In roll-playing games, I often play the fighter. Partly because I am a fighter in actual reality and I relate to that role. Mostly because I think it's really fun. Not because I'm itching to get in lots of fights and kick a lotta ass, but because I like to keep people safe. If I can stand between danger and a friend, I will gladly do so. And if I get to play with cool weapons while I do it, so much greater is my satisfaction.
In real life, I was raised as a protector. I grew up protecting my mom from parts of herself, and from people who didn't understand her way of being in the world. I protected my sister from having to grow up too quickly. Later I protected my husband from the weight of his own emotions. It's not easy to live in a tumultuous home in a volatile world, so I learned to protect myself from abuse and neglect by hiding parts of my self away from the world.
Since leaving that kind of home life, I have spent years unwinding those self-protection patterns and stitching the parts of myself back together. Leaving those relationship dynamics was my first step. Shortly after my divorce, I tested for my brown belt. In preparation, one of my teachers told me I needed to really show my junkyard dog. I needed to be the fierce protector who will keep getting back up, no matter how many times they are knocked down.
So that's what I did. Nothing could stop me that day. I was exhausted, I was out-matched, and I was hopped-up on martial spirit. It was just me out there facing all those challenges. So what was I going to do, give up? On myself?! No. Fucking. Way. And in that very moment, when I decided to keep going instead of throwing in the towel, that was the first time in my life I really felt like I was worth protecting. Not because I was useful to someone else or because someone else needed me. Just because I was worth it to me.
That embodiment of my own self-worth was the bridge I needed to get from highly technical martial practitioner to the next phase of my training. And it was what I needed to get to the next phase of my life. I have come a long way since then. Now I am more like a dragon than a junkyard dog. Although instead of a hoard of treasure comprised of gold coins and precious gems, I am guarding a collection of precious people and meaningful principles to live by.
As with many things I am practicing, it's important to review from time to time. To take a look at what I've been doing and how that's affecting the world around me. This week I am reflecting on what I am guarding, and what I am guarding against. I still spend a decent amount of my life protecting. I'm protecting myself or protecting someone else or protecting an important idea. I want to be sure I am doing it in a way I feel good about.
The world is a challenging place and there are many delicate things in it. Sometimes my protection manifests in very mundane ways. Like taking care of tools, clothing, or dishware so they don't break or wear-out too soon. Sometimes it feels more important. Like standing up for labor rights or speaking out against laws that erode the precious progress we have made as a society toward various flavors of equity. And sometimes it comes with unintended consequences. Like pushing back too intensely against a perceived threat that isn't actually there.
It's hard for a lot of people to simply exist in the world. I am pretty privileged as a white member of the middle class. Even still, as a femm-presenting and small sized human, there are some places that are legitimately unsafe for me to be. Despite all my self-defense knowledge and skills, size and strength still matter in a physical fight.
For the most part, threats to my physical safety are clear and I am well-practiced at identifying them, so they are largely avoidable. Other kinds of threats are more elusive, unfixed, or covert. For example: even though I have a degree and various certifications, some folks in my industry do not think I belong there. My opinion and my work is sometimes valued less than that of a male-presenting colleague.
Some of the ways members of the dominate group seek to diminish me (and similarly situated humans) are well-known and have been identified as unacceptable by community or greater society. Others are harder to spot because they are new iterations of old power games or they are shrouded in the language of liberation or consent. The further along my own personal journey to identify the ways I elevate myself or diminish others, the more clearly I can see it happening all around me.
This is both a blessing and a curse, given the default protect mechanism borne of my personal history. On the one hand, I can use my ever-developing spidey-protection-sense to call attention to problematic and dehumanizing behavior. Thereby offering someone an opportunity to grow and put some healthier humaning out into the world. On the other hand, something that's minimally threatening can sometimes feel an awful lot like big danger. And when I'm not on my emotional A-game, I might lash out intensely against that perceived attack, which ends up being harmful instead of helpful.
As an ethical martial artist, I seek to use only the exact amount of force required to neutralize a threat. That requires a clear perception of what is actually happening and a certain level of competence with threat-neutralizing techniques and tools. Applying that same principle to mental and emotional threats is a challenging and constant process.
I appreciate my tendency toward protection. It feels like a caring gift I can offer the world. And although it was forged out of love, it was honed in a dark and dangerous place so it has many sharp edges. In wielding such a powerful weapon, it is my responsibility to always watch where I'm pointing it. This gets easier the more pieces of me I incorporate into greater wholeness. Deepening my self-connection expands my awareness of what trips my alarms and makes it easier to decide whether I just need a hug and when it's time to breath fire.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.