My Story of Taking Back My Power: Threats of Violence & Carjacking

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.

Yeah. That…happened.

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.

Done.

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.

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The Chosen Baby: One Little Girl’s Story of Adoption

When I was a little girl, I used to think that adopted babies were kept in a little room on shelves where their new mommies and daddies would come pick them out. Choose them. The beautiful thing is that there’s something to that the idea of choice, and soul connections and all that jazz that also bring you together with your parents.

The Chosen Baby today – that’s me!

I dedicate my story to all of those who have been adopted. And I may come back and add more later. This is a story that wanted to be shared now…

I have always known I was adopted. The Chosen Baby was a book my parents read to me from when I was a baby. That is how I learned I was adopted. They said they picked me, that I was chosen.

The Chosen Baby is an amazing book about a loving couple the Browns who adopt a little boy named Peter and then they adopt his baby sister Mary. Quite lovely. My parents told me from the beginning, and it was a beautiful thing. There never was a time that I did not know that I was adopted.

The Chosen Baby
The Chosen Baby

I still have this book.

And don’t get me started on how incredibly lucky I was to find my parents, or that they found me. They are the two people in this world that I love and respect more than anyone. They are strong, smart, giving, caring, supportive, loving and the most beautiful souls. I am truly blessed. And yes, they are always right…well, almost always. Especially when it comes to being a good judge of character.

When you grow up being adopted, kids may tease you. It did not happen very often to me as I got along very well with the other kids in my neighborhood and at school, and I had lots of friends. Every now and then someone might tease “your mommy and daddy gave you away!” My reply was always the same – “my parents picked *me*!” That usually did the trick. And I believed it. I grew up surrounded in love. Still am.

The other thing is that being adopted results in several things. It makes you more independent. You find and make friends easier and they become important to you – like your brothers or sisters of choice. You are a loyal friend. My friends are my adopted siblings in a way, yet without all that sibling drama that I hear about – no fighting. Yeah, I don’t have drama in my circle of friends. Never have. I just release that from my life. Life is too short!

I remember when I was a little girl, and Mom asked me if I wanted a little brother or sister. I said no. She doesn’t remember that now, but I always have remembered it. We did not have much money either, so I think between the two things that made the decision for my parents. They wanted to give me the life they never had, and having more children would have stretched their resources.

My parents sacrificed for me, my college education in particular at American University in DC. Grandma, the one who I helped when she died about two years ago, she used to buy Mom clothes so Mom would have something nice and new when I was in college. We were that short on money. But I got my education.

My parents have always been – and are – the hardest working folks you will ever meet! This is where I learned the value of hard work, determination, not asking for things to be given to you, earning your way, taking care of yourself, having responsibility. My Dad also taught me that you can do anything you want to do if you set your mind to it. But most important? This is where I learned about character. Character. Integrity. Love.

The other thing that happens when you are adopted and even more so as an only child, is you learn to communicate with folks of all ages. I was never scooted out of the room. I was always part of the adult conversations, my entire life. The adults around me listened to me, respected me and taught me how to respect myself. They taught me right from wrong. They taught me to be who I am – to be me. This is where I learned to communicate, which has served me so well in all areas of my life.

Folks used to ask me through the years, and still do, “don’t you want to meet your real parents?” My reply was “no, of course not – I already know my real parents.”

The one thing I did want to know, which is random, but it was what color was my biological mother’s hair? I got that answer.

As so many things in life and on a spiritual path, health issues can drive you to the most beautiful experiences. In 1989, after I graduated from college, I sought out the non-identifying information from the adoption agency where I was adopted. I was seeking more information on my health related background. They sent me a three page letter, telling me the story of my birth and adoption.

There were no pictures, but my biological mother was described as 5’2”, 110 pounds, blonde hair and blue eyes. Yep…just like me.

There were two interesting things I learned.

First, she was adopted! Now remember that back then, this was not as common or as discussed. That was a huge surprise. It was a closed adoption, and they knew nothing of her heritage. My parents were told I was German. This letter mentioned being at least part Polish. On my biological father’s side, the second interesting thing was that my biological grandmother was described as being 5’ tall and had a darker, olive complexion. Hmm. I used to joke that when I got married and if I ever had a biological child, that my husband might wonder if it was his, lol.

I kept the letter in my Bible, and it is still there.

And then I started to travel.

As I traveled throughout Europe, I was interested to see who might look like me. When you grow up around your parents, even if you are adopted, you take on similar mannerisms and it makes you look alike. Though really, I grew up around folks that did not look like me exactly. When I got to Poland, I realized that there were blonde Polish folks that had the same facial shape as I did. I have a great picture of me with one of our tour guides, and it is amazing. But I knew there was much more to the story than that.

None of this ever bothered me. And it still doesn’t. There never was any crisis. I built a solid identity for myself. As an adopted child, early on you learn the power of creating your own life. And I had a solid life foundation. I was loved by my parents. I was loved by those who had to place me for adoption. It was all love, all the time. So I didn’t really think about it that much over the years, just when someone would ask me about it.

Fast forward about 18 years. But first let me set the stage for the rest of this story…

I was a lobbyist for the home building industry with a successful big time gig as Senior Staff Vice President for Government Affairs during that 18 years, and all my time and energy went there. I was the youngest to ever run my department, and I was the only woman to have ever done it. It was a man’s world. I broke all the boundaries. I exceeded all the goals. I thrived and was wildly successful.

At the same time, I felt it was the right time to venture out and make a change to see what was the next fabulous opportunity on my career path. So in 2008, I did the unthinkable. I left this job. Quit. I just quit. I quit it without having another gig. I knew that as long as I stayed there, I would never leave – I would never look for another job. I was too passionate about my work and dedicated to take the time to do it.

So I quit.

Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do, with anything. I have learned to embrace change in life, and it always brings such blessings, as you are about to see in my story here. So I learned the beautiful lesson of quitting.

I’m reminded of my favorite quote from the movie Risky Business – Take your chance. Make your move. Freedom gives you opportunity. Opportunity is what makes your future. So that’s what I did. I made my move. I took my chance. I was free. A pattern I was to intentionally repeat, with more blessings every time I did it.

I ended up in one of the most amazing experiences of my life, well, so many amazing experiences! First, I met with many business leaders in the St. Louis region. I met with everyone I could. For many years later, and still to this day, I was used as an example of how to do it. I was asked to help others, which I did. I helped them learn to talk to people, ask for meetings, meet with them. I do not like the word networking because those I met with are much more than a contact to me. They are a friend, and we have helped each other many times since then. And this is what I helped others to do.

During this time, I also had the most amazing interview process with a Fortune 500 company. I was the only candidate they flew to DC. Another male dominated industry. And when I met with their leadership, it was an incredible experience – I will never forget it. Such a gift! They ended up having a merger, so I did not get the gig as they had to hire someone from the other company. But that was best too. But man oh man wasn’t that fun!

And then it led me to the Presidential campaign. It was the 2008 cycle, and I was looking for something to do with my time and keep me busy while I looked for the next gig. So I called the campaign to volunteer, and low and behold, they asked to hire me and the Political Director asked if I could “start tomorrow.” Wow.

I was a Field Director, and we won our state. Those huge rallies that I worked on were incredible! Such high energy. Long hours. Friends for life. Amazing stories and times. That political director just had her second baby – such a beautiful little girl! We are all still dear friends. Oh, and I got to meet Hank Williams, Jr. and Miranda Lambert before she was popular. That was so fun! Hard work always pays off in so many beautiful ways.

Then I got my next gig. I lobbied for a cutting edge $4.5 billion power plant and coal mine that was being built in our region. It had all the environmental bells and whistles that were available at the time. I loved working in the power industry. This gig was the key turning point of this story, and it has nothing to do with the details of that gig.

I set up a legislative day for our owners – rural electric coops and municipalities – in the Illinois State Capitol. I think I might remember the date – it was April 23 I believe – and the year was 2010. We happened, as I like to say “for some reason,” to be there in the building the very day they passed the adoption law!

This was why I was meant to work there.

What was this adoption law? Well, it said that if the birth parents did not object by November 2010 that you could request your unredacted *original* birth certificate from the State of Illinois for closed adoptions. Wow. The piece of paper. I had never really thought about it before. The original birth certificate. Opening the vaults of the state justice system. Really? Wow.

So I waited. Come the deadline in November 2010, I filled out my form and I sent it to the State of Illinois. And I waited again.

By this point, I was a lobbyist in Jefferson City for education reform, telecommunications, tax reform and some health care work. I really enjoyed the education reform and telecommunications issues.

And come February 2011, I got the letter.

THE letter.

I was on the phone with a friend and went to my mailbox. I wondered why in the world I had something from the Illinois Dept. of Health. Then it occurred to me.

This is THE letter!

That’s all I could say, over and over again while I opened the envelope.

This is THE letter! THE letter!

And there it was… The un-redacted birth certificate.

My name.

My birthmother’s name. No mention of my birthfather. The address of her parents’ house.

And the biggest discovery?

She named me…after her.

Wow, what a gift, what a blessing, what a send off of love! Just beautiful!

Now, folks still ask me, don’t you want to meet her? Don’t you want to find them? My answer is, not really. I do have an interest in knowing if she is alive and what happened to her. I am interested in more about my biological father’s mother’s heritage. I also know that I had a biological brother or half brother that was a year or two older than me that she had put up for adoption before me, which I’d known since 1989. So brothers and sisters are an interest of mine, down the road some day. I will know when the time is right.

It always reminds me of the idea of “just in time arrival” from my MBA program. Synchronicities never cease to amaze me. So I had this paper, this record of my birth. Just incredible!

I eventually left the lobbying gig to take a position in 2012 with a U.S. Senate campaign, which was fun. About the time that it ended in fall of 2012, I was in the midst of my year long womb journey and did freelance work during that time.

Every choice, every decision, led me to that beautiful and powerful moment.

Back to Risky Business again – take a chance, make your move. Those lines struck me as a teen, because there is wisdom to be found there.

This past year held great power and beauty of going within and embracing my womanhood, looking back at all I have accomplished in my career and in my life.

Now I have a great position as Director of Public Policy for a long-term care advocacy organization, advocating on legislation that impacts long-term care consumers. I am also a Martha Beck Life-Coach in Training, in the midst of a 10 month intensive live coach training program. I highly recommend her books to my friends and coaching clients.

I did not lose my womanhood. I did not lose my power. Quite to the contrary…I got it all back! I healed myself. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

And I look forward to helping other women on their journeys, to empower women to discover their inner courage and stand fully in their own power to create their life the way they want to live it.

Join me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/youcandreamyourlife.