Fight or Flight


I can’t remember the first time I heard a story about super-human strength, but it was definitely when I was a kid. I feel certain I saw it on TV, on “That’s Incredible” or “Real People.” (Note, we now have the Internet and a thing called You Tube, all but putting these types of shows out of production.) A person rescuing another from a harrowing situation and the lifting of a car or the ripping of a door off its hinges Hulk-style was the general gist of every story. Once, a row of lockers fell on a friend while we were horsing around after gym class, and I lifted the lockers off of her… so I know these feats are true. Soon after, I learned about the endocrine system, and that a rapid burst of adrenaline is the magic juice that enables our muscles to effortlessly lift steel lockers off a friend. Even knowing the science, I was still fascinated with these tales of survival. It did not just happen in movies or to Wonder Woman.

And then, I got older.

Age brought with it life experience, which seemed to have more stories about people getting hurt, maimed or dying than of adrenaline-fueled survival. And these were sometimes people I knew. Worse still, people were getting sad, or hopeless, or addicted to all manner of distractions. And because it can always get worse, I saw that people isolated themselves. I was one of those.

Last fall when I went to Camp Mighty, I started to connect that very idea. That in the face of a long series of fairly large failures, disappointments and setbacks over the past nine years, I was choosing isolation as a coping strategy for far longer than I intended, and that now, if I wanted to get done all the things on my Life List let alone just live my life the way I wanted to, with perhaps some joy and even some love, I would have to find some of that super-human strength to do it.

I got back from Camp raring to go: work was great, the Giants won the World Series, and then, over Christmas break, while in my hometown, I found myself in a room with a man I’d been enjoying getting to know, when his ex-girlfriend walked in unannounced. Everyone was fully clothed; I was still in my coat and hat in fact, but yeah. There I was.

Being lied to. Again.

During Christmas. Again.

I walked out. I calmly, maybe almost too calmly, just got my bag, put my sunglasses on and walked the fuck out.

When this happens to you, and I hope it does not, there is no huge scene, or, regrettably, all the phenomenal and witty comments and comebacks of so many great movie scenes. No writer is feeding you lines like, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” and you’re definitely not shoving all his belongings into his BMW, dousing it with gasoline and lighting it on fire.

Nope. Not for me anyway. I just walked out.

(Later that day, I lost my mind with rage and hurt. Unfortch, I don’t like to eat or drink when I get upset, so I could barely even get the sorely needed booze down my throat at the parties I had to attend later that night. Again, no screenwriter in their right mind would have a just-dumped character not go on a bender. Not very cinematic.)

A pause now in this part of the action to jump ahead to this past Wednesday morning.

There I was, in my bathroom, freshly showered, naked, worried about missing the ferry while hastily putting body lotion on, when I came face… to another face in my bathroom window. After two full beats registering that there was a FACE LOOKING INTO MY BATHROOM WINDOW, I screamed an enraged terror scream that would have made the hair on the back of Jamie Lee Curtis’s neck stand up. The face disappeared, I grabbed my robe and ran out the front door to look for the bastard who I then computed to know, was the boyfriend of my upstairs neighbor. How did I know this? My other neighbor had reported to me that she caught him looking into her windows in much the same way a couple months ago and I remembered it in that split second and so went after him to try and catch him running away.

I. Was. PISSED. I screamed his name and yelled for him to get back here, which did not happen. I went back inside, put my Ugg boots on, grabbed my key and locked the door (in case he came back and hid in my apartment?) and marched upstairs to confront the girlfriend, my neighbor. I was yelling. I was shaking. I was breathing hard, near asthma attack levels, being out of shape from no running. It was 7:15 in the morning.

The confrontation with the neighbor/girlfriend did NOT go well, in that she was in full denial that this was really happening, and basically started to sass me, and gaslight me, telling me I was over-reacting, imagining it, and oh, by the way, he’s moving in here over the weekend.

Oh no you didn’t.

This whole situation WAS full movie scene, from that pervie punk skulking around to peek into my window, to my blood-curdling scream and running outside after him, to the bitchy, reality-show cast member finger-wagging of the 21 year-old girl accusing me of having an “erratic” personality. Are you FKM as they say?

He then CAME BACK to admit he did it and apologize to me, to which I said directly to his face, “You violated my privacy and my personal space. There is nothing normal about what you did. You have a problem. You are not welcome here. I never want to see you again.” Holy shit did that feel good.

The only thing missing was me calling the cops right then and there, which, thankyouverymuch, I did later in the day. He packed his shit and is not moving in. She’s leaving within weeks. If he shows up here, I will call the police again.

Calling on my inner-Taratino, one more flashback, but this time, to a few weeks ago, at an intersection while stopping for a red light.

I was rear-ended by man driving a Range Rover. Totally low speed, a couple scratches to my bumper, but definitely, his fault. We pulled over to check on each other’s well-being and to exchange information. I was shaky from the adrenaline spike and trying to calm my breathing and gather my thoughts. He immediately started telling me the whole accident was my fault and that as such, I should “be reasonable” about the repair issue. “Which means what?” I asked. Did he think I would take less than the full amount for the repair for damage HE caused? Apparently he did. He started to tell me that my car was not in pristine condition anyway, so why should I even care? “Look at this, this dent on your front bumper,” he said, “are you telling me that you drive around with this, but that you expect me to pay for this tiny scratch that my car only caused because you did not go through the yellow light?” Oh my f-ing God. That is how this arrogant, Range Rover driving a-hole was speaking to me. Was I suddenly caught in a hidden-camera stereotype experiment?? I could feel myself crumbling a bit, feeling like maybe he was right, I did have to stop fast, but wait, the light was turning and I was not going to run it… UGH, I was drifting a bit down that hole of not thinking my feelings let alone the truth mattered.

After I reached out to a friend who calmly reminded me to call my insurance, especially since this guy was such a jerk, I did just that. I was thrilled to find out that he was as consistent an asshole with them as he was with me, and that I was not just some special weakling  in a sensible compact car he chose to harangue. He was an equal opportunity ass. (Oh and his insurance accepted liability and car will be getting repaired shortly. Front bumper I have to save up for!)

Back to the scene in December.

I would not change it. Because if I had not calmly walked the hell out of that house with my dignity intact, then had the emotional breakdown even as messy and hurtful as it was and then recovered from that, I would not have gone after this creepy spying schmuck and his abusive girlfriend for violating my home and privacy and sense of security AND been right about it.

I’d likely not have stood up to the jerk who hit my car either.

Superhuman strength, or what we call the fight or flight response is autonomic. We cannot control it. Not even Oscar winning screenwriters can control it, so that is why everyone is always lifting cars and saying awesome shit. But, we have powers beyond a witty line. When we pay attention to how we react, and understand that the only thing we can control is how we react and deeper still how we THINK about how we react, that’s when we do become heroes.


Dear Universe,

I am pretty sure I get it now. So that thing how you split the ass out of my pants on Friday, I mean, really was that necessary? I totally laughed, because split pants, like unintended loud farts, are totally funny. But Universe… really? You’ve read my Life List right? Please get back to work on that. I promise, I am in good humor. I just would like a nice boyfriend (#59) and a bit more financial freedom too (#14) would be great! Thanks! ;-)


16 thoughts on “Fight or Flight

  1. The universe works in mysterious ways. Here’s to your newly strengthened sense of empowerment – may it help you deal with any future assholes as well as you have done thus far. xoxo

    1. that’s right!!! and have I not proven I am worthy of a fabulous rich boyfriend??? ;-) thank you Daffodil, I so appreciate your reads and comments and good humor and support! xo

  2. your response to all this amazes me! so many times we’re too polite and docile which really means too scared of others or maybe just ourselves to react the way we want. not you! the only thing missing in this story is you spinning in your bathrobe, a flash of white light followed by you in your wonder woman action ensemble. don’t leave that part out next time!

    1. a TOTAL WW moment for sure. so true that we so easily second guess ourselves for myriad reasons. damn it feels good to speak up AND take action. xoxo

  3. I was in awe when you told me the peeper story that morning and just as much in awe in the reading of it now. As I told you, I most prop would have hidden in the bathroom which would have lead to living next to a bitchy neighbor and her perverted BF for however long. You are my hero :)

    1. :-) thanks sister-friend. was SO glad I was able to talk to you so soon after. helped me keep the whole insane episode straight! and thanks for reading and commenting too, makes the whole thing have a positive ending. xoxo

  4. This piece is so brave — YOU are so brave! I see the quiet exit in Santa Fe as requiring no less bravery than chasing down a perv. Trust your inner self. She knows. xoxo

    1. I deeply appreciate you tying it all together. Because I truly believe I would not have found the courage had they all not happened. I will never not defend myself again, whether quietly walking away or loudly standing my ground. Huge moments. xoxo

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