A regular, long, run of feeling free changed in a flash.
It was early evening, and the sun was casting a gorgeous painted picture on the skyline, prompting me to turn towards pink and purple swirling colors as I began a long run for my training. I planned to go out and back, a term used by runners which literally means run away from the end point for half the time scheduled for your run, and turn around and head back. I affectionately refer to this heading back portion as a “horse-to-stable” runner, because the horse always runs faster back towards the stable!
I had shared my location with my partner who was at home, because I knew that coming back towards home would be dark and I was running alone. Running is my drug of choice. I have been running since I was 13 years old. I run to think. I run to stay fit. I run to meditate. I run to feel good. I run to clear my mind. I run so I can stay present. I do not run to see things, or to take detailed notes of things. I go inside myself and heal stuff!
With my favorite music coming through the earphones, I sensed that someone was looking, but couldn’t hear any words. I glanced from the sidewalk, without changing my pace, and saw a car that had slowed beside me. There was a man holding paper money in his hand, fanned out like a hand of cards. He was leaning over the passenger seat, flashing the money at me. That was it. That was all I noticed. I ran.
Again, almost a repeat of the first pass, same car, same man, same flash of money, and I felt my heart jump into my throat. I was being followed. My running did not slow, not make eye contact, not run faster, even though that is what my body wanted to do! I noticed the car was red, lower, and 2-door. Nothing else. I didn’t get a picture, I didn’t glance at the license plate, I just kept running.
I turned from the street onto a more populated, busier street, heading in the direction of a major intersection with more people and more light. As I ran, without stopping, I began to text a message out to my partner at home: “man red car following me; waving money; need help.”
Yes. I found it hard to believe that it really happened, on this major street, with lights, and traffic. The same man, same car, same fan of money, slowed and drove beside me as I ran. My heart beat wildly in my chest and throat! I held my headphones clutched tightly in one hand with my phone in the other hand. I didn’t stop running and kept one foot in front of the other. I saw a hospital across the street, glanced both ways and sprinted towards the emergency room sign.
As I got to the doors, flashing my arms wildly, hoping the doors would open, I darted inside, gasping for air to enter my constricted lungs. As I recovered enough to speak, I called 9-1-1 and made a report. My partner picked me up and I found myself seated in his car, with anger coming from all directions! I wanted to run home and he agreed to followed me. I was ready for the car and the money-waving man this time. In my mind, I dared him to come back.
As I arrived home, I let the tears fall. There were not that many. Conditioned thought patterns began to flash through the familiar tape in my mind about all the ways this incident was my fault.
“I should have worn something different. I should have taken a man with me. I should have run earlier. I enjoyed the training too much. What is wrong with me? What did I do? I should not have worn the sleeveless running shirt. I should not be proud of my athletic body. I should have left the house earlier. I should not have worn headphones. I should pay more attention to details when I run. I can’t run alone. I must look hungry, needy or sexy. I should have been able to say what kind of car the man was driving. I should have been present enough to take a picture. I should have chosen a different route.”
As I shared these things, this beautiful human that had come to me, and followed me home, held my hands. He asked me to repeat several times, outloud, “This is not my fault.”
And while there is much to notice in this story, the most important part, is how I am noticing my mind change to a healthier existence in almost real time. How I deserve to be me. How no one has the right to cross my boundaries just because I am female. How I can stay conscious and aware of my surroundings. I can choose differently next time. How I can hold my fear and look at it straight in the eye.
And…how I can help others, especially women, to learn they are not bad, broken or at fault.
If you know a woman that lives with her head down, believing that life happens TO her and that she is powerless to change, let her know that there is a way to live a life fully from desire, instead of fear. Let her know that I know. Let her know that I can help.