I got a doorbell camera. There have been unintended consequences.
When I had it installed a few months ago I didn’t know about the alert feature that indicates when there’s motion near the door and records it. There had been some car break-ins and package thefts in my neighborhood, so I set the detection range from my car in the parking lot to my front door. This is what the camera has detected ninety-five percent of the time:
Nothing. Nada. Not a thing.
The other five percent of the time it has detected the routine comings and goings of my neighbors. This has resulted in making me what my son calls “that nosy old woman”. I know what time everyone leaves in the morning and what time they come back. I know which people are frequent Amazon customers and who still gets old school newspapers. I know what time they walk their dogs and who doesn’t pick up the doo. If the alert chimes at an irregular time during the day I run to the window to see who’s up to what. Worst of all, I judge everybody. I’ve come up with names for them like, Mr. Back and Forth, The Phantom, Weird Guy, Crooked Parking Grandma…
Anyway, it wasn’t just the package thefts and car break-ins that prompted me to get the camera. I got it because I felt vulnerable. I developed insomnia from worrying that someone was going to break into my house in the middle of the night. I think that as I’ve gotten older, I feel I can’t defend myself the way I once could. It didn’t help that racoons were setting off the motion detector on my back slider every few nights. The point is that it was all in my head. I knew it was the racoons lighting up the deck at 3am but I couldn’t shake the fear. I imagined that someone was going to get in and something terrible was going to happen to me. What my doorbell camera has shown me is that nothing ever happens in my neighborhood and that my neighbors are just plain folks. It has shown me that the problem is internal not external. Security measures are a good thing, anxiety isn’t. My therapist daughter says that I need to think about that and for God’s sake stop watching people. I think that from now on I’ll only turn the alert on at night.
So, last Monday I was the victim of the type of scam called “telephone kidnapping”. Although I’m a news hound, for whatever reason I’d never heard of it before. I don’t want to go into too much detail because this post isn’t about the actual experience. I will say it was incredibly frightening. A person called me from what appeared to be a relative’s phone number and said he’d kill her, blow her brains out if I didn’t do exactly what he told me to do. This relative has a job that made the threat credible enough that, although I suspected it was a scam, I couldn’t chance that it wasn’t. It was thirty minutes of hell, but thank God no one was hurt, and law enforcement is investigating. There’s a link at the bottom of this post to a news story about this scam.
What this post is really about is how it feels to deal with fear and vulnerability in the second half of life. In the last two to three years I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m less confident in my abilities than I used to be. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t really know why. Is it simply because I’m older? Am I being sent the message (by my kids, by the culture) that I’m less capable because I’m older? Up until Monday nothing had happened concretely that pointed to a diminishing of my faculties. I haven’t fallen and had a “I can’t get up” moment. I’ve never believed the IRS was going to issue a warrant for my arrest. But the fact that I was scammed and the fact that it scared me as much as it did, at first, left me shaken and filled with self-doubt. I felt very much like a stupid old woman. I spent the next day comfort eating and cowering in my bedroom. But on Wednesday I came out on the other side.
I realized that I haven’t gotten this far in my life to live it in fear. I have too much faith for that. One of the benefits of being in the second part of life is the sheer bulk of experience. I’ve had enough bad things happen through the years to know that I can overcome, survive and thrive. Ok, the scammer scared the sh** out of me but it’s over. I’m not going to look over my shoulder each time I leave my house. I’m not going to jump each time the phone rings fearing it’s the scammer. I refuse to allow him to become a boogie man under my bed every night when I’m alone or trying to sleep. I’ve toughed it out so far and I’m still here. If I look at myself objectively, without listening to the little voices in my head, I know I’m strong and capable. Age hasn’t changed that. And I’m old enough not to let some weasel lessen the appreciation I have for the very good life I’m blessed with. So since Wednesday I’ve been loving life in joy and gratitude. Thank you, Mr. Scammer Man.