Who are you? Beyond all those obvious layers.. How do you react to fear? What’s your first and preferred response to danger and threat?
I have been asking myself this question since I was little. Mentally placing myself in emergency situations and exercising problem solving, mediation with kidnappers, rapists and robbers, escaping captivity and keeping myself alive alone in the jungle. Call it a strange thing to think about, but I have always really enjoyed putting my mind on the edge and making sure fear and irrationality doesn’t get to me.
Luc said, “Isn’t that just a form of self gratification? You always survive, right?” And maybe he’s right in a way. I’m rarely afraid, my reasoning is calm and usually touches my perpetrator, and I miraculously make my way out of the forest by finding random tools. Isn’t that the idea, though? To survive?
And also, who were my biggest heroes when I was a kid? I was endlessly factinated by Lara Croft (the PC game version) and McGyver’s little tricks. I have always enjoyed the adventure, the adrenaline and the creativity in “what if” situations, and it goes well along with one of my main ideas that fear is an antonym to freedom. I see fear as a blocker, a feeling that will stop me from travelling to places I want to visit, trying new things I am curious about, debating for causes I care about, trusting amazing people, taking the lead.. or jumping when I have to jump. I don’t want any blockade in my mind other than my common sense and intuition.
On topic: I just heard gunshots. Right now.
Is it naïve not to be afraid? My philosophy has always been that there is very little I am not prepared to lose, so little that would be worth more than the freedom and pleasure of living life to the fullest. I have often said to myself that even if something was to happen now, it’s all been amazing and beautiful so far. And if my phone is stolen, well that would suck if it’s when I really need it.. but it’s just a phone and all my data is backed up. Get over it.
So what is my preferred response to danger, then? I have always been the calm mediator. In high school dramas, in nightclub fights, when things got rough and I needed to take charge. I talk, I raise my voice, I separate people who are fighting and I respond to those who directly have threatened to hurt me, but I never scream and I rarely respond with anger. I have always gone by the idea that “I instantly lose if I let myself get provoked, it’s a useless waste of energy…” And when in apparent danger, reasoning and a calm confidence, even if faked, has been working out for me so far.
Which is probably why my biggest fear apart from mosquitoes is zombies. Haha, no, not really.. but almost. My biggest fear, the people I occasionally meet in nightmares and who always freak me out – are those who are blinded by something. It could be a heavy drug, it could be dehumanising hatred, it could be extreme desperation. Things that have dragged the person to an extreme low where I no longer can reason as a human being as I have no value other than what that person needs from me. So facing those characters rarely happens.. but when it does I get badly hurt before I find my escape, and then I wake up crying.
Lara comes back to me in those moments. “What happened?” she says. “You were supposed to be strong and independent!” and I watch Tarantino’s powerful women and I’m amazed by their ability to defend themselves against that one very mean man who wants to do them harm.
“Theres a fun kickboxing class over there” a colleague pointed. I finally have some sort of routine over here, or at least I know I will be living in the same city for a couple of months ahead which is amazing. So I went to ask for schedule and prices, and the teacher sat down with me to have a talk. “What do you actually need?” he said. What happened next is a blur of “My mission is to know that you can use your own body to protect yourself at all times.” “I need you to be an empty glass that I can fill with skills and knowledge over the coming 5 months.” and “You will feel like you want to throw up, it will be painful, but you will thank me later.”
“Tailored, personal, twice a week, mixed martial arts, military skills and self defence.” And then I got my own Shotokan Karate uniform. And a white belt. Karateka, he calls me.
My first class was hard. My Shihan is apparently one the highest graded karate masters in the world, with several world champion titles. (Which I Googled by the way, because he’s also very humble.) We did hundreds of situps and then he showed me how to punch, and asked me to hit him. “Harder!”
“You will need to cut those beautiful nails, they will cut you when you punch.” noted and felt.
My entire body struggled against the notion of inflicting pain on another being. “We are all one” was going through my mind and I just wanted to give somebody a hug and chant ohm like there was no tomorrow. “I’m your aggressor, if you don’t hit me like you mean it you won’t be able to in real life either.” And that’s when I knew what my preferred response is: non-violent communication. I’m a communicator. That’s what I do. I have too much love for people, and I’m completely sold for the notion that we are all one. If I punch you, I punch myself.. and a good friend. Don’t be mad, we can talk about it!
Two hours later after learning how to shout to ten i japanese, punching, standing, situps, planks, and after Shihan had almost pressed me down into a split, we sat down and had a proper talk while I was trying to figure out whether I’m still alive or not..
Shihan told me about the philosophy of Shotokan karate, how in daily life one’s mind and body should be trained and developed in a spirit of humility.. but that in critical times, one should be devoted utterly to the cause of justice and self defence.
“Your first blow is the only one you have, there is no space for another chance. You need to be able to turn on that kill switch when necessary.”
So we spoke, and the ideas and my own realization of who I am sent my mind off spinning.. the teacher was trying to explain how not all people have good intentions and how some people don’t think before using a knife to kill. I read those stories in the newspapers here daily.. teenagers stabbed to death in the face multiple times, by classmates.. I know all of that.. I just don’t feel like a target. And even if I do, it’s not worth it. My body doesn’t want to hurt anybody.
And then I got it. My key to provocation. The times when I actually can respond with violence and aggression is when I dream that I am protecting somebody else from harm. Usually it’s my poodle, funnily. Or a friend. Or just somebody who is weaker. Then I can be strong, angry and violent.
So it will have to be either that I visualize that there is a cute baby koala behind me, or that I’m being attacked by a zombie. And I will cut my nails, but I will paint them in cute colours.
Wait.. what? Yeah, sorry – a million thoughts, I warned you.
“I need these silly details to ground me” I said. “I want my femininity, I want to surround myself with beautiful items, I want to paint my nails.. I didn’t do all this before and I don’t really care – but I do it to keep a bit of myself in this detached environment, to not fall into a ‘whatever’ mode just because I’m in dust and heat and far from friends.. to get by and enjoy myself. Beauty is a pleasure. My body is my temple. Does any of this mane any sense?” he listened, and he nodded. “Hai.”
“Your knuckles will get red and bruised though, and that’s another form of beauty.”