Unsafe and Insecure

I remember growing up and well into my adult years when someone rang my doorbell or knocked on my door, a kind of rush would go through me in anticipation of guests arriving. Often it was the Jehovah Witnesses, but hey, it was unexpected, it was a change in routine, and offered an unexpected surprise- usually a positive or pleasant unexpected surprise.  I don’t know when the change in me occurred but recently, if someone knocks on my door, it sets a tension filled, fearful reaction even if in the middle of the day.  If it happens in the night hours, I tend to be really hesitant and concerned for safety.  After living in my house for almost a year I had a suspicious experience that sat like a rock in my shoe ever since.  I had been away for the weekend and returned on a Tuesday.  There were four days of newspapers scattered across my lawn.  A neighbor had already warned me about that and advised me to get someone to pick up the paper for me but I didn’t heed his advice.  A surprise knock on the door occurred in the middle of the day.  Apparently the knocker was expecting no answer and was surprised when I opened the door.  A middle aged woman was standing at the door and said with surprise ‘OH!”  I asked if I could help her and she stammered and asked if a judge lived here.  “A judge never lived in this house, I responded and as I looked past her there was a stopped car with three men in it waiting for her.  She apologized for bothering me and returned to the car.  I didn’t think much about it until a few days later when the neighborhood was buzzing about a break in just several blocks from here.  The “looking for the judge” excuse was used all over and when no one was home, the house was broken into.  That is when I first began to get that foul taste in my mouth of distrust.  Now if there is a knock, my first instinct is to go to the front window, pull the drape back a little and peer out to help me decide if I should open the door.  My dog goes to the window now automatically and waits for me to pull back the drape all the while growling and barking.  If this knock happens after dark, I get a little chill up my spine.  The front door is the only protection I have and being a senior citizen living alone it can be a little threatening.

This feeling of insecurity has been building over the last few years.  I remember the day of the Sandy Hook shooting.  I was driving back to my Inn from having been with my kids that weekend and literally had to pull off the road because the tears were affecting my vision.  I could not conceive of anyone doing that to little kids and their teachers. Columbine already happened while I was still teaching but that seemed long ago and far away.  I tried to imagine if I would have been as brave as those teachers –some of them using their own bodies as shields for their students.   That scared me to my soul and still has me in disbelief every time a group shooting happens.  The school ones are especially difficult for me.  Then in 2019 Covid came along and we all became isolated, living in the safety of our own cocoons, praying to be spared the inevitable infection that being among other members of our tribe would cause.  For over 2 years we lived in fear of Covid, adjusting to talking to the few people in our households and yes, our pets!  As the virus began to wane, we had to learn how to be among people once again.  Our masks separated us from others but once again we were facing personal fears we all shared.  My life of being safe and secure had changed.  Before Covid I was dealing with the fear of personal safety and the safety of people I love against physical harm.  Covid brought on the fear of sickness, pain and discomfort.  My personal comfort quotient continued to slip.  With society opening up after two long years, mass shootings began to spring up again in grocery stores, concerts, schools and more schools, universities, Sweet Sixteen parties.  I wasn’t aware of the effect this has had on me til last week. I was going to meet teacher friends for dinner at one of our old familiar haunts.  I pulled out of my driveway and about two blocks away from home I realized I didn’t have my phone. I   turned around thinking what if there is a shooting I would have no way of letting anyone know if I was safe.  Very matter of factly, I acknowledged that and returned home, got my phone, and headed to the restaurant.  On the way there I began to realize that my thinking had changed and I was concerned about my safety.  When I got there I was telling that to my friend and she said she always carries her phone wherever she goes for that very reason, so I guess I am not alone.

This whole thing saddens me, and I worry about my kids’ safety, friends, everybody!  So last night I am sitting alone at home watching TV and my son calls from South Carolina.  Up until that phone call I had an obviously false sense of safety and security driving around in my dependable Jeep Wrangler, I feel very safe in it.  Perhaps the last bastion of safety for me was my car.  My son proceeds to tell me that down there there has been a rash of car thefts.  No break ins and jump starts but new technology that can use your key fob remotely from where you keep it in your house, as most of us keep our keys near the back door.  With this new technology, a thief can aim this device at your fob and open the doors and start the car and off they go.  No fuss no mess!  So now they have a device that you can get to cover your fob, like a coat or armor, to protect your fob from falling predator to this new car theft device.  Call me old fashioned but I miss the days of feeling safe in my house, at school, grocery shopping, eating in restaurants, going to the movies and just living life the way we used to.  Some of the solutions are easy but we just can’t seem to have the desire to bring safety back into our lives. What aspect of our lives is next to be violated?  We won’t even protect our kids!

Fear Itself

Last week, Linda and I went to our local grocery store. Because I am oblivious to details, she pointed out that the fellow who entered in front of us had a machete strapped to his back. Certainly, a cool fashion accessory, but — unless he was shopping for coconuts– I’m guessing that here was a guy who believed himself to be under constant threat. 

According to Bureau of Justice, we in the US are at the lowest rate of violent crime since 1993. Indices of crimes including assault, rape, and robbery are all downward trending. However, perception doesn’t always follow data, does it? Why is that the case?

Is it the media, which relentlessly brings every report of violence to your doorstep via radio, tv, phone, internet, and the newspapers strewn across George’s front lawn? No wonder these topics are always in our conversations. According to Randall Munroe in his book, Thing Explainer, “gun”, “kill”, “attack”, and “shoot” are in the top 1,000 words that people most frequently use.

Or is it the aging process that leads us to focus on our safety? Do we feel more vulnerable as we age? Perhaps, this is the reason that the largest percent of gun owners are the age group 65 or older (36% of our cohort owns a gun)? A girl enters the wrong driveway and is killed by a 64-year-old. A young man knocks on the wrong door and gets shot twice by an 85-year-old? No wonder the lady knocking on your door seemed nervous, George – she was probably afraid of you! Old folks are dangerous!

Do we fear for our safety because we don’t understand our constantly changing society? Neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin reports that as we age, our dopamine receptors and hippocampus shrink. The consequence of this age-related deficit is that we are chemically less motivated to look for new experiences. In addition, our accumulated memories act in opposition to the acquisition of new points of view. Such a condition leads a person to back away from initiating change in their personal circumstances and can promote social isolation and “hypersensitivity to threatening stimuli.” 

Yikes, is that us? Is brain chemistry leading us to focus more on threats and safety?

I subscribe to the theory that what you focus upon is more likely what you will bring into your life. Rumination reinforces the aspects of life you ruminate about. Whether you choose to call this selective perception, self-fulfilling prophesy, or the law of attraction, it works the same way. Therefore, the key is to focus on what moves you ahead. But how?

Professor Levitin encourages older folks to learn new skills both for brain health and to maintain a feeling of well-being. He argues that embracing a mindset of curiosity and openness not only empowers us to feel more in charge of our lives, but is actually good for the brain’s neuroplasticity. In other words: ‘Keep Up’. Hmm, sounds right. Maybe there’s room in that macramé class, so I can learn how to weave a sheath for my machete… what do you think, Geo?

Freedom from Fear from NikkiGsPoetry – poet at allpoetry.com


The twisted truth
hidden inside every human,
chemically charged,
hypothetical noose,
effects booming,
Like steel it’s forged,

From the deepest parts,
of the heart,
of the subconscious mind,
created to blind,
created to distract from reality,
to drag you towards fatality.

irreparable damage,
brain analyzing,
deciphering the disadvantages.

The path,
overcome damnation.
The truth,
swallowed by isolation.
The remedy,
chase your aspirations.


Fueled by fire,
diminished by desire,
overcome the obstacles
keep faith in your arsenal.

Fight your fears,
take the cotton out of your ears,
lift the veil so you can see,

Set yourself free.

My Freedom to Choose

George openly shares his feelings about how he sees life today with regards to safety and security.  He remembers his earlier life as far less worrisome and his present existence as great cause for concern about his (and his property’s) safety and the safety of others.  He presents examples as well as conversations he has had with others that validate his feelings.  None of us can understand the depth of another’s emotions, especially those evoked by fear.  Nor, can any of us tell a person not to feel that way and expect that to happen.  I believe I understand how George arrived at his current perspective and accept that this heavily influences his present reality. 

While I sometimes share similar feelings when faced with the issues George mentions, they don’t influence me in quite the same way.  As a result, I arrive at different point of view.  My rejoinder is not intended as a rebuttal or an attempt to foster “my view of life” as better.  It is simply my perception of how I feel about present day life and how I choose to allow it to influence me.

Any time I hear of another mass shooting, violence affecting children, and crime in general and the inability of policy makers to come together to address these issues collaboratively, I feel a host of emotions.  I experience frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment, and sometimes helplessness.  I wish these things were different. Never the less, at this time, that’s not the case. 

My impulse and past practice has been to immediately replace the negative thoughts these events invoke with the positives in my life.  I have much to be grateful for and so why would I want to dwell on things that aren’t going well in the world, especially if I unable or unwilling to do anything directly about them?  I’ve acted similarly with personal loss and hurt.  And while this seemed to help keep me from sinking into despair it has had its drawbacks.  Recently, I’ve adopted a hybrid practice that is not yet measurable but is appealing enough to me to continue on in this fashion.  Rather than brush aside or replace the anguish caused by terrible news, I’m learning to sit with it and accept it for what it is.  While I don’t much like how it feels, I now believe it’s necessary to let it in and experience the resulting emotions.  Then, I ask myself what I can do or what I’m already doing, directly or indirectly, to counter whatever anger or hatred or negligence is behind this news and act accordingly.  Finally, I remind myself that, on a day-to-day basis, I regularly meet kind, thoughtful, peaceful people despite the fact that they struggle with the challenges of life.  I remember that in this day and age where the communication of horrifying news is instantly and directly transmitted to our phones I believe they are outliers of what over 8 billion people experience on a daily basis and not representative of our daily lives.  On a regular basis, I feel relatively safe and secure as I go about my daily routines.  Yes, I exercise caution and avoid certain areas and conditions that might compromise those feelings.  But they are few compared to how and where I spend my time. 

 I usually start my day with a journal/planner.  The first prompt asks me to list the things that I’m grateful for.  Along with my family and my health I always acknowledge my freedom to choose.  For now, I choose to spend more time with what’s working than with what’s not.

Life is good!   

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”— Lao-Tze

“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” — Grandma Moses

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” —Mahatma Gandhi 

4 thoughts on “Unsafe and Insecure

  1. I read your blog often but I don’t think I’ve ever responded. I agreed with George more so than Hen & Wally. (Disclaimer: George & I taught together in the Onteora school district for 30+ years & he’s a close friend).

    I also live alone. An unexpected knock at the door was a curiosity when my husband was alive. Now it’s a whole new experience for two reasons. I definitely feel more vulnerable, but also, there’s no one with whom to balance my reaction, to talk it over with. Last winter a car skidded into the ditch in front of my house during a sudden, sticky snowstorm. The second car to come down the hill slid into my front yard, taking out part of my hedge, in order to avoid the first car. Years ago when that happened, my husband went out with his Jeep to help pull the car out & I invited the woman inside to enjoy a glass of wine in front of my woodstove. This time, I left both carloads to fend for themselves for at least an hour until the tow trucks showed up. I’ve always regretted that heartless decision, but I wasn’t comfortable inviting them all inside. I’m still the same person, but making quick decisions alone is a whole new ballgame.


    1. Hi Mary- I fully understand your reticence to get involved. The friendly climate that used to be the rule has changed. The political environment has us so divided that the usual trust that existed among neighbors and passers by makes us concerned. Being alone is certainly a reason to use caution today in these kinds of situations.


  2. This was a good read.
    Here is what I think of it
    This is a thought-provoking article that sheds light on the increasing fear and insecurity in our society. It’s inspiring to read about the author’s reflection on their own emotions and their efforts to focus on the positives in life. The quotes at the end are a good reminder that we have the power to shape our own destiny and that the actions of a few do not define humanity as a whole.
    Thanks, Ely


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