Seven years ago today, one of my most amazing friends was murdered. As I write this, I’m sitting at a cafe in New York City…the same place where Girls Fight Back was born.
I would say “it seems like just yesterday” if I didn’t hate that cliché so much. Life has a funny way of flying by, and even when years have flown off the calendar, we’re sometimes left feeling unprepared, overwhelmed by time and incredulous of all that can happen in any given time period. When time flies, maybe we’re not living in the now, and we’re missing out on the best part of life. You know, the stuff that was occurring as you took that last inhale…
But I get why people say it, and I find myself wanting to use that cliché since today is a sad milestone. It was on June 12, 2001 when Shannon McNamara was killed at Eastern Illinois University. I have made that statement to over half a million people by this point. And you know what? Some days I think it has been easier to accept and say. Other days it seems more difficult. But it’s never seemed normal or right or fair, despite my best efforts to come to terms with it.
Seven years without Shannon. I woke up this morning at my in-law’s home in New Jersey. I shut off the alarm clock and sat up in bed. And the first thing I thought to myself was, “I’ve been fighting for seven years.” I didn’t think it so much as a good or bad thing. It’s just how it’s been.
Lately I’ve been thinking about why women seek or avoid learning about self-defense and personal safety. I’ve been asking women from all walks of life to understand what’s holding us back. I mean, why wouldn’t any of us want to know how to save our own life? And recently it has become somewhat clear. Perhaps more women are interested in seeking peace than fighting back. Why go to a self-defense class and get verbally assaulted and pinned by a mock assailant when you can take a yoga class instead? Why choose to put ourselves in staged (yet scary) situations that all of us dread and go to great lengths to avoid? I mean, after a day of work and kids and bills and life…doesn’t a glass of wine sound a tad more soothing than fighting off a padded attacker with a palm strike?
And after seven years of fighting, I’m wondering if a piece of the puzzle has been missing in my quest to teach women to lead strong and empowered lives. Just as yin has yang, and peanut butter has jelly, and Donnie has Marie. Maybe in the chaos of violence happening in our world today we must balance it with serenity. Several years ago my dear mentor, Bob Martin of Gavin de Becker & Associates, asked me a question. He inquired, “Why do women come to see Girls Fight Back seminars?” I told him that women simply want to know how to protect themselves. But he disagreed and said, “Women aren’t there to fight back. They just want to feel safe again.”
Bob is right. I know this from the eyes of countless women in my audiences over the years with that pleading look in their eyes. Almost as if to say, “Please tell me something that will make this pain stop. Please help me get my peace back. Please assure me it won’t happen again. Please say that my daughter will be safe at college. Please tell me there’s something I can do in case my boyfriend isn’t there to save me.”
I have told you in previous newsletters and blogs that I’m making a documentary. This coming Tuesday, June 17th we’re shooting a live seminar at Comcast Studios in Denver. Much of this footage will be used in the documentary, although I’m not totally sure of the film outcome. I’m taking my good friend Angela Shelton’s advice in just shooting it, and the story will tell itself. Lately I’m thinking there is a new chapter coming for Girls Fight Back. Maybe this movement is more significant than girl power or an effective eye jab. Maybe this eighth year will bring a more whole, peaceful, full-circle approach to women’s empowerment. Maybe there is more breathing and more silence. Maybe there is forgiveness.
This past week, a perky blue and orange sparrow has been spending a lot of time on my window sill. I’ve never seen a bird stare into someone’s house for hours on end the way he does. So much so, that my husband and I call him “Peeping Tom.” He’s so cute, and I find myself constantly checking the window to see if he’s there. Is it weird to believe that there are angels everywhere, looking in on you in their own little way? Many people who receive this newsletter knew Shannon, and June can be a hard time for you. So consider this note a virtual little Peeping Tom…just coming by to say hello, make you smile and serve as a reminder that each moment brings new meaning to the life we already have.
Strong. Resilient. Spirited. Unified.