I Choose

photo by Kaileen Elise

Here’s a story. It belongs to me. I choose how I want to tell it.

Our house was broken into last week while my daughter and I were sleeping and my husband and son were out. When my husband came home, he noticed our computers were missing and he woke me up. Our sliding door was wide open downstairs – a cold breeze chilling our living space. I started to shake at the thought of someone entering our house as we slept upstairs. I started to berate my husband for leaving the door unlocked. I felt violated. Unsafe. Invaded. I went upstairs to check on my kids and looked into an upstairs bathroom on the way. I came face to face in the shadows with the intruder. He was tall and obscured. We froze in front of one another for a terrifying second and I thought, “This is it.”

I screamed, as loud as I could, no words, just a high shrill call – a frantic plea to press the rewind button on life – to take this moment away. The man ducked in front of me and ran. My husband, with no thought but to protect us, chased him downstairs yelling at him to “get the f*** out of our house”. The guy dropped all three of our laptops on the ground. He yelled back at my husband, “I’m sorry!” And with that fleeting admittance of remorse, he was gone, out of our door, flying silently over our 6 foot high gate.

We were left shocked. Trembling. Looking around our home and questioning whether that really just happened. Our security had been trespassed. Not just literally but figuratively too.  This quiet shadow of a man had already snuck into my psyche and taken up residence. I could feel him bedding down, preparing to pounce out at me from every dark corner for days on end. Preparing to lurk in the shady shrubs of my mind when the sun sets. Preparing to ambush my sense of wellbeing with a steely determination.

After the police left, I went to bed that night with my eyes wide open, my daughter nestled next to me and an unwelcome presence hovering in our home. It was hard not to imagine all the things that ‘could have’ unfolded. All the dangers that ‘might have’ been.

When I woke up the following morning after a fitful night, it occurred to me that I had a choice. I could allow this man to move in permanently – my anxious state of mind creating a hospitable environment for all the ways he could mess with our lives. Or I could choose to set a different scene. A scene that wouldn’t be so conducive to his menacing ways.

I could choose to feel lucky. He wasn’t armed. He didn’t hurt us. He didn’t even manage to get away with our computers.

I could choose to feel compassion. He was clearly desperate to risk entering a house with lights on and a car in the drive. My husband said when he ran from our home, he looked as petrified as us.

I could choose to feel amusement. We were blessed with the most polite thief one could imagine. He apologized. It was as if in the moment he had a revelation:  “This is not okay. This was not the right option.” He was, thankfully and ironically, a gentleman. A gentle man. In these situations, that is never a given.

As I walked through our home a day later with a bundle of lit sage wafting aromatic smoke into the air, I felt like a snake charmer. I held the secrets. I held the power and there was no way I was going to allow our uninvited visitor to take that away from me. The sharp scented smoke cleared the air and cleared my mind. The word “HELP” floated into my head. But it wasn’t me looking for help – it was a recognition of the help needed to realign him – the shadow presence who had appeared and disappeared in the dark.

I truly hope he finds a better way.

Meanwhile, I am grateful for my developing internal democracy. It is too tempting to allow our ‘stories’ to fuel anarchy in our hearts – to tell them in ways that only serve to curtail our emotional freedom.

I embrace the choice I am making to relay this particular story from another angle, rather than attaching myself to the drama and the fear. Order has been restored, and when I lock our doors at night, I do so with the intention of securing in peace, not with the purpose of perpetuating panic. Try saying that after a few drinks!

Think of the ‘stories’ you repeatedly tell in your life. Are you defining yourself by a story that you could revision? Do you find yourself focusing in on the drama and fast forwarding through the joy? Share an example of this and take time to reflect.


Write for ten minutes using the words “I choose…” as a springboard. Try starting each line with those two words and push through resistance. You might be surprised by what is revealed…

4 Responses to “I Choose”

  1. Jen
    November 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Rory your comments are worthy of a TED talk. So exceptional the way you have regained your power. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Helen
    November 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    A week ago Saturday, I was assaulted. I hadn’t really fully grasped that until I read Rory’s post. I know that sounds preposterous, but it was so shocking, I think I assumed it couldn’t have actually happened.

    Rory, I am deeply sorry for the unmooring you have experienced, and I am so grateful that you have written this gorgeous primer on how to resolve an encounter that rattles you so deeply. THANK YOU!

    I was at a gas station in Pasadena. I had driven my daughter and 3 classmates to a class at the Huntington Library from Pacific Palisades. I was driving my daughter’s car. I was out of my element in so many ways. The man in the wheel chair asked the gal across the island from me for money. “No” she declared firmly.
    Me, I wrestled internally. I shouldn’t give him cash, he might spend it on more drugs or alcohol?
    Who am I to judge what he needs the money for?
    He needs help not a little money. Back and forth between my better natures.
    “Come on, just 80 cents for food” he demanded.
    “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash”, I weakly and obviously lied, averting my eyes.
    Big mistake.
    For, the next thing I knew, he was karate chopping my shoulder. And then he hauled off and kicked me in the shin.
    He was very far gone on whatever life obscuring substance he was abusing, and I barely felt the blows, but the shock of it was even more protective.
    “Did you just kick me?” I blinked at him.
    That pissed him off, and he began wailing with all of his loosely controlled limbs.
    The gal across the island ran over and grabbed him from behind by the collar and threw him to the ground.
    “Run,” she screamed at me.
    And still blinkingly, and not fully aware of what was happening, I obeyed.
    I reholstered the gas nozzle but did not seal the gas tank.
    I just sped away.
    I stopped 2 traffic lights away and got out of the car to properly seal the gas tank.
    The gal from the gas station stopped and got out. “That was sooo weird. What was that”?
    We hugged, and I thanked her for coming to my aid.
    Then we both drove away.

    Whatever, I’ve always been something of a weirdo magnet. It’s just never been violent before. I filed the experience away, not sure if it was even real.

    The next day, I was at Trader Joe’s on Pico.

    I passed a man talking to the pasta. Yes, in full-on, bat-shit crazy dialogue with the pasta!
    Avert the eyes, check.
    Walk right by, check.
    No encounters, check, or so I thought.
    I got by on that aisle, but after checking out and beginning to exit the store, this same crazy dude puts his hand on my cart and stops me from exiting the store. After the encounter at the gas station, I guess my nerves just weren’t up to the test. I immediately adopted the self defense stance I learned somewhere along the way. Left foot and both hands forward.
    Right foot firmly planted back.
    Shout loudly, “NO!!!”!
    This was okay. I specifically recall the self defense instructor saying , “So what if you embarrass yourself. If you need to draw attention to yourself for protection, better that it’s a mistake than being left alone to the attacker.” I ad libbed “I don’t do crazy any more” which I realize now is not what you should say upon an encounter with a bonafide crazy dude. The store manager tapped me on the shoulder, nearly causing me to jump out of my skin and asked if he could help.
    “It’s just that this man won’t let me pass. It’s just that my weirdo magnet has gone violent this week. This man was talking to the pasta earlier. . . gasp, puff, huff.. . .”
    I realized in that instance that this poor store manager thought that I was insane, and the truth is for a split second maybe I was.

    There was something weird gong on last week. Rory’s story somehow crystallized that for me. We can’t change the strength of the ore within us anymore than we can change our connectivity to the world, or the circumstances we encounter.

    I’m a weirdo magnet, I choose to take take precautions.

  3. Hillary
    November 22, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Wow, what a story! And what a great perspective you are choosing to have on the whole thing, so it doesn’t invade your home life and steal its security or peace long term. Bravo for that! It is a good wake up call for me to rethink how I’ve digested certain events leaving myself with a few stories that too steal peace and happiness.

    On a maybe un-zen like note, if you have any fondness towards dogs, a German Shepherd may be just the thing to seal the choice to choose peace over fear as you kindly release the intruder’s haunting presence back to the universe. My shepherd adds so much love and fun to my house, however if anyone unknown comes close to my doors or windows, from a dead sleep he wakes up and regulates. He lets the person (or cat) know, in a universal language, that their presence is known and they will be met with teeth if they proceed without me inviting them inside. I didn’t get him for security reasons, but have come to really enjoy the added security.

  4. Sophie James
    November 25, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    It was lovely to read you choosing to re-write the story – an angle that explodes all our tired and well-worn prejudices. Thank you for doing that. x

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