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As a very small child I had horrible nightmares. I remember a few vivid nightmares even as far back as my babyhood. As long as I can remember I was flooded with intense fear that escalated as night fell. I never slept. I would stay up all night and keep watch because I always had this feeling that someone was coming at any moment to brutally murder me in some gruesome way.

I am not talking about being afraid of the dark. I was afraid of something heinous happening, and I would not let myself sleep because I wanted to be ready to run or fight when this horrible event occurred. I always had an instinct inside me that said, “I will not be an easy target!” I was a little girl when this began….as young as four or five or younger.

I did not know why I had such horrible fear and such gory obsessive thoughts. When asked what I was afraid of  I would always say, “I don’t know.” But I was terrified, and my sleeplessness began in early childhood. I remember telling my mom when I was around nine years old that I just could not take it anymore….that the fear and the sleeplessness was too much for me to handle….that it was ruining my life. It seemed as if no one could or would help me though.

I still have a sleep disorder. My body is well-trained to be awake at night. I no longer have the graphic thoughts that scare me, but I just do not sleep well or sometimes at all.

I have no idea where a tiny girl would get such graphic thoughts of being  violently brutalized. I never watched horror movies. I still do not watch them. They are not good for my soul, and I do not get any joy from being frightened in that way. I do not need a horror movie to add excitement or suspense to my life. I have had enough of that.

Somehow in my subconscious I just had a horrible feeling that there was a predator in my midst and that my life was going to end in some gruesome way.

And I have a waking memory that haunts me sometimes.

I was probably about 5 years old and my sister was about 9. We were sitting at the breakfast table in the kitchen, and my step-father was cooking omelets before school. I don’t think that my mother was home because we had just moved to another town when she married my step father, and she was still working an hour and a half away in our previous town. She was not there in the mornings, and she came home at night.

My older sister was sitting at the table across from me sobbing hysterically. She was yelling, “I want my dad!” through her sobs and her attempts to catch her breath. She was inconsolable, but actually no one was trying to console her at all.

I was very little, and I just remember staring helplessly at her across the table. My step father was banging around at the stove.

I just remember being frozen, staring, feeling helpless and hopeless. And I remember my sister not having a child’s tantrum but sobbing desperately, uncontrollably, helplessly…..hopelessly. And no one was there to comfort either of us.

My step father was getting more and more annoyed as the banging around the stove became more intense.

He walked up and dropped an omelet on my plate. I looked at it. I picked around at it with one hand while my head rested on my other hand. I listened to my sister’s cries and screams. My stomach turned. I got up and threw my food in the trash.

Suddenly to my dismay my step father stomped up to my sister and yelled, “Now look what you have done! You have ruined your sister’s breakfast!.”

I remember being shocked. I remember thinking, “No!”

I remember thinking, “How did I just get roped into being on his side. She did not ruin my breakfast. That is not what I was saying. Something ruined my breakfast, but it was not her!”

As a tiny five-year old girl I never said a word. I remained silent. I guess I went to kindergarten shortly after that.

I still do not know exactly what happened with my sister. I do not know what  happened to trigger her desperate cries although I have some good ideas. I cannot remember if this was an isolated incident or a regular occurrence. I know that this is a piece of a puzzle for me though because in spite of all that I blocked out for some reason this dark memory has remained with me and comes to my mind sometimes. It is like a dark shadow coming up behind me and tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear, “remember.”

I believe that deep inside a part of me knew that something heinous was going on and that there was a predator in my midst. I never felt totally safe. I just cannot remember details often, and in my baby mind there was a horror movie constantly playing. I could not understand or make sense of or accept what was happening. All I knew was that there was something nightmarish going on, and I was terrified for my life.

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Years ago I had the honor of being a part of a true tribe. We were brought together by the pull of gravity, by forces of nature, and by God himself I think because somehow we just came together at exactly the right time for exactly the right season. We were all troubled souls, and we were living in an underground party culture, but we were not afraid to seek truth and to talk openly about God in spite of our shadowy existences. There was a core group of about 6 to 8 of us that clung to each other and lived life together no matter what happened.

We literally lived together slumber party style every weekend, and we saw each other as much as possible during the week as well. We were totally vulnerable with one another. We hid nothing, and we let all of our skeletons out of the closet. We did not have to be good or bad when we were together. We were free at last to be ourselves no matter how dark or light we happened to be at any given moment. We were not trying to live up to any standards or uphold any reputations. We just were.

We took care of each other. We watched each other’s backs wherever we went, and we trusted each other with everything (our money, our belongings, our hearts, our lives.) Other people in the sub-culture noticed that there was something unusual about our tribe and about the way that we loved and cared for one another, and they would tell us that they wanted to be a part of it.  We would take them in, but they never hung around too long. They would be transient members that hung out for a time and then moved on or showed that they could not be trusted, but our core tribe never parted. We would argue amongst ourselves at times but not for long. We always came back together and worked it out.

We all had our roles in the group, and I was given the nick name “Lil’ Lightnin'” because I was the tiniest one in the crew, but I had a giant spark. I was the one that everyone knew they could run to at any hour, and I would take them in and care for them. I was always promoting love at all costs, but there was also a wild streak in me that would come out if you crossed me or one of my friends, and then “lightnin’ would strike!” I was always a pacifist, but apparently I could get you with my words in a way that let you know that you had messed with my peeps, and you would know without a doubt that you had been “struck by lightnin’!”

Those days were magical in many ways. We spent so much time together wild and free. Much of that time we were on the beach dancing all night in the light of the moon and the phosphorescence to the music of our own resident DJ. We could also be found huddled together under the stars deeply contemplating the universe or shallowly acting like goofballs  or just being silent as the waves crashed in and out. We let go of every care that we had in the world and lived in the moment. All of the pain and heaviness that we had carried throughout our lives just melted away when were in the comfort of each other’s presence. We were safe  together. We were free to be ourselves. Our hearts were wide open, and we were young wild flowers (both male and female) being carried by the ocean breeze.

We remained together in this strange lifestyle for about 8 years, and then as all things do, things began to change. I realized that I could not live like this forever and that it was time to grow up and straighten up my life. Others in the tribe went through changes of their own, and slowly we began to move apart. It still saddens me to this day that things had to change, but now there is no way to go back. Life is just different now.

But my tribe will always be a large part of my heart. If they need me they know that I am still “Lil’ Lightnin'” at heart, and I will always be here for them. We rarely see each other or talk anymore, and years have gone by. I have not experienced a closeness like that with a group since then. It was a unique thing in life and a unique season. There were consequences for some of our wildness, but I do not regret it. That was a necessary part of my life that carried me through a unique time to the present life that I now live. It was a necessary part of making me the person that I am today and in making me who I am becoming still.

The break up of a family like that is not an easy thing to get over. It has taken me years to transition from that experience. It is hard not to compare everything to it. After years and years I am finally beginning to open my heart to the idea of a new tribe that is in its youthful stages. Love like we had does not die, and it does not easily change, but it does change. And we have moved on.  I thank God for them, and I am thankful for the part that we played in each other’s lives during a crucial time when we all needed each other so much.

~Love to my lost tribe forever~