It was beautiful and sunny afternoon, so I decided to take a walk with my dog. We got ready and walked for a bit without passing anyone else. There are walking trails that go all over my new town so we took one of those. I have safety issues on the trails, but I’m getting a lot more comfortable.
As we were getting near the end of our trip, we got to a place where we would pass a few more buildings, some railroad tracks, and then a golf course would be along the road the rest of the way. I looked down at my phone to read something and heard a car approach and stop across the road. As I glanced over, a guy got out and started walking toward me. Pretty quickly.
As this guy started toward me he said “hey, I noticed you have a cell phone and I am having car trouble, can I use your phone?” All my safety bells instantly went off and thankfully, I replied without even having to think about it. I said “nope, sorry, it is a work phone so I can’t let you use it.” He scowled at me and kept coming, so I said “please don’t come any closer, you can’t use my phone, sorry.” I had continued walking the entire time, but looked right at him. He was definitely surprised by my lack of willingness to help.
Now, I’d like to take a moment to explain that I am well aware I have more safety issues than many people. But I am also 100% sure that as I walked toward the area that guy was not out of his car flagging down people to help him. In fact, I am positive that he pulled into the driveway and got out and then started coming right toward me. There is plenty of traffic on the road, it was not horribly hot or horribly cold, and there was definitely no emergency.
In any case, he was surprised that I wouldn’t help him, but when I would not stop looking at him and said loudly not to come any closer, he stopped and started walking away. I picked up my pace, but I kept my eye on that guy and then when I was too far to be safe looking behind me, I glanced back a few times to make sure he was back at his car. I couldn’t see where he went. But what I know for sure is that he didn’t stay at the side of the road to flag anyone down for help. He was not within my view.
As I walked away, I started to feel guilt and shame! It took me a little by surprise. I totally shamed myself for not helping this guy and felt guilty and rather stupid for being so unwilling to help and assuming the worst. After all, I told myself, this is a small town for gosh sakes, most people would think I was really rude for not helping him and a bit crazy for feeling so nervous. I felt those things, but I can say happily now that I didn’t feel them for very long at all.
It was like a switch was flipped. All of a sudden I realized that I can protect myself however I want to and it wasn’t about being nice to some stranger. It wasn’t about him, my life and safety have to be about me. And that’s ok! I trusted my gut, instantly and without question. Hooray for me! That doesn’t happen very often to me. I try to ignore my gut a lot. This time I went with it. And I’m really glad I did.
I know that he could have really needed help, but I also know that it doesn’t matter because he could get help many other places from many other people. What is important is that I felt extremely uncomfortable with the way he was approaching me and I protected myself without thinking about it. I felt something was off and I didn’t worry about hurting his feelings before protecting myself, and my dog for that matter.
If there is one thing I could do over as a teen and young adult, it would be to stand up for myself more and not worry so much about creating conflict. If there is one thing I could do over as a mother, it would be to demand that my kids be allowed to voice their own opinions and be heard more by their father. I don’t think they ever felt their feelings validated by him and because of that, they doubt themselves, they don’t trust their guts, and they don’t feel able to stand up for what they actually think and feel with him. And with other people sometimes too.
I have worked hard to explain to my kids that no parent is perfect and I made lots of mistakes. But I also will never go back to how I was, and I feel closer to them now than ever because of that. They know that I value their opinions and choices. They know I will always support and listen to them. And I’ll continue to teach them to trust their guts.
Walking that day and taking control of me without worrying about what that guy thought felt great. I’ve worked hard to learn that it’s ok to trust myself. To protect myself. And that’s what I did that day on my walk.
Trust your gut.