As a self-defense teacher, I talk a lot about boundaries. Mostly about setting boundaries with other people. While some of those people may mean harm, most just have different ideas of boundaries and could use some guidance as to where theirs and yours more happily connect.

Today I’m looking at a specific set of boundaries you set with yourself. Many of us — I’m certainly in this group — want to experience a lot. I want to travel to Provence and to Tuscany. I want to learn some French and Italian. I want to learn to play guitar better, as well as bass and drums and piano. I already cook well, but I want to be able to de-bone a turkey in 10 minutes. (Why? I don’t know, I don’t even like turkey!)  I want to learn to draw.  I want better photography skills.  I want to write a book.  I want to create an online class. I want, I want, I want.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of my wants.

I’m going to tell you something that you probably already know. I certainly have known this for many years, and yet I still need reminding. Of all these wants, the ones you get will be those you MAKE the time for.

For many years I had wanted to understand the social dynamics around domestic violence and to more effectively work with survivors. Because DV is our greatest single risk to personal safety, and as a self-defense teacher that’s an important topic. And yes there are trainings available in my area. But it’s not just a half-day one-and-done workshop. I’d have to carve out a significant chunk of time. Fifty hours of training, then at least a year of volunteer work. I’d been telling myself I wanted to do this for years, yet I never made that time. Until I did. Until I acknowledged that yes, this was a 50 hour training over several months, I may have to put aside another activity or two and re-arrange my schedule, be inconvenienced, drive more, and after the training commit to that volunteering, and was it really worthwhile?

I did it, eight years ago. I said to myself if I don’t ACTIVELY MAKE the time it was not just going to happen. Piss or get off the pot, so to speak. Yes it was inconvenient and time-consuming and some days frustrating. I did forego some income those three months. Afterwards I volunteered each week at the center working with women in different stages of abusive relationships, which isn’t easy to hear (let alone experience). And yes it was worth it. A lot of what I leaned got incorporated into my classes, partly as recognizing “red flags” and partly as how to help or support family or friends who were in unhealthy or abusive relationships.

I often ask my students how they found the class. A lot say they’ve meant to take a self-defense class for a long time, and just happened to be looking through a Seattle Central or Bellevue College catalog, or an online class listing, saw the class, saw it fit into their schedule, and signed up. That’s convenient, and how most of us live most of our lives. Not everything we want will drop into place that easily.

Right now I am looking at my list of wants. What is most essential for my professional development, for personal development, for relationships, and for self-care? What will I actively make time for this year? How about you?

I (almost) completed DAWN’s 50 hour training to work as a volunteer domestic violence advocate, and today was my first day on the crisis line. Actually, I didn’t talk to any of the callers — I shadowed an advocate to listen in on what she’d say to callers, did data entry on each call, learned about available resources, etc.

This was a busy morning, with one call following another following another. Moms worried about their daughters’ relationships, a woman looking for immediate shelter, a soon-to-be-ex-wife looking for financial help to get through a dragged-out divorce. There’s a lot of need out there, at the very least for accurate information on the law, your rights, and access to the myriad of resources available.  It feels good to be able to connect a person in need with the help they are seeking, to bring just a bit of relief to someone in the anxiety of crisis.

The next volunteer training is in late June.  There’s always the need for volunteers, so if you are looking for a super-worthwhile cause, this could be it.  I’ll be checking the schedule to make up those classes I missed while out of town, so maybe I’ll see you there.

But money can buy anything else.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know I’m taking domestic violence advocacy training through DAWN (Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, serving South King County). We cover lots of topics: social justice, economic justice, basic family law, basic protection orders, suicide, teen dating violence, batterer intervention, safety planning, chemical dependency, trauma, LGBTQ issues, religion, available resources, . . . it goes on and on, deeper and deeper.

And money is a recurring theme. Access to resources is probably the most important factor affecting what you can do to keep safe. Abusers very often try to control access to bank accounts, funds, and pocket change.

In all my self-defense classes, I tell students that they need to have their very own bank accounts. Their name, and only their name, should be on it. This account needs to have enough money to live on for 6 months to a year. This is your safety hatch.

Perhaps an insecure partner, even abusive spouse, will whine. “Sugarplum, we’re married now, we don’t need separate accounts. Why are you holding out on me?”  Or maybe, “Honey, don’t you trust me? You must not care about me the way I care about you.” Or even, “You have all that money separate, you must be cheating on me!”

Once upon a time, in this land of the free, women were not legally entitled to own property, including their earned wages. Any and all income, regardless of who earned it, belonged to the male head of household. I emphasize in my classes that the slow change in the law, giving women the right to retain their earnings, to buy and own property, to save and spend and invest, is a critical precursor to effective self-defense. Otherwise, you have nowhere to go.

I’ve taught far too many women who ended up homeless or in transitional housing. Keep the account. In your name. Only.