Over the weekend I did something brand new – I shot a gun for the first time!
In my continuing odyssey of super-cool things that the newspaper has sent me to do, I took a gun safety class that included a session at the firing range on Saturday.
Having never shot a gun before, I didn’t expect to be very good at it. On top of my utter inexperience, there’s also the part about how I really, really, really don’t like guns. Not the ideal ingredients for the next Annie Oakley.
But a funny thing happened – my first shot was about 2 inches left of the “x”. My next shot was slightly above the “x”. After my third shot, the instructor turned to me and said, “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” I promised him I hadn’t. And then I kept shooting – all pretty darn close to that little “x”.
Shooting a gun brought back memories of my dad. When I was a teenager, he was working as a private investigator and carried a concealed weapon. He would come home from work and lay his gun down on the counter fully loaded. It made me terribly, terribly uncomfortable. I would beg him to take the bullets out and put it somewhere out of eyesight, but he refused. I was so afraid that it would get knocked on the floor and go off, or there would be some other terrible accident. Thankfully I was only visited him periodically at that point, so I didn’t have to live with it all the time.
When I was a toddler, it was the same story with different props. As I started to walk, my dad refused to baby proof the house. “Absolutely not. She’ll just have to learn what not to touch.” Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with a toddler knows that’s kinda ludicrous.
What I realized this morning is that one of the lessons I learned from my dad was to live my life for his convenience. We ate when he wanted to eat. We went where he wanted to go. We stayed at the party as late as he wanted to stay. My needs and desires didn’t often play into the equation.
I extended that lesson to everything in my life – I became an exquisite people pleaser, trying to make everyone else comfortable and happy. More than anything, I’ve never wanted to inconvenience anyone.
I don’t pretend to think that I’m a unique or isolated case. In fact, there are entire cultures that are based on women living at the convenience of their men. And we have a pretty strong contingent of people pleasing women in our so-called “civilized” society as well.
This living for the convenience of others – it’s bullsh*t. As a child, I had to do it in order to be safe. As a grown woman, I get to make a new set of rules for myself.
I didn’t like holding that gun this weekend – not one little bit. Every time I pulled the trigger, I felt a little queasy.
But I did like the focus … the control … the complete clarity I had when all I had to think about was that little “x”. I wasn’t focused on anything – or anyone – else. I just thought about lining up my sights, staying steady, and breathing. I was doing all of those things for myself … by myself … within myself.
There was no one else in that moment with me. That’s an experience that I’ll carry with me for a long, long time.
I still don’t want to own a gun. But I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at shooting again…so who wants to take me?