, discussing (okay, arguing, but in a good way!), writing curriculum, practicing and researching because we want to offer you something different. This is not your mother's self-defense course and it is not group therapy or a touchy-feely PMA class! But unfortunately, we all have "day-jobs" and families and other commitments and outside distractions and "life" that cuts into our Stir the Embers time, and while I can't speak for the rest of the team, I can tell you that I just can't burn the midnight oil like I used to in my 20s. So, even though it is frustrating for me and for those of you who are as impatient as I am to get this thing off the ground, you can rest assured that the first Stir the Embers workshops will be held soon and when they are, they will be worth the wait.

Now, Grif has mastered the fine art of listening, which I know has to be really frustrating for him when I'm thinking out loud and he wants to jump in and offer solutions or point out the flaws in my reasoning. Last night I was rattling on, wondering whether I was up to the challenge of putting on this type of workshop and worrying that all this stuff that I thought was important and life-changing would seem like a big waste of time to the workshop attendees if I couldn't present the material in a way that would do it justice. But as we talked, I realized that my fear stemmed from a deep-seated need to feel like someone "has my back."

Do you remember the Facebook quiz that went around a few months ago where you had to pick the top five people you'd want on your side in a bar fight? Most people were picking folks like Chuck Norris and Rambo, but the bigger question here is who can you depend on? Who would you call from jail with that one phone call? Who can you count on to back you up, bail you out, stand up for you, defend your honor, hold the line with you or defrost you from the carbonite? I've spent most of my life looking for those people (which actually explains a few things about some of my earlier relationships, but I digress), because it's not about finding people who'll take care of you or do everything for you or fight all your battles or cater to your every whim, but more about developing relationships based on trust and communicated expectations. And while I'm lucky to have many folks I feel I could call at 3am to bail me out of jail, I have a much smaller list of people I'd feel comfortable trusting with my life or my son's life. Not everyone on my "list" is a good fit for every situation that might come up, but it feels good to know that in just about every situation I might encounter, someone has my back.

Like the Stir the Embers team - I know I can count on them to deliver and to do their best to make these workshops as awesome as I know they will be. I also know that if I lag behind a little, or need a shot of encouragement or go off on some wild tangent, they will be there to help boost me up, kick me in the pants or help me course-correct until I get back on track. When I yell, "Cover me!" and take off running, I know they will. For me, that's all it takes to keep moving forward.

So, who's got your back? And, more importantly, whose back do you have? Make sure you let them know. It can make all the difference.

Integrity in the Moment of Choice

I was thinking a lot today about Dr. Stephen Covey and the concept of "integrity in the moment of choice" (from Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, I believe). In a nutshell, Dr. Covey states that between every action and reaction in our lives, there is a "moment of choice" where we decide, either consciously or unconsciously, how we are going to react/respond. Dr. Covey encourages us to consciously make our choice with integrity in that moment, rather than react in an unconscious, knee-jerk, "because I've always done it like that" way. He goes on to suggest that since time is fluid and flexible, rather than strictly linear as we often perceive it, we can, in a sense, extend that moment between action and reaction in order to give ourselves the time/space we need to choose with integrity.

I love the idea that time is fluid and malleable. I've heard others talk about near-death experiences where their entire life flashed before their eyes in an instant or where events seemed to move in slow-motion with absolute clarity. I've personally experienced the fluidity of time when absorbed in a particularly engaging book, website or Facebook app (wry grin) ... I feel as if I've only just sat down for a moment and suddenly three hours have passed by! So how do we take that phenomenon of "losing track of time" and apply it to having integrity in the moment of choice?

I have found that when I'm diligent about my daily meditation and spiritual practice, it is easier for me to have integrity in the moment of choice. Daily meditation helps me to feel grounded, centered and at peace and keeping a regular spiritual practice nurtures my mind and soul more than anything else. For me, knowing where I'm coming from helps me to know where I'm going ... and to respond with integrity along the way.

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