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Since early childhood, I had a sense of knowing my life was being somehow guided purposefully along in ways I could not consciously understand.

This inner sense was informing the choices on my path from a young age. I remember my first awareness of this came in a dream that woke me from my sleep when I was around ten years old. In my dream, I had a clear vision of pulling up in front of my parent’s home where I grew up, in a gold Rolls Royce. It was real and vivid, and I drew from this vision a sense of conviction that my life was somehow predestined. Having a Rolls Royce has never been important to me, but from this experience, I began to pay more attention to the images and visions presented to me in my waking thoughts and dreams. The image of the Rolls Royce often recurred in my dreams for years and always left me with a sense of assurance that all is well and to continue on my path.

Escaping to the depths of my imagination became a protective form of self-care that would shield me from the physical realities of my violent and traumatic environment. I would often find myself lost in a trance, and people would sometimes ask, “Where did you go?” I think this is why I so relate to the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Today, we know this trance-like state of “checking out” is often associated with trauma and acts to shield the mind from further harm.

My inner world was an adventure land of characters and images that would inspire me in my dark moments. Fortunately, my mother was a journalist and a movie buff, so by the time I was six to ten, I had an impressive compendium of movies and actors I idolized and related to on a deeper level. In my mind, I would find myself living and re-living my dealings with groups of neighborhood bullies who often chased and caught me with violent consequences. I imagined myself as the lethal embodiment of John Wayne, Bruce Lee, and The Incredible Hulk, all wrapped up into one, beating and throwing people around effortlessly. My enemies would find themselves cowering and begging for me to stop. But I would snap out of my trance into paralyzing fear when my mother would simply ask me to go to the store to get groceries, which was almost a nightly occurrence. There was an odd incongruence about this dream state I had conjured up, and the real-life I was living that I still can’t explain. She didn’t understand at all what it took for me to set foot outside of our front door. I learned from others many years later that when I went to the store, by the time I rounded the corner just a few houses away, neighborhood bullies living close by would have already telephoned each other with the phrase “the rabbit is loose.”

My neighborhood felt similar to what I had seen in wild Africa on television. There was danger close everywhere, and whether I was the hunter, or the hunted, whenever I left my house, I’d better be running.

We lived near a shopping center where the grocery store was on the far side from us about a half-mile away. So, every time I would exit my front door, I developed a set of waypoints to scout ahead and around me for danger. There were vast acres of parking lots I would have to cross, fully exposed, to get to safety. Unfortunately, a group of predators, my sworn enemies, took great pleasure in chasing me like a pack of wolves working to coordinate their efforts.

I remember when I was about 15, a Carnival came to town in the park next to the shopping center. On my way to the store, it was risky, but I had to get a look at it.  I was nervously peering into the crowd of people from behind some large bushes, hoping I would not be spotted, but it was too late.  I felt the eyes upon me, and as I looked around, a group of bullies had already encircled me. Immediately they started shoving, punching, and taunting me. They went back and forth, arguing about which one of them would fight me. One of the tougher bullies won out and said he wouldn’t fight me, but his younger brother would, who was more my match, he said. Thankfully, a couple of large men who there with their kids saw what was happening and intervened to break us up. I was able to fade into the crowd quickly and dodge through the bushes to escape. But instead of going home as I should have, I went to a friend’s house not far from the park where I was in the beginning stages of taking Karate lessons. And that is overstating it; I was a white belt, the lowest level of student who knew next to nothing. The teacher’s name was Ron, who was just one grade ahead of me in school and had a reputation as one of the toughest guys in the neighborhood. One of Ron’s students was Frank, a wiry, muscular guy who was a wizard with numb chucks. He and I were huge Bruce Lee fans, and he vouched for me to Ron so he would teach me. There was also a Greg and Larry who were also Bruce Lee fanatics. 

When I got to Ron’s house, I was upset, and the guys finally pried out of me what had just happened at the park. Before we knew it, all of them declared we were going to the park to find these guys. This was not the response I expected and was immediately terrified. “Are they crazy?” I thought. But before I could talk them out of it, they shoved me into an old station wagon Ron borrowed from his mom. And there I was, held hostage, being driven back to certain danger and most likely, physical harm.

It was like being in two different realities. I was in the back seat almost sucking my thumb in a half fetal position against the door, and all four of them were wild-eyed, high fiving, and fist-bumping. Ron was smiling and laughing as his body bopped up and down with his arms flexing on the steering wheel. I was physically ill and traumatized, frozen and unable to move. 

As soon as we arrived we wasted no time, they escorted me through the crowd, telling me to point out who was bullying me. It only took a matter of minutes because the bullies spotted me first and came right to us. The tougher guys on both sides got nose to nose, and we almost got into it right then and there. After putting each other in check, the alphas on the other side declared they wanted to put one of them up to fight me. To my surprise, my friends agreed immediately without even asking me. “Why is this happening to me?” I thought to myself. I could see that my young sensei expected me to demonstrate what I had been learning from him, and it was a test. I looked over and saw an adult carnie taking a break by a trailer, smoking a cigarette. He had overheard everything and shook his head as he commented, “I didn’t see a thing.”

And that was my last hope of getting out of this situation. Before another word, the excitement took over, and the crowd began to push us from the small grassy circle we were standing in, out into the light of the asphalt parking lot. The word spread about a fight, and the small crowd immediately grew to well over a hundred people, laughing and taunting us to get on with it.

There was no one coming to rescue me, and I was almost blacking out from a panic attack.

One of the alphas from the other side started backing the crowd up to expand the circle until it was about twenty feet across. And then they shoved the guy I was to fight out in front of me. I knew him from growing up in the neighborhood, but we had never fought for real, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. He looked pretty nervous as well, and after we both paused to size each other up, his brother shoved him toward me and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Kick his ass!” He put his hands up and came at me as I backed up a couple of paces and put my hands up. The crowd started taunting  as loud as they could in unison “Kick his ass, kick his ass, kick his ass.”

At first, we danced around each other, neither of us on the attack. I glanced over his shoulder to see my sensei and other students standing together with their arms crossed, glaring at me, Ron was nodding his head, commanding me to strike. I looked back at my opponent, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet with his hands up when I stepped right into his space and flattened his nose with a straight right. His face exploded in blood, and he stepped back in shock. As I saw both hands go over his face, I hesitated and then kicked, full force, as hard as I could, up and into his groin. I thought this would put him down but instead, he screamed in agony and lunged toward me, his bloody hands grabbing my shirt. I was able to move aside and throw him to the ground hard and then backed up. Immediately, he bounced off the pavement, still screaming, and came at me. His mouth was full of blood that was spitting out as he was screaming and crying at the same time. He tried to grab me in a bear hug as he slammed his forehead into my chest in an attempt to throw me. Instinctively I reached around and locked both his arms above the elbows which made his arms hyperextend. As he let out a squeal of pain, we went down hard on the asphalt. He was on top of me but unable to do any damage while I tried to pull hard to break his elbows, which made him scream even louder into my ear. His forehead was pressed against the side of my face, and a continuous flow of blood ran directly into my ear and all over my face, neck, and chest. We stayed on the ground wrestling for a good while until we were broken apart to keep fighting. As we rose up, I could see his brother was furious and didn’t like that I was winning. He was staring right at me and lunged toward us to jump in and take over. I got spooked and my eyes darted back at my bloody opponent. Just behind him, I saw an opening of a few feet between the crowd that was in the direction of the grocery store across the parking lot about a quarter-mile away.

This is when everything went into slow motion. Without thinking, I ran toward him and gave him a slug as I shoved him aside and went into a full sprint through the opening of the crowd. At first, this caught everyone by surprise, but within nanoseconds, I could hear a herd of feet right up on me, yelling threats and obscenities. They were right on my ass, but I was so terrified I could tell without looking back I was pulling away. Suddenly a group of three or four on bikes caught the corner of my eye and one of them veered right in front of me to block my path. I dodged around one and clotheslined another as I hurtled his bike and kept sprinting. I heard the slap of his body and his bike biting it hard with a scream as he hit the asphalt behind me. The wreck also served to slow the crowd chasing me just a little as they stutter-stepped in all directions trying to avoid tripping over him.

I made it as far as the electric doors at the grocery store entrance before the group on bikes caught up again and grabbed me from behind. They pulled me by the hair and shirt, keeping me pinned just outside as I grabbed onto the edge of the opening door, screaming for help.

One of the clerks grabbed me by the arm and the belt around my waist. A few others arrived to help and eventually were able to pull me through the doors into the store as the manager yelled the police were coming. Suddenly, about ten or so of the crowd who were running arrived and completely blocked the entrance as they threatened and taunted with a lot of foul language.

I thanked the clerk and noticed he was looking at my face in shock. I realized there was a massive amount of dried blood caked in my ear and all over my face and neck. The front of my shirt was completely soaked. “It’s not mine,” I gasped, trying to catch my breath. I could tell he was relieved.

I went to the back of the store to use the restroom and wash my face. When I came out and went to the front of the store, I didn’t see anyone near the door and thought they had left to avoid the police. As I peered through the electric doors outside, a few guys grabbed and shoved me from behind through the doors. We wrestled in the doorway until I was pulled back inside again by the clerks.

Harvesting Wisdom:

This example was a simple but necessary lesson I needed to learn, to cultivate, and trust my sense of knowing. I already knew I shouldn’t have gone to the carnival alone, and did it anyway. So, in effect, I put in motion and created the entire event.



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