As a certified Martha Beck life coach, we have a saying, “live it to give it,” and through this blog post, that is what I am doing – standing up and claiming my power so I can help others to claim their own power. What do you do when you’re physically threatened? When three men talk about assaulting you and murdering you? While they are walking immediately behind you?
For me, the first thing I did was have the thought that this can’t be real, and I tried to do nothing. I mean, who does that? Why would someone do that? Why would they do it to me?
I quickly realized it wasn’t about me at all. Rather, it was all about them and this story that they created. It wasn’t personal in that sense. I get it. Yet to them it was personal and directed at me. They were trying to bully me, intimidate me and make me live in my smallness, not in my bigness. We all should live in our bigness, at least that is where I’m happiest. Sometimes those who live in smallness want to pull you down to be small like them.
To them, and all like them, I say no. Not only no, I say hell no.
This isn’t something that I ever really had to deal with before. I have had an amazing life so far. Very successful. Great career, friends, family, house, car, farm, things I enjoy and my spirituality. A safe, full and happy life. Sure there is always some petty stuff or petty folks around in life, but no big deal. Life is good. Who expects to ever have this happen?
This was in June. And just two weeks after that, three men attempted to carjack me.
Today, I say no. I will not be silent just to allow everything to be quiet, to be the victim. I am not a victim. Like the old adage, what would the neighbors think if they knew? Seriously. What of it? Screw the proverbial neighbors.
A little back story might be helpful.
It all started when I joined a spiritual organization. Turns out that they had a great deal of politics, drama and all that stuff that one might associate in great novels about the medieval royal courts. I do politics for a living, but this was far different and so insidious. Bow down, kiss the ring, worship at the altar.
It wasn’t a cult or what the organization said it wanted. Yet the organization had some things that remind me of a cult, and I was to find out later that my parents felt it was one. It started with leadership that folks blindly followed, pontificating on the words, chastising others who did not agree with the world according to what they felt was right for their idol, and then did things in the name of this idol and organization to which they shared this great love…and obsession.
Doing bad things supposedly in the name of a leader. Doing things to prevent others from living their own dreams, following their own paths. Doing bad things and saying bad things about those who didn’t drink their koolaid. It was the followers, but ultimately, there is a tone set at the top, behaviors of what you will and won’t accept, and ultimately, the poison reached the top. Those that are rewarded continue, those that are punished stop. These folks and their behaviors were rewarded and promoted by leadership.
Sound like a group I’d be in? Um, no. I was for five or so years, and it wasn’t like that when I started. At the point where I started to figure this all out, see it and stand up for myself, I was very close to the leader. We were great friends, like brother and sister. In addition to the close personal relationship, he had promoted my work, promoted my involvement in his organization, encouraged my public work, mentored me. I built infrastructure for them here, promoted his work, built up community and donated and raised a lot of money for this organization and its work. I began to teach publicly and became a minister. It’s what I do – I build things. I am a doer. I am loyal, dedicated and motivated.
All of this attracted a lot of jealousy for my success. There were folks gunning for me. Crazy, right? I mean, this is a spiritual organization, no? It was surreal. Sometimes I still cannot believe that it all happened. How do you go from that to this? In the back of my mind, or maybe rather still in my heart, I hope one day there will be a realization as to what has been created, but at this point, I know it will likely never happen.
The only politics crazier than politics is religion. At least in politics you know the rules.
I successfully got myself out by getting officially kicked out of the organization. I found peace and happiness and love with it all. I would not stop my own work. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I continued to do the work, and instead started my own non-profit spiritual organization/church and built my life coaching and shamanic healing practice. I had hope for things to heal in the future.
Freedom. Peace. Love. Best. Thing. Ever.
That final shoe was the spring of 2014, or so I thought…
Each year there is a big event where folks have booths. It is both a fundraiser and outreach to the community. I had built and led this other organization’s booth and effort there for three years, and then in 2014 did my own for the first time. It was a resounding success. I accelerated my teaching work as well, which likewise was a great success, along with my shamanic healing work and building my coaching practice.
This year in June, we had our second booth, and I taught a workshop there again as well, as I have every year, which was wildly successful. The entire weekend, we were harassed, stared at, followed, stalked at our booth and around the venue location by many members of this other organization. It happened the year before, but this year was much worse [emphasis added]. We endeavored to ignore them and stay as far away from them as possible.
My philosophy is that the more the merrier to do this kind of work – there are an unlimited number of people in the world seeking help, healing and spiritual growth. Just go with the flow, find your right place, do the work, and let the rest go. It’s all about the love.
At one point that Sunday I was walking down the row of vendors with two friends who were formerly in that organization as well, though what happened next was clearly directed at me. Three men from that organization literally ran up loudly and directly behind me. It startled me, scared me. I kept walking at my normal pace to pretend it did not impact me. I did not know what to do.
I feel like I stepped out of my body for a moment, it was so surreal. I will never forget their words or the way I felt as a result of their physical proximity, the large stature of the one directly behind me and the vileness in their voice and manner.
They were only about a foot behind me, and definitely in my personal space, when the one directly behind me loudly called out to the other “I don’t want to be an accessory to aggravated assault.” The other replied. Then the man behind me called out loudly again, “I don’t want to be charged with murder.”
I still kept walking at my normal pace to pretend it did not impact me. Finally I saw the security booth and we walked up to it, and the men went away.
I got through the rest of the event somehow, and when my responsibilities were over except for tearing down and packing up, I was in complete shock. Numb. I could not do anything. I cried. I could not help pack up. As I write this, it makes me sick to my stomach and I am a little shaky, even though I am perfectly safe now of course.
We reported it to the event organizer since this time it involved a threat of physical violence. I don’t know if anything will come of it as this other organization has a lot of power, and for the record, we did not ask for anything to be done as we do not want to make waves or cause any drama. Our goal is and was to keep it all quiet for everyone’s benefit. I tried unsuccessfully to report the physical threats to the police, which made me leery of ever reporting any violence or threats of violence in the future.
My own town’s police did come to my house, gave me tips to stay safe in my home and said they would have patrols watch my house. That helped, as well as my friend staying over that night just in case. Two of these three men had been in my home in the past for an event I had held, so they knew well where I lived, and after this, how could I put that past them?
For at least a week I was highly afraid in my house. I would keep my lights on at night and keep the blinds closed like the police told me to. I was vigilant. That has quieted some now for me, but I always keep an eye and ear out even in my home.
I don’t know that I think these men would ever do something to me physically, but I was scared. And that pissed me off. It made me angry. It made me afraid. It made me ashamed – ashamed because I allowed these people to bully and intimidate me. To keep me quiet. Ashamed because I did not want them to know how their vile behavior impacted me.
Not only did I not tell anyone about this except for my very close friends and my parents, it also resulted in my unknowingly withdrawing a little more into myself, which I am just now realizing. From my job, from my friends, from my work. How I have felt these last two months compared to how I felt before June at that event are quite a marked contrast.
If truth be told, I am still pissed off, and I am still angry that these men could try to intimidate me and try to take away my sense of well-being and security on such a base level. Men that I knew. Men for whom I had been a spiritual teacher/mentor. I continue to do the work, but the last two months have been rough. And nothing happened to these people who had this abhorrent behavior.
I did have an attorney send the organization another letter, demanding an immediate cease to this behavior, including at next year’s event like this one. In the back of my mind, I think I hoped for an apology by their leaders who set the tone that allowed this to happen, and their promotion of these folks and approval of their past behaviors, which allowed this to happen. Though the reality in my mind was and is that the best I could or can hope for is that it would at least not cause them to further attack and slander me. I guess the best news is no news in that case.
As a leader in this type of work, it is hard to let this information be known. I don’t play into drama. I am realizing that this is not drama – this is my life, and it was threatened, and this is why it was threatened. Why have I allowed myself to be so afraid? to hide? I have never written about this in any fashion publicly until now. I have barely even talked about it to anyone.
I have a life. I have a gig. I have a coaching practice. And sometimes you just need to stand up for yourself, take your power back.
I take all of my power back. As I take steps to reclaim my peace of mind. My safety. My security. It’s mine, and I won’t let three men steal it from me.
And they weren’t the only three men. There were to be three more. (As an aside, it is funny that the other organization is led by three men as well, but I digress.)
Two weeks later, I went to do a radio show for my gig. It was in the Central West End. It wasn’t the best neighborhood. I was in the parking lot and just got off the phone with my Dad saying that I needed to get off the phone and get inside before I was carjacked. Hello? Intuition anyone? A sign from God perhaps?
Then I saw three men crossing the road in front of me. I said to myself that these men were going to try to carjack me. There is only one entrance by car or foot into the parking lot where I was parked, which was off of an alley. I was about to get out of the car, but I still had it running. I would never sit in my car even for a moment without it running and without paying high attention to all around me. I try to never sit in my car at all.
I paused. Then I put my car in reverse.
It all happened so fast, this entire sequence of thought and reaction. They came onto the parking lot. I kept asking myself if it was really happening, but I knew it was. Before I knew it, one was on my rear bumper on each side of my car and I could not see the third. I immediately started backing out rather quickly, without any real concern as to if I would run them over or not. I knew what was happening, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to worry after anything but my own safety at that point.
I made it and drove out. I was in shock. I looked back in my mirror and saw them pretend like they were going to get into another car (they did not of course), and then they immediately hustled off and disappeared down the alley.
I did the right thing on many levels to protect myself. I have questioned what else I could have done. I realized that could have driven off sooner. At the time, I didn’t want them to think I was assuming they were going to attack me – i.e. I was concerned for their feelings. Yep, seriously. That was an actual thought in my thought process. Finally my intuition would not let me think anymore and I just did – I drove away and almost ran over them.
I was shaking and had to still find another place to park and do the radio interview. Somehow I did the interview and did a great job.
Before the live radio show started, the radio host could tell something was wrong, so I told her. They wanted me to report it. I didn’t. I mean, after what happened two weeks before, it wasn’t worth it to me. I could not have identified them, and their whole pretending to get into another car thing made me feel like what if I were imagining it? I was not.
A friend even described to me how they work in teams and position themselves. Then later my employer told me that she had been there two weeks prior and felt unsafe and noticed similar people, which she never told me. I’m not stupid – if I knew that, I would not have gone there in the first place. The radio host walked me to the car. I was impressed by her on many levels. I also know I won’t go back there.
It is just hard to believe when something like that happens to you. When either of these things happens to you personally. Time is both fast and slow at the same time. It’s like the moment sort of steps out of time.
I decided at the end of last month that I was never again going to be afraid in my home. I was done being afraid.
I started yoga every morning at the beginning of July. I started zumba once a week. I am building up my physical body and strength. I started playing piano again, which is also a mind/hand connection. I am building up my mind-body connection on all levels. I also plan to begin some type of self-defense/martial arts training in the fall. All a series of beautiful blessings.
I joined a range, studied a lot, bought my first 9mm (love my Glock 43!), had safety classes and began shooting instruction. Turns out it is more meditative with a mind/body connection, and silencing the mind with the breath, than even yoga is for me. Another blessing. Who knew? And, I’m very good at it.
I still have a lot to process through with this, and I’m working on it. Finally speaking out and saying something somewhere – here – is my next big step. In coaching we say live it to give it, and that is what I am doing. There is no room for this in my life. Doing this work now will help me to help others in more ways in the future.
Being silent gave away my power. It made me a victim.
I am not a victim. I am not silent. I am Sheri. And I take back my power.