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  • Braver Than I Knew

    “I am one.” “I am one!” I am one with the wind!” My heart shouted. Suddenly a hand on my elbow. 

    “I have a gun,” he said in a low tone. “Keep walking.”

    I was headed home from an after-school program and feeling so alive. It was 6:30 pm. November. I was 12. 

    I was in a good, well lit, neighborhood near Central Park. 

    I calculated: just one avenue to cross and three-fourths of a block and I’ll be at my building. In my head: A gun, a gun, a gun, okay keep walking. I can pull away at the right moment.

    It didn’t work. We passed a doorman and I mouthed the word, “Help!” 

     “Have a good time kids,” was all he said.

    I was shocked. That doorman saw me playing outside just the other day. Was he out of his mind? I was 12 and looked it; the gunman looked about 17.

    We crossed the street. The Central Park side of 5th Ave. I told him how ugly I was, how my father was a cop, how my parents would come looking for me. It was clear he didn’t want money. I had just learned what rape was that year when my cousin and I had snuck away from a family gathering to read True Confessions magazines.

    Sometimes even terrifying information comes at exactly the right time. I knew that if we walked into the park entrance I was done for. I had to find a way to talk him out of whatever he wanted.

    It was kind of like being in a car wreck. Everything slows down but moves super-fast at the same time. I kept talking to him about how he could do better than me, that I had a friend who would really like him, that I had my period, that my parents would find me in a matter of minutes.

    Steps away from the park entrance he inexplicably turned us around. We began walking back to the crosswalk near my building. It had begun to rain. He pushed me up against a car. Whoever invented dresses that zipped up the front unfortunately never thought of this situation. He began to feel around. I had long before left my body. I was totally in my head. How do I escape?

    Then he kissed me on the lips, and I came back to myself and screamed. 

    “I have a knife,” he said. 

    And then I knew he had nothing, and I knew I would get away. I must have kept screaming because he zipped my dress up all the way to my throat and ran like crazy. Suddenly I noticed that I was still holding my schoolbooks in one hand.

    Someone had been sitting in a car nearby the whole time. When he saw the guy run, he got out of his car and asked if he could help saying, “Get in.” 

    ARE YOU CRAZY?!?, I thought and took off across the street almost getting hit by a bunch of cars. I got home and called my parents who were at their Tuesday night get-together with friends and said, “I really think you should come home.” Well that sounded ridiculous until I said, “I wasn’t raped but…”

    So, I was brave. I didn’t crumble. I got away by using my wits and finally my screaming voice. What if I had screamed at the beginning? I never thought about those “what ifs” until I started writing this. It doesn’t matter. I managed to escape.

    The terror that continued within me was relentless for quite a long time. More powerful in some ways than the moments I spent trying to get away. I refused to go anywhere on my own for a year. Eventually, I found a different kind of bravery: Taking baby steps.

    Each time I did something on my own was a test. Would I be safe in the world?

    When people are afraid it really helps to look at actual facts. Not what we think could happen, but what did. Then slowly take one step at a time toward health. It also helps to talk. 

    At the time though counseling was taboo and my parents, as well-educated and loving as they were, didn’t understand how counseling would help in this situation. No one talked about this kind of thing back then.

    Most importantly, know you have inner strength. That even in the aftermath of the most traumatic experiences, you have strength you don’t even know you have. 

    Anxiety Hacks During COVID-19

    Anxiety Hacks

    Anxiety Hacks During COVID-19

    Change can be overwhelming enough. Throw in a virus that has an unusually high potential for creating disaster and anxiety shoots through the roof.

    During a time like this routine is comforting. It helps navigate the unexpected.

    And, of course, all we have right now is the unexpected; our routines have gone by the wayside.

    Sadly, no coffee at your favorite coffee shop, no leaving home in the morning to go to work or school, no carpooling or collegial chats with co-workers, no listening to that book on Audible™ during your morning commute.

    So, in order to protect ourselves and others, we must change everything.

    Even though our routines are being thrown off, systems are being recreated, the world is simultaneously on stand-by and everything is moving forward at a fast clip.

    There are worries about health and supplies, as well as confusion thanks to unclear messages about what to do and what not to do. How sequestered does one really need to be to get that “curve” down? Will other people listen and follow instructions?

    Fortunately, the antidote to worry is taking action.

    Why? Because doing something positive and focused helps us stay in the present moment.

    The question is:

    What can we do in the present moment to keep us feeling productive and positive?

    Take a deep breath. When our regular routine has flown the coop, it’s time to create a new one that fits life as it is today.

    First, take a minute. Yes! Pull out that mindfulness video and follow along. Don’t have one? You can click here to get a free guided meditation from me, or use an app like Calm or Headspace.

    Second, remaining in place– whether alone or with co-workers, friends or family – can feel restrictive. Don’t forget the importance of connecting with others via the guidelines required or requested by your local jurisdiction.

    In the old days, before the internet, phone calls had to suffice for staying connected when not in the same physical space. But today we don’t have to feel so isolated. Facetime and other on-line chats let us actually see the other person. YAY!

    Third, make sure to get some quiet time too! Sometimes we have the best ideas when we are resting or daydreaming.

    Here are a few more tips I’ve been sharing with my clients:

    #1 Organizing your day is a great way to feel calmer. If you are working at home, set your hours. Remember routine is stabilizing.

    #2 If work feels like it has doubled because it’s being done differently, recognize that although there may be additional work, the stress of revamping the system may also be creating fatigue. Take a breath, take a rest, be kind to yourself and remember that you know what you’re doing.

    #3 If you have school-age children at home with you, plan activities that you can do together as a family. Here’s a helpful blog a colleague has written that shares great tips for children and families.

    #4 Feeling overwhelmed? Take a walk in the fresh air. Sing, paint, cook, de-clutter. These are all life-enhancing ways to refocus attention.

    #5 Find the silver lining.
    Where are there new opportunities for your family or your work?
    What’s your vision for your community and how we all can support each other during this uncertain time? Someone on my neighborhood list serve needed milk because the shelves were bare at her grocery store and someone else provided another source within minutes. Awesome!

    #6 Overwhelm or fear can cause stress and at times sharp tongues. Family members and friends are feeling it too. A “we are in this together” attitude goes a long way toward decreasing feelings of overwhelm, fear and stress. EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique is an interesting and effective tool that uses tapping on meridian points to help those who use it de-stress. Here’s a link to a good website if you’d like to try it.

    #7 Remember to focus on what you know, not what you are afraid of. Often, that will help you focus on a problem you can solve, and maybe even see the bright side. If you know shelves in the grocery store are bare by 4pm, worrying that there won’t be food to buy won’t help, but going to the store at 8am just might.

    #8 College-age folks or High Schoolers at home? It’s sometimes hard to imagine that COVID-19 is actually more serious than the flu. Enlist them in helping make sure older people in the community are safe from exposure by limiting their own gatherings. Here’s a great interactive map that shows how people going out and about has spread the virus in other countries.

    Remember, this too shall pass. We will be stronger for it, more connected and grateful for our thoughtful community. A shout out to the businesses that are being mindful and supporting us and their employees during this time.

    Be well and stay in touch,

    Liz

     


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    I’ll be conducting regular Facebook Live sessions to provide you support, tips and hacks to mitigate your well-being during this time.