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Chapter One The Fighter Within Set Your Boundaries Fortune favors the audacious. Erasmus I am a fighter. I have a fighting spirit. This realization came to me after I’d been a student of karate for quite some time, while applying the ideals, techniques, and disciplines of the martial arts to my life. One day my father and I were visiting when he asked how my training was going. “Great!” “Well, you were always the fighter, weren’t you?” He smiled, acting as if that were a good thing. We laughed together although I wasn’t sure which memory he was recalling. Was it when I leveled the biggest boy in the school after he’d been harassing me? The time I grabbed some punk by the collar of his shirt and slammed him against the railing of a dock because he’d spit on me? Or was it the incident during which I went after a man with a pair of scissors because he’d stolen fifty dollars from me? Yes, I am a fighter. And I have boundaries. My line of defense is a border around me, colored in deep black. Inside that line, it’s my rules. When someone tries to cross this line, it’s obvious: I see it, I feel it, and I’m well aware that it’s time to get busy. I’ll do anything to secure that line. I’ll move. I’ll get completely out of the situation. I’ll take off running if the need arises. I’ll shout. I’ll get everyone’s attention. I’ll immediately let him know that he’s stepping past a boundary line, that he’s off-limits, treading into sacred territory—my territory. Yes, I have boundaries. Nobody stalks me without my response. Nobody invades my personal space. Nobody touches me. Nobody persists or pushes me when I’ve dismissed them or said, “No, thank you.” Nobody makes off-color remarks or speaks in a way that makes me uncomfortable. If they try, I’m on the move and out of there. My boundaries keep me safe. Because I know exactly where they are, I have never doubted myself or hesitated when the moment has come to start swinging. My inner fighter is often visually manifested. Others perceive it as confidence, discipline, boldness, or something weird or wacky that they can’t quite put their finger on. This fighting spirit has the potential to change the dynamics in a room filled with people. I’ve noticed that there are some who become uncomfortable around it while others bask in the glow. Most of us would prefer not to think about the bad things in life, about anything sick or evil happening to us or to one of our children. We would rather not contemplate the thousands of monsters lurking in our world. But no matter what we choose to think, the truth is that predators are everywhere—they walk freely among us. Then, one day, it’s too late. A woman who never thought about threats or attacks discovers her mind has gone blank, her lungs are deprived of oxygen, and her body has stopped moving. Quite simply, she just doesn’t know what to do. She’s paralyzed. Every day I allow the monsters to emerge from the back of my mind. I see one who comes after me with fierce determination. Because I’m a woman, and smaller than him, he wants to prey on what he believes are my vulnerabilities. He wants to slap me silly, torture me, and kill me. He wants to drag me off into the brush and leave me for dead. He wants all of my possessions. He wants me to pay for his pathetic life, or for all the women who did him wrong, or for the love he never received at home. He wants to punish me for the sins of total strangers. He expects me to do penance for things I will never begin to know or understand about him. He doesn’t know me, but he intends to leave me maimed or so psychologically damaged that I will never reclaim myself or my life. My husband would be left with a basket case for a wife. My kids would never again recognize their mother. But the monster doesn’t care. He has urges. He needs a victim. He needs a woman, any woman. He doesn’t care who she is. But I do. I’ve worked on the moment mentally and physically. When my girlfriends were hanging out and going out for dinner, I was moving in a sequence, thinking of this moment. When my family was watching television, I was visualizing this scene. When the day arrives, my biggest advantage is that the monster is unaware that I’ve seen him coming for years. Something is wrong. Someone has crossed that line—the one that defines my space. There is a quick movement, the softest sound, an inappropriate word, an overt action. Something doesn’t compute. Something doesn’t belong here in this fragment of my life right now. My head whips around. My eyes are open. My ears perk up. I’m all-seeing, all-knowing. I am breathing. I am a force. Immediately, I embrace the presence of adrenaline and fear. All at once, I feel a relentless desire to win, a deep love for life, the clear knowledge of my decisions, and the power of my abilities. These qualities are my greatest allies. I’ve already moved, and he’s only just advancing on me. I’ve already made noise. It is the guttural sound of a vicious dog. I block out his commands. I don’t listen or respond to monsters. I am in control. I am active and in the game. His superior strength fails to stop me—I don’t have time to stop. His weapon, his size, the attack itself, and the shock of it all: none of these gives the monster the control he so desperately wants. He is incapable of controlling anything, even his screwed-up life. That’s why he’s here in the first place. I’m in control. And, thank God, I’m totally out of control. I’m completely nuts. And that’s exactly where I need to be in order to survive. Everything I’ve ever learned comes to me in a brilliant flash. I recall the weapons I possess, body parts, and objects that are stashed on me and around me. There are several. They are perfectly wicked things, each one able to maim, or even kill, in a smooth, sweeping blow. I feel only my energy, the intensity of the goal, and the depth of strength necessary to win this battle. I consider the fighter within me. She is huge now. She is a massive explosion, the biggest thing I’ve ever known. The truth of it is this: when it comes down to the monster who confronts me in the middle of this horrific moment, I am the more brutal animal. I’m the monster now. I am a fighter. Are you? Copyright © 2007 by Lori Hartman Gervasi. All rights reserved.