Bad things happen when I leave my phone at home. The mindfulness “just-be-in-the moment” movement has a lot to answer for, frankly. Like the time I tried to be in the moment with my kids at the playground and Whitney Houston died and nobody else worked at Mamamia back then except me so I had to scramble to write a post and get the news up. Hours late.
Or the time I went out with my girlfriend Bron, and decided to turn my phone off so I wouldn’t be distracted only to turn it back on as we left the restaurant and have it explode with dozens of missed calls and text notifications from my husband the highlight of which was this:
“Coco has hurt her neck, I’ve called an ambulance.”
[spoiler: she was OK and in fact asleep by the time I got the message with no lasting physical or emotional damage].
“You can’t ever turn your phone off,” Bron texted me later that night. “Not when you’re somebody’s mother.”
These are wise words and I’ve lived by them pretty much since. But on holidays with my family last week, I thought we were safe. The only child who wasn’t with me was 19 years old and wouldn’t even notice if I wasn’t phone-accessible for, say, an hour.
A beach walk to the nearby creek with my husband and children? A great opportunity to break the shackles that bind my phone to me at all times. Live in the moment! Be present! Mindful! Remember tender moments in my heart instead of being absorbed in capturing them with a camera!
What could possibly go wrong?
A few hours later, I’m at the local police station.
I’d been surprised to notice bullet-proof glass as I walked in, separating me from the police officer on the other side. He looked up as I approached the desk between us.
“How can I help you?”
“Oh hello! I’d like to report a naked man.” I announce, with a fake confidence designed to sweep away any awkwardness. Keep sweeping, there is about to be so much more.
The policeman reached for a pad and pen and began taking notes as I start talking.
“We were down at the beach and there was a naked guy there.”
“Which part of the beach were you on?”
“That’s not a clothing-optional part of the beach. He shouldn’t have been naked for a start.”
Listen to Mia Freedman on Mamamia’s podcast I Don’t Know How She Does It. Post continues after audio.
“Yes, well we’ve been coming here for 20 years so I’m used to seeing the odd nude guy on the beach but usually it’s older guys or couples and they keep to themselves. This guy was…..more brazen.”
“What was he doing?”
“Well, my kids were building sandcastles and my husband was a few hundred metres away and he just walked towards where they were sitting so I immediately went and sat with them and he just came too close, you know? Then he walked past and just sort of…..lingered. Did some stretches, kept looking around, wanting us to look at him.”
“What did he look like? Can you describe him?”
“Yes. He was in his 20s or early 30s. Very fit and muscly. He had no pubic hair and he was uncircumscised…..that’s how close he was to us.”
The police officer didn’t flinch. I tried not to. I kept going.
“Then he walked over to where a woman was sunbaking alone and he was just hanging around near her in a weird, sexually aggressive way. When she noticed him, she packed up her stuff and moved and then he went over to another woman.”
The officer interrupted me at this point. “And you didn’t think to call us?”
"I was trying to be mindful! I didn't have my phone!"
He blinked. He was not happy with this answer. Fair enough. Me neither. "What happened then?"
"My husband started walking towards him and as soon as he saw him he quickly pulled his shorts on, grabbed his bag and started heading quickly off down the beach. I couldn't even get a photo! Bloody mindfullness!"
He asked more questions. I described the creepy nude guy in more detail. Closely cropped hair. Tanned all over. Red cap. Black tight shorts.
The officer took down my details and told me to call them if I saw this creep again. I thanked him and left the police station feeling like I'd done something even if it wasn't enough. Maybe someone else would report this guy. Maybe he would do something else and the description would match up. Maybe it would help. This guy was clearly a predator and he'd clearly done it before.
Later, back home, it sparked a good conversation with my kids about 'funny feelings'. Apparently that's what you should teach kids these days.....it's less about stranger danger and more about when something just doesn't feel right. When someone gives you a funny feeling; notice it and get away.
And take your phone with you, dammit.
Mindfulness is over-rated.
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