Being someone who ‘fasts’ from the news for months at a time, I’ve found myself surprisingly “hooked” by recent US election news events, particularly as headlines are giving voice to women and their experiences with sexual assault. I’ve wanted to add my words, but have been challenged in knowing what exactly would be beneficial to contribute. Further, I questioned whether the Archives was an appropriate forum for any writing I could muster on the subject.
Then last week, a simple errand turned profound.
The premise of For the Archives is to seek the profound in the mundane, a space to chronicle the everyday. With this as my compass, I’ve deemed it a fine place to share my report of one morning’s event.
I feel compelled to qualify this piece by saying that I am only speaking to my own experience. Each of us has our own. I am not offering answers or solutions, rather I am attempting to reveal myself in a process of inquiry. My greatest hope would be that by doing so, readers may somehow be able to glean something of use for themselves.
I understand that the account I share here is a mild example in a spectrum of violent acts we humans have the capacity to perpetuate upon each other.
In regards to Ho’oponopono, I am only scratching the surface of learning about this practice, and though I’ve done my best here to summarize its basic philosophy, everything I share is through the filter of my current understanding. To learn more, go to the source at www.hooponopono.org.
“I operate my life and my relationships according to the following insights:
The physical universe is an actualization of my thoughts.
If my thoughts are cancerous, they create a cancerous physical reality.
If my thoughts are perfect, they create a physical reality brimming with LOVE.
I am 100 percent responsible for creating my physical universe the way it is.
I am 100 percent responsible for correcting the cancerous thoughts that create a diseased reality. There is no such thing as out there. Everything exists as thoughts in my mind.”
~Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len
I park my car at the library, drop off a few borrowed books, and decide to walk to the bank a few blocks away. It’s a day that doesn’t have a strict timeline, so why not stroll my way through some errands? I cut through the church parking lot, where a feral hen and her clutch of fluffy chicks peck and chirp.
I’ve been practicing mindfulness with more focus these last days. My husband (aka “the Bohemian”) and I have been learning about the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono. Utterly simple, yet almost too complex to explain, I’ve been working with a few basic principles, hoping to better understand through implementing them.
In a nutshell, a modernized version of Ho’oponopono (adapted by Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona and further taught by Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len), suggests that we are 100% responsible for everything that occurs in our lives. Our world, our ‘reality,’ is our creation, and everything offers an opportunity to heal. With any and all things, one can simply ‘clear’ a problem or situation by saying “I love you” and “thank you.” Using this approach, Dr. Hew Len was able to rehabilitate an entire ward of mentally ill criminals, and the facility eventually closed altogether.
I am only learning. In this walk to the bank, I step into sunlight and am grateful that I notice how it shines warmly on my skin. I feel thankful that I have the time to walk. I pass the local YWCA building and read the bright orange letters on its outside wall: “Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women.”
I follow the cross walk, nearing the bank. Beside me, a Toyota pick up truck pulls over to the curb, stopping right in front of the yellow fire hydrant that is next to me. I think this is odd. It’s illegal to park at a hydrant, and there is plenty of other empty curb space. I glance to the truck, see the passenger window down and a young man in his early twenties, leans over from the driver’s seat to speak to me.
Maybe he says something like “Hey,” some remark trying to get my attention. And I give it, but hesitantly.
Granted, I live on a Hawaiian island with a population of about 65,000, and the “city” in which I’m walking through has only about 7,000 inhabitants. We’re talking about a small town. A small, relatively, “safe” town. Yet, instinctually, I stand far back from the cab of this truck, uncertain of the driver’s intent.
He’s got straight black hair, cut short and parted on the side. The top sticks straight out, like the hairdo of a Japanese anime character. His round, full face is a “local” mix of possibly Japanese, Hawaiian, and/or, maybe, Filipino.
His words come out like he’s asking for a fundraising donation. Earnest and slightly sheepish.
“Will you hook up with me?”
It takes me a minute to process his question. He’s talking to me in the vernacular of a college keg party. I am confused.
A multitude of emotions must have spread across my face as I pause just long enough to hear him follow his solicitation with an oddly polite, “Please?”
I instantly walk away from the truck, noticing my mouth has formed a smile, and despite myself, a half chuckle is escaping my lips. I wonder at my laughter because I don’t feel humored. Is it engrained in me to laugh off such a remark, even if it doesn’t feel funny? Maybe this is nervous laughter.
I walk up the stairs to the bank, he pulls away, and I step inside.
Once inside, I pause for a moment at the podium made for speedy deposits. I feel like crying. Current election news stories flood my mind. This is exactly what women are talking about, I think to myself. Anger seeps through my chest.
I take a few deep breaths, then head to the teller line at nearly the same moment as another man. He too, is in his early twenties. He looks at me and sweeps his arm out ahead of himself in a gentleman’s offer to go before him. I smile and say, “No, you go. But thank you.” I take note. There are kind men in the world.
When it’s my turn, I am called to the bank teller by the window that looks out on to the street where I’ve been walking. My transaction involves stopping payment on a lost check. The teller is young and new, and the process takes at least 15 minutes, as she gets step-by-step instructions from her supervisor over the phone.
As I wait, I digest the feelings coursing through my nervous system. I wonder if I should tell someone at the bank that a creepy guy propositioned me in front of their place of business. I don’t want to overreact, and it seems like a fairly extreme measure for me to take. But then, through the window, I see a truck that looks just like the creepy guy’s drive by in front of the bank. This time the tinted windows are rolled up and I can only make out the shadowy outline of the driver’s head. The pointy hairstyle seems similar, but I can’t be sure.
I quickly move my eyes to the license plate number. If the truck drives by again, then I’ll certainly be suspicious.
The teller continues on the phone, navigating through the computer system with my transaction. I keep watch on the street through the window. Within a few minutes, the same truck drives by, this time going the opposite direction. The license plate is the same.
I write the license plate number on my deposit envelope in front of me. Still not wanting to jump to conclusions, I decide to wait and see if the truck will pass again. On this uneventful side street, mostly housing government buildings, it is unlikely that a car would be driving back and forth unless the driver were lost…or trolling. A few more minutes pass as the teller sifts through a file cabinet searching for correct forms.
I continue keeping my eye on the street through the window, and sure enough, the same truck, same license plate, drives back in front of the bank again. Ok, so that was at least three passes. My heart beats in my chest. The teller apologizes for the wait and assures me we are almost done. I think to say something to her about the truck, but don’t.
Instead, I smile. “It’s fine.”
I consider telling a bank supervisor. These thoughts come as some sort of tactic of self-preservation, knowing I will have to walk back to my car, and I want someone to be aware of my potential situation. I think to tell the police, but the scenario doesn’t seem dire enough to involve them. At least I don’t think it is. Or at least I hope it isn’t.
Part of my bank mission was to make a significant cash withdrawal, but now I will not be walking on the street with money in my purse. I put the final signature on the stop-payment form, and when the teller asks me if there is anything else she can help me with, I say, “No. That’s all for today. Thank you.”
I scan the bank lobby. See the empty couches and one desk with a supervisor speaking to a middle-aged woman and another elderly lady in a green muumuu. No need to tell them my story.
I reach in my purse for my phone, thinking of it as my one potential weapon. With it, I can dial 911, I can take a photo, or I can call my husband.
You see, I’m sharing all of this in an attempt to illustrate what can happen when a man makes non-consensual, sexual advances. It puts a person on guard. It makes one wonder if they are safe.
I am not a paranoid person. I traveled alone for years in my twenties throughout North America, India and Nepal. I’ve made long-time friendships with strangers I met on my journeys, men and women. I believe that, overall, the world is a safe place, filled with kind-hearted, well-intentioned people. For the most part, through most of my life, this has been my experience.
Yet, on this morning, when I step back out of the bank and see a Toyota truck driving in my direction, I move to a far corner, my phone in hand, wanting to hide, but feeling unavoidably seen. I am relieved to see the license plate does not match the one I’ve been tracking, and it isn’t the truck belonging to that creepy guy.
I come out of the corner and decide to call my husband. We talk as I walk the few blocks back toward my car. It helps to be able to share what has just transpired. It also serves as a pseudo safety net, in the instance that the creepy guy actually does drive by again, I’ll have someone on the phone to hear it.
I am a little rattled, but not completely overwhelmed. It helps to hear the Bohemian’s voice in my ear. The irony of my situation has not escaped me.
“I know, this is my movie, right?” I ask him.
“Yes, Jess, this is your movie.”
“And I know I’ve been pouring over all of these news stories about Trump’s history of sexual assaults…it’s surprised me how much it’s all gotten to me.”
“And this is exactly what so many women are speaking out about in response to these allegations against him. This world that we live in, and how women have to deal with this kind of thing so often…”
The Bohemian, steady as usual, just listens. “Uh huh.”
“I mean, I notice that I feel compelled to say that I’m wearing a pair of baggy shorts, some flip-flops, and a long sleeve shirt. But then I think it’s outrageous that I would feel a need to qualify my outfit…like it’s some sort of defense as to why there was no ‘reason’ for this guy to approach me like that. Or that I’m 43 years-old for goodness sake, I could be his mother.”
“But it’s not about any of that. I don’t even know if it’s about attraction, or about sex at all. I’m just some woman walking down the street. It doesn’t matter a bit what I look like, how old I am, what I’m wearing…It’s about him. About doing what he knows he shouldn’t, and seeing if he can get away with it. Some individual that has some sort of sexual addiction or disfunction…he’s getting excited by the thrill of pulling over and daring to ask me such a question. That’s his rush. I mean, I suppose I’m only assuming. I don’t know what that creepy guy was thinking, really…”
“No, you don’t.”
“All I know is that now I feel uncertain. Like I don’t know how “creepy” he is. Is it safe to be walking down this street alone? Am I in real danger? This is what people are talking about in news stories…how unnerving it can be…. And confusing…”
At the final street before the library an older man and I cross each other at the corner. Even though I’m on the phone, he smiles kindly as we pass.
“Ok, I’m almost to my car, and I haven’t seen his truck at all. I think I’m good.”
“Now I’m going to go to the grocery store. Do you need anything?”
“You know. The usual.”
“Right. Ok. Well, thanks for talking. That was weird.”
I laugh. “Yeah, interesting movie…’I love you. Thank you’…Hmmm…”
“I love you. Thank you.”
And that’s it. Moving on. Next. Just like so many women, every hour, every day. Absorbing looks, words, threats, and worse, then dusting off, and moving on to the day’s demands at hand.
This incident with the creepy guy has not scarred me for life. I will be fine. But just as the latest news of sexual misconduct of a presidential nominee has incensed me, this street-side spook has angered me as well. And both instances have unpleasantly reminded me of my own history of experiences dealing with inappropriate actions from men.
The bitter part of me feels like the scene is such an (absurdly horrible) cliché, I want to rebel and say, “Whatever! Don’t give it any energy. Move on!” But I can’t deny another part of me, rooted deep and ancient. More than ‘me’, or ‘my’ story. Something inside that boils in a burning rage.
I go back to the tenets of the Ho’oponopono practice I’ve been studying. Contemplate the concept of being 100% responsible for my reality. It’s not about blaming the victim. I’m simply looking at liberation from ever being a victim. It’s so radical, I can barely comprehend the idea. But if I let myself dip a toe in the pool of pure responsibility for my life, I can feel such a freedom of relief. Emancipation from ever having to blame again.
“Will you hook up with me?”
Am I getting hooked in the tangle of emotions surfacing in this episode?
Could it be that every single situation holds an opportunity to say, “I love you. Thank you?” Can I reflect on the creepy guy scenario and see it as something that is bringing a need for healing to my attention?
Can I let go to fully understanding the situation at all? Can I accept not knowing the why or how, and release any analysis?
Am I capable of simply observing, and clearing it all with love and forgiveness? Isn’t this how I take it back and own it? Make it my movie.
I’m not suggesting burying feelings. I’m not talking about sugar-coating. I am aware that I have some big emotions tied up in this scenario. So perhaps I may not even be able to execute this ideal right now. But as I allow the feelings to arise, I can continue to say “thank you” to them as they (hopefully) clear through.
As an artist, I see the world in metaphors. There’s something just too peculiar about this recent living-movie scene, not to take a step back and view it in an alternative light. How can it serve a purpose? And what kind of script do I want to continue writing?
This experience has been a challenge to articulate because I cannot finalize it into any easy take-away. I’m left with raw emotion, and plenty of “I don’t know’s.” Spiritual masters say not knowing means you’re on the right path. Is that true? I don’t know. But I do know I’m grateful for the written word, and I feel admiration for all of the courageous women who are using their words to share their stories.
This is just my movie. Still in production.
“When you do Ho’oponopono, what happens is that the Divinity takes the painful thought and neutralizes or purifies it. You don’t purify the person, place, or thing. You neutralize the energy you associate with that person, place, or thing. So the first stage is the purification of that energy. Not only does that energy get neutralized; it also gets released, so there’s a brand-new slate (Zero). Buddhists call it the Void. The final step is that you allow the Divinity or Infinite to fill the void with light. To do Ho’oponopono, you don’t have to know what the problem or error is. All you have to do is notice any problem you are experiencing physically, mentally, or emotionally. Once you notice, your responsibility is to immediately begin to clean, to say, ‘I’m sorry, Please forgive me, or Thank You, I Love you.’”
~Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len