Some Shows Don’t Have to Go On

Show night! Dark stage, colored lights and booming microphones. Me and my daughter were both there to take the stage.

But unlike a theatrical event, we had already accomplished what we were there for. Six months ago, we had begun practicing our martial arts and today we were doing a show to end in receiving the next belt we had already earned.

We were still nervous to perform our pieces for the crowd, but the knowledge had already been embedded in our minds and expanded our muscles.

She’s been learning karate, which is more a structured and stylized art. I have been practicing Krav Maga, which is a brutally practical art developed for the Israeli army.

We talk about it: do what needs to be done to end the violence. There are devasting things I can do to an attacker’s body to end the attack.

I was not socialized to think that way. As a woman, my toolkit is smiles and distractions. Agreeable capitulation is encouraged—nay, expected. Typical female aggression is passive.

To my regret, aggression does come to me from time to time. Practicing martial arts has led me to consider how I would handle it. Capitulation is not the only option anymore.

I have practices moves that would cause an assailant to lose consciousness: Disable. That’s in my toolkit now.

We have practiced blocking a fist, closed or wielding a weapon, grabbing their wrist and placing the arm where it can’t harm us.

We’ve talked about deterrence. If a threatening person gets into my personal space, I can stand up and hold my arms out straight. I can yell “STAY AWAY FROM ME!!” to deter a potential attacker.

These are powerful tools. But my teacher sensei tell me—tells us all! —again and again the most powerful self-defense move.

What do you do when you know you are about to be attacked?

You ready?

Don’t be there.

Avoid is the best tactic. They call it practicing run jitsu. Get away. No shame, no cowardice is getting away.
Here’s my story: I went to class, and made a grocery list to do the family shopping after class. Drove over to the supermarket near the studio and walked up to the door in my black martial arts clothes. I noticed something funny was happening.

There was a police car right at the entrance. Office was in the SUV talking with two very serious store managers who were totally focused.

What is the situation here? I wanted to ask, but there was a gravity and intensity that made me hold off.

I felt the grocery list in my pocket. I looked at the store automatic doors sliding open and shut as the customers went in and out.

I looked back at the highly charged police car and all the somber people there.

That grocery story saw my back walking away. I do not need to involve myself in whatever police action is going on. 7 months ago, I would have gone right in, quelling any nerves with the judgement that I was a coward.

Nope. I have learned some serious facts. I am proud of my walk-away. It’s just fine to avoid a situation. Maybe it was nothing. I am fine with never knowing.

Discretion is famously the better part of valor.

Men and Women

It’s busy, there is a lot happening. But it is kinda dark, and there are criminal elements scurrying in the shadows.

I’m talking about the world of a mystery novel. A least a lot of them. And there is the heroic detective, who is flawed and isn’t perfectly groomed, but he’s going to figure out the mystery and catch that bad guy.

Because we need to get back to regular. Regular is not perfect, but people have to be able to live their lives. Even criminals have to make a living, but keep it under control.

I picked up Rules of Prey by John Sandford this week and lived in this world for a few days. It had been a while since I’d visited.

I was a bit horrified to be in the mind of a torturous woman-hating serial killer, but there were some other female characters I admired. Women were more than prey.

And that brave and clever detective had to work very hard to catch the killer and make things right. Well, as right as they could be. Get things back to normal. Normal was flawed, but we could work with it.

And it struck me: this world could be a metaphor for how a lot of men are. Not every man, but many would find that paradigm as ideal.

Fix the big problem. No one is going to be happy all the time, but the big issues have to be dealt with and eliminated. It is a very conservative ideal. Just keep things the same. It’s fine. Keep things at fine.

This is not exclusively male. Women read mysteries too.

The book genre that almost no men read? ROMANCE. Romance novels are for the ladies. Ladies really love them. I’ve read my share, even though it’s not my first pick.

Romance novels are trying to shake things up. The story begins with a woman who wants more, even if she doesn’t know it. There is a status quo, but it MUST be upset every time by a relationship. The heroine will fall in love. There will be a great disturbance in the usual flow of things: a passion with a new person.

The story aspires for something.  In the world of the romance novel things are always in need of an upgrade: a new love.

I have decided this is an essential difference between men and women. Women are always trying up upgrade things in little ways. You know what this old desk needs? A scented candle! Always something.

Not a complete revolution, not necessarily. But while men are walking the beat, like a detective in the books, checking to make sure things don’t go too far out of line, women are looking around for how to make things just a little better.

It seems to fit.

Creeping Along

It has happened to me. I need to go get flea medicine for the dog, but then on the way my husband asks me to pick up razor blades. Then my daughter asks for a Starbucks. 

I was trying to go to the store for one thing, and then my errand got bigger than I intended. 

This kind of thing is so common it has a formal name: 

Scope creep 

When I lead meetings at work, I am very quick to point out when our plan starts to creep beyond the original intention. 

“Scope Creep! That will have to wait and be part of another project.” 

I feel like I have won when I get to call out scope creep. A line in the sand, a boundary and an answer. I know what to do with this. 

Projects are what I do and I love to organize and process them. 

The best way to recognize when scope creep is happening is to be very clear on the purpose of my effort.  And to know how much money and time I was willing to spend. 
If I only had a half hour, I would tell my husband and daughter no because I didn’t have the time. If I was trying to save money, I might tell my daughter no to Starbucks. I have a small tight little task and I know what I need. 

Life is full of currents and I can get caught up in the momentum of what I’ve always done. Maybe I was running my flea errand on the way home from work. 

And maybe in all that hurry I forget to check the big question.  

It’s easy to forget to wonder whether I ought to have that job at all. Projects keep my focus on a few details I’ve decided are important. 

But if I look again, maybe I would decide something different. I could un-focus my perspective and see things a different way. 

I could widen my view. Instead of trying to be the fastest one on the freeway, I could expand my view and ask if I even want to be on the road. 

I can’t help but think that this COVID shut down shifted the momentum of all the people in the world.  People are moving. People have lost jobs and found new ones.  

There are other roads to travel on. Picking my road can make a difference.