Feelings of the loss of personal safety and security can result from so many triggers:

  • Robbery.
  • Death.
  • Health Issues.
  • Break Ups.
  • Being Laid Off.

The list goes on. An underlying aspect of losses such as these are the immediate feelings of a lost sense of security. Last week in my life a sense of loss came crashing into my usual happy-go-lucky world in several insistant ways:

  • I learned a friend is entering the last phase of a cancer that has returned with a vengeance.
  • Another neighbor’s home in our village was burgled in broad daylight by repeat offenders the police don’t seem motivated to catch. (they never did follow through on the two that held our immediate neighbors at gun point while they ransacked their home several months ago)
  • Another American expat was murdered in San Miguel, this time in her own home ostensibly while being robbed info here (in addition to our realtor who was stabbed to death by a gang of thugs he had apparently antagonized in a seedy bar this past summer – story here).
  • A local cop extorted a bribe from my husband during a traffic stop for a non-offense (his emissions sticker was not due for renewal like the policeman claimed).

Each event undermining feelings of safety in each their own ways. It has taken me some considerable brainpower to come to a place where I’m not experiencing nonstop feelings of panic.

As expatriate Americans living in Mexico, as a group we often really are targeted for robbery as well as petty (and sometimes significant) extortion from local officials. That comes with the territory because we bring our wealth with us and even though most of our fellow countrymen wouldn’t consider us among “the Haves” compared to the average annual bring home income of the people around us, we certainly could be perceived to be.

At least among the bad element. Certainly not by the people in our village who continue to go out of their way to help us feel welcomed and at home here. Most of them have bars on their windows and guard dogs too.


 

How do you assimilate these justified feelings of insecurity?

IMG_8136

Ropey is GREAT at making noise

Well, if you live with Mr. Safety, the way I do, what happens is your home becomes much less of an attractive target. We have bark-tastic inside and outside dogs, motion activated lights and alarms, are fully fenced and maintain a look of never being away from home. We also aren’t conspicuous consumers. Our vehicles aren’t new, and because we live with dogs in the house as a part of our lives, we long ago gave up any hope of having a fine decorating scheme. Our style is more on the side of authentically rustic. We also actively engage with our local neighbors and have gotten to know many. We’re seen as a part of the community.

But how do you protect yourself from the motivated criminals?

Practice Safety Like the Animals

  • Travel in herds, like horses, gazelles and even elephant!
  • Make noise if you spot intruders, like birds and squirrels
  • Divert attention from yourself, like squids do with their ink
  • Hide like rabbits
  • Surround yourself with pointy things like porcupines

Have an escape plan. Let those alarms and lights warn you someone with ill intent is headed your way and scram! Let them have the stuff. It’s just stuff. Televisions, computers, smartphones can all be replaced. Maximize your chances of not being hurt by not being present.

The author's husband in their truly dog-friendly home. The grey one in the middle is a guest, we're not insane. Yes we are.

The author’s husband in their truly dog-friendly home. The gray one in the middle is just a guest, we’re not insane. Yes we are.

Life, Living and The Odds

How do you not let these circumstances drive you nuts? For me, by reframing the risks.

I ride horses and everyone who does so with any regularity knows or is only one degree away from someone who has been killed practicing this hobby, and we all know people who have been hurt, including, often, ourselves. We alleviate some of the worst risk by wearing helmets, though this is no guarantee against something bad happening. Yet we ride on. Why?  The joys outweigh the risks. Living where we do on the side of this hill overlooking hundreds of miles of gorgeousness, and all the other reasons we love it here outweigh our risks too. At least for now; while our safety measures appear to be working.

The safety measures we employ are our helmet, so to speak.

The author in a rare helmet-less moment demonstrating one of the joys of living where they do, and why they need some space - for MuMu! - the horse

The author in a rare helmet-less moment demonstrating one of the joys of living where they do, and why they need some space – for MuMu! – the horse

Risk is Everywhere

I think back on when we lived in rural Kentucky and how two neighbors each less than half a mile from us were each struck and immediately killed by lightning in two incidents 6 years apart. Statistically, that’s pretty significant odds. While there we tuned into weather reports as though our lives depended on it during tornado season because guess what – they did!

As for the friends dying from cancer – what else can you do but take good care of yourself and hope for the best?

Ultimately living is a risky business. Being smart about safety can go a long way in keeping you safe from crime, but it’s no guarantee, not anywhere.


 

Animal Assisted Recovery

As you regain your composure after a setback that jeopardizes your security a great way to reconnect with your equanimity and balance is by spending some time with animals who practice calm as a matter of course in their own lives. Horses are great at this if you have access to some, but so are many dogs, cats, rabbits and other common household pets.

The animals you’re going to partner with can be under your care or live with a friend. What matters is that you can safely spend time with them in a way where your focus can remain on simply BEing.

The Task

Spend a whole day in the company of animals. Your goal is to adopt their pace. Leave your phone somewhere else.

Suggested Scenarios

  • In a large park where wildlife is free to move about – the forest, the prairie, the beach
  • With horses in a field, corral or barn
  • With a dog or several free to move about safely
Look, look around, take in the small things

Look around, take in the small things

Make yourself comfortable for the long haul.

Let dog be your guide - take a snooze!

Let dog be your guide – take a snooze!

  • Bring a chair.
  • Bring napping supplies (a chaise, blankets and pillows, etc)
  • If you need it, insect repellant for your person (be open to the little passers by who may stop by, leave the spray stuff in the can)
  • Water
  • Maybe a snack unattractive to your animal companions, or enough to share if you know how to do so safely (not everyone knows how to share treats with equine, for example)
  • A note or drawing pad if you like

Things to observe:

  • the air
  • the plants
  • birds
  • breezes
  • the sky
  • insects
  • sounds
  • interactions
  • be mindful of what your animal companions notice or react to
  • notice what captures your attention
  • notice when you feel a pang to DO something, and let it pass
  • if you get sleep and can do so safely – take a nap – this is especially magical in the presence of horses relaxing in their stalls in a barn.

We all know how to fill our days with many activities but how often do we allow ourselves to just “be”? This experience helps you practice this healthy approach with some of life’s masters – the animals!

After several hours, of “be-ing” take note of your current state of mind. Are you more relaxed? Feeling less stressed? If so, a significant part of this result is because you gave yourself permission to just be. This gives your emotional core a chance to regroup from the inside out – which forms a most excellent starting point to rebuild your own greater sense of security. You exit the reactionary panic response and become better able to look at your security issues from a strong foundation.

Mind you, it takes the passing of time as well to even be prepared to healthfully cope with a lost sense of security, give yourself space for some panic, reach out to others as soon as you can. Then, when you are able, mindfully rebuild your inner security adopting some of the wisdom from animals.

Final Thoughts

How to stay emotionally safe:

  • Be realistic
  • Research logical solutions
  • Activate those solutions
  • Create safety conscious habits and stick to them

Keep it Positive

Envision a golden bubble of happiness that completely surrounds your space (your whole property when home, your car when driving, the plane you’re in when flying, your self when walking, etc)

Clear your space of stuck energies. Instructions in this link.

Remember that anything someone can steal that they can ‘fence’ or sell for money is easily replaceable. These are commodities that you can buy.

Consider filling your space with riches the bad guys can’t steal.

  • photos
  • plants
  • murals
  • folk art
  • other items that add to your quality of life that thieves can’t take with them or sell.

Be smart.

Be safe.

Reach out.

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One Response to Animals Help Us Cope with Loss of Security

  1. Janis says:

    Marti, I am overwhelmed with the connection I feel to these words, so wisely said. Your heart has shared so many important and provocative thoughts to take into my heart and soul. I am so happy you shared this with me, Janis

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