Gauging my weakness

Yesterday something happened and it’s got me thinking about my independence, my stubbornness and my vulnerability.

There is a chain of events that led me to consider all this. I think I’m still processing.

The backstory is that somebody I have recently met asked a kind of favour, and I tried to help. I phoned a friend who had some experience with the help this guy needed, but the friend was understandably tied up with personal things, and didn’t phone him back. In hindsight, I am grateful.

Since this initial assistance apparently didn’t come in time, the guy called me back. He more thoroughly outlined the thing he was working on that needed an expert’s eye. Said he had only 24 hours to get an answer.

He said this project involved a fellow I had also met a year ago who is the real deal; a phenomenal guy who is both humbling and inspirational. When I learned he was tied up with this project, I wanted to help even more.

I phoned a family member who has even more experience to help this relative stranger, and it all bit me in the backside.

Turns out, the favour guy, he lied to me. He also lied to my family member, and for all that, I am very annoyed and embarrassed. I don’t know if it was all intentional, or if it was the guy’s naivety, but either way, I felt betrayed.

It’s not news in my life. As a senior in high school, a fellow student said “Hey Michèle, did you hear they removed the word gullible from the dictionary?” and I said “Really?” Then I twigged.

That was in AP biology class. I wasn’t a dummy. I just believed.

So that’s the backstory. Here’s the back-backstory.

When I first met this guy, I told him I would give him an old laptop for another thing he was working on. I have not used it in four years, it was more or less dead to me since it was already older and loaded with Windows Vista that had really wreaked havoc with all my attempts to work on it. I said to drop in my workplace and I’d have it for him.

He did drop in yesterday afternoon. I won’t go into too much detail, but with the ingenious foresight of a generous admin staff who covered for me, the guy left with the impression that I was gone for the day, and that unbeknownst to me, the laptop was given away two years ago by my husband.

After learning the night before of his deception, I did not feel comfortable putting a machine into his hands that might hold traces of my personal life. Not a second time. And why should I do him a favor? This was not turning the other cheek. I just wasn’t going to open any door that might further invade my life.

So I kind of hid out upstairs for twenty minutes, and then called down to see if the guy was lurking. I was told he had left pretty much straightaway after the message was delivered.

A male colleague overheard the conversation, and immediately asked if I was ok. I assured him I was, and it was nothing to worry about.

He became very serious and said with kindness that if I was worried, or if I was ever worried, to let him know and he would help. I responded that I would do the same. But I was still unsettled. Not by my colleague, but by the immediate shaft of independence I felt when he made his thoughtful intention.

And maybe a little, because he was a man.

The offer was made out of generosity, and yet, I felt irrationally irritated and defensive. I knew it then, and I know it now.

It reminded me of a conversation I had at a restaurant years ago in Wickenburg, Arizona with a woman I later grew to know as a friend. She found out I made a practice of travelling across country alone with my dog.

“Do you carry a gun?” she asked.

I replied that, of course not. I felt a little taken aback at that. I had actually never considered it, and think in hindsight how weird was it that she, from a sheltered life in a small Arizona town to me, living a mile from Chicago’s often violent west side, would think I needed to carry a gun, and I did not.


Though I don’t have a real belief in a god, I imagine I was either clue-y, lucky or someone was watching over me all the times I pulled up at a very remote spot in the wilderness to sleep in my tent or the back of my Corvair for those years.

So when my colleague extended a helping hand, my first instinct was to think, “I can look after myself, thanks very much.”

I told him I appreciated the offer, and said if it was that dire, I’d call the police.

It got me thinking about why I was so defensive, and it kind of goes to how husband always requests that if I go out for a walk or a bike ride, that I take my phone.

It’s no secret that I hate that. We’ve talked about it in front of other people. I know it is because he loves me, and understandably, he wants to make sure if I need help, I can reach help.

Logically, and rationally, I get all of that. But I cannot shake the feeling that having to carry this phone around, it’s an invasion of my privacy. Completely irrationally, I see this as a mark against my ability to make the right decisions for my safety.

And yet, I spend six months of the year on my own, with a home easily broken into, remote to the point that if I screamed my head off, nobody would hear me if an intruder decided to jump the gate, come down the driveway and push in the porch screen.

I have no defense except my geographical knowledge of this property and where to run if I can get out the bedroom window in time.

That all seems pretty screwed up.

I don’t know what I think of all this. I was watching the season’s premiere of Redfern Now the other night, where two women were raped without anyone to help. I think of my two dogs, small, inoffensive and friendly, one is old. I have no self-defense skills except to run. I am a light sleeper. Should I keep shoes beside my bed?

I live with the expectation that everything will be ok. Just as I still believe that I can trust people to be honest. That likely won’t change, but I do need to be smarter. I think I need to be the person on the outside, examining my life and ask, are you ready should something happen?

But I’ll tell you now, it won’t ever involve a gun.





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