Tomorrow is the day I have always dreaded – it’s the 11th anniversary of the murder of Shannon McNamara, who inspired me to start Girls Fight Back. Even worse, her birthday is June 21 – so for pretty much the entire month of June I have been melancholy – for a decade!
But I had a hunkering this year might be different after learning I was pregnant last Fall. Something started to shift and I actually wrote a blog post about it called “A New June.” I felt the energy around Shannon’s life and death shifting away from feeling like a stifling loss and towards a light that can’t be snuffed out. I felt lighter, happier…
Over the years, I believe Shannon has been my tour guide back to joy.
And thank goodness, because after doing the math I realized being miserable for the month of June for over 10 years (about 300 days!) accounted for almost a year of my life…and that’s just crazy pants.
Often when my GFB team describes our presentation and education style, we tell people it’s funny…hilarious even. People wonder how a presentation teaching skills to avoid rape and murder can possibly be amusing. Clearly it’s not the topic or the fact people experience it, either directly or indirectly, that we make light of.
But having the ability to sit and watch a GFB program and not be terrified – even smile – is a great first step to taking your power back!
For example, one of our rock star speakers named Bree Swartz often tells audiences about her daily habit of running into her apartment, and immediately darting for the bathroom. (Because, as she explains, she has the bladder of a small child.) But before she does the deed, first she opens the shower curtain to check for murderers.
OK, you probably laughed, but that doesn’t mean you think murder is funny. You’re just remembering a time you did that, and finding common ground and amusement in the shared experience. I mean, what exactly are we planning to do should we discover some dude in our bathtub…really?
This is just one example of how each of us has the power to peer into the darkness and find a lightness. It doesn’t mean the dark stuff is any less scary, it just means we don’t let it control us.
Because really, that’s what fear does. It takes over. It makes decisions. It causes anxiety and health problems. It prevents us from living the life we were intended. It smothers our greatness.
I believe anxiety and fear devastates our world just as much as violence does.
So on tomorrow’s 11-year anniversary of losing my friend, I’m going to think of all the times Shannon skipped class on a gorgeous spring day to instead put on a bikini and lay out on a lawn chair. And I’m going to remember her response to me when I asked if playing hooky was such a good idea:
“Weed, lighten up.”
Good advice my friend. I shall honor your memory this year by doing exactly that.