Of Storm Clouds, Paranoia and Awareness

This afternoon, my spouse (“A.”) and I went for a long walk around our neighborhood. As usual for me, I was in a relaxed Condition Yellow state of alertness. At one point in our walk, I noticed a teenaged, or perhaps early 20’s, male standing along the wall which encircled a back yard. There are lots of kids in our area and seeing teens out and about isn’t unusual, but something about this one pinged my radar, so I stopped to watch him for a few moments and see if I could figure out what I’d alerted on.

By the way, this is a good exercise and one I highly recommend for those working to develop their situational awareness. As Gavin de Becker writes in The Gift of Fear, our intuition doesn’t always respond to the right triggers, and it doesn’t always respond in the right way to a trigger. But, he says, it always has our best interests at heart and, when our “spidey sense” gets triggered, our intuition is always responding to something. So, when I get that prickle, I always try to stop and figure out where it’s coming from.

After watching this young man for a few moments, I decided that what had tickled my perception wasn’t anything he was doing, but was what he was NOT doing. He was loitering in one place, trying hard not to be conspicuous. And he wasn’t actually doing anything, going anywhere, or moving with any kind of purpose. Add to that the fact that he carried a backpack and was standing next to a tall stone wall in an area often favored by taggers, and I had what it was that had triggered my intuition. I watched him for a few moments longer, until he noticed me watching, and then he suddenly decided he had someplace else to be and took off.

Now, it’s entirely possible that he was indeed doing nothing wrong. It’s entirely possible his presence there was completely innocuous. It’s also possible that I interrupted him before he could pull a can of spray paint out of his backpack. I don’t know, and that’s not really the point of this story.

To say that A. is not a strong proponent of my interest in guns, shooting, and self-defense would be an enormous understatement. In fact, A.’s attitude is much more along the lines of “only cops and soldiers should have guns, and taking steps to be prepared to safeguard one’s safety is reactionary paranoia.” He is vehemently opposed to any attempts on my part to arm myself, to shoot, or to train, and he has steadfastly declined all my invitations to include him in those activities. He has also expressed that, if it was up to him, I wouldn’t own guns and there wouldn’t be guns, ammo, “gun-like things” (my Blue Guns Glock that I use sometimes for practice, and the SIRT Pro I’m buying for my birthday in October), or gun magazines in the house. So it should come as little surprise, then, that he was less than enthralled with my pointing out the suspicious teen.

“I really don’t like how paranoid you’ve become lately,” he said to me. “It’s like you see evil around every corner, like portable little paranoid storm clouds follow you around all the time! Relax and enjoy life, for f**k’s sakes!”

How do I explain it to him? How do I explain that I am able to relax and enjoy life precisely because I am aware of my surroundings, because I try to stay out of trouble’s way when possible? How do I help him see that tools and training create relaxed confidence because I know, if avoidance, evasion, deterrence, and de-escalation fail, that the tools and training I have will up my odds of coming out alive? How do I show him that the “pretend trouble isn’t out there and you won’t worry or stress” Condition White mindset is of no comfort to me, someone who’s already tangled with violence and who, for better or worse, will never again be able to delude herself into thinking it can’t happen to her?

We didn’t talk about it for the rest of our walk. After that, I was only too willing to let the conversation drift to less weighty topics. The truth is, A. and I have had significant divisions in our relationship for a long time, and although we’re doing family and couples therapy now, I’m not sanguine about the future of our relationship. My interest in guns and self-defense isn’t the reason why we’re on this precipice, but it’s become the lens through which I can see how different A. and I have become, and how many disconnects on fundamental issues loom between us now.

It felt great to get outside and move around. I’m relishing the low ache in my calves and thigh muscles that tells me I’ve worked them. But I’m also feeling profoundly sad that the person who was supposed to be my life partner, who was supposed to encourage and support and nurture me in growing as a human being, sees my desire for self-confidence and self-assurance – not to mention my desire to shoot and hang out with “gun folks”, both of which bring me a lot of pleasure – as paranoid and reactionary.

But alas, there are some rifts that are just too wide to bridge, I fear.


  1. I’m sorry, that’s a tough position to be in.

    Is A willing to read de Becker’s book? Maybe that will help him understand. My stress is so much less since I read his book, for precisely the reasons you stated. I trust my gut instinct now and don’t hesitate. Because I don’t waste any time rationalizing my uneasiness, my stress level is so much lower.

    • Thanks for your comment – I appreciate so much the encouragement and support I get from my readers, and from the larger community of “gun folks” and those interested in safety and self-defense. So blessed to have found this community, and to not feel so alone anymore.

      Unfortunately, A. isn’t willing to read anything at the present. I tried to share some stuff I learned from Gila Hayes’s book Personal Defense for Women, and was asked “can we please stop talking about this stuff?”

      And yes, I know what you mean about not wasting time rationalizing. I also feel a huge self-confidence boost from knowing I can rely on myself – my perceptions, my instincts, and my skills – and that leads to much relaxation also. When A. and I met, almost 15 years ago, I was scared, helpless, vulnerable, passive, submissive, and had about the self-esteem of a flea. I’m not that way anymore, and I wonder sometimes if that change is just too much for A. to wrap his head around.

  2. Mrs. Groundhog says:

    I am sorry that your husband does not understand where you are coming from. It took me a long time to understand where my husband was coming from on the “gun stuff”. I figured it was just because he had been in the military that he liked it. I didn’t and that was ok. It took my sister almost dying in a workplace shooting for my eyes to be opened to the reality that violence can happen to anyone. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,92766,00.html This is the link to the story about my sister. Even after that, it took a couple of years before I wanted to try shooting.We both got our CHL 5 years ago. It was a long process.

    Even if you husband never changes, you have and that is what is important!You have made choice upon choice to improve your life and that may save your life some day. I applaud you and all that you have done! Thanks for sharing your life on your blog.

    • Thank you so much for this! I wrestle sometimes with how much of my personal life to share here, but I really appreciate all the support I’ve received from my readers.

      So sorry for what almost happened to your sister, and grateful for what didn’t happen. One of the things I said to A. yesterday is that there’s a difference between “unlikely” and impossible. Even if the odds of a given event happening in a given year are one in a million, there are still going to be 300 or so people in the United States this year to whom that event has happened, and the fact that it’s a rare occurrence is unlikely to provide much comfort.

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