I was not a normal child.

  And it was not just because my life began in tragedy. My first memories are of me, as a newborn, being carried in a blanket, a pink one, into my family’s small apartment in an equally small city in south Georgia. And for the record, I only knew later that I was a newborn because my senses did not work. It was sorta like getting hit in the head really hard by a baseball, on the part of your head not covered by your helmet. Your vision blurs and all sounds are strangely muffed, like being under water. Moreover, I could not focus or form a thought. Yet, I have this memory. It seems that during the early days of physical life, one’s spiritual memory briefly persists after one crosses over. And so was the case for me. I was only self conscious for a brief moment, but that moment was sufficient to give me awareness beyond myself. And this experience, or rather, the gradual interpretation of the memory, was one of my first training exercises, as it taught me to perceive without being able to perceive, and to know, without being able to know.

  Indeed, it would be sometime before I was able to consciously interpret the memory and even understand it. Imagine seeing a pink object, but not knowing “pink”. Or feeling the soft sensation of a blanket rubbing against your body, but not knowing what it felt like to be touched. Imagine being carried, but not understanding that that the swaying motion indicated that you were moving. Imagine hearing, but having no frame of reference to process the sound or even understand what the sensation of hearing is.

  Terrifying. And precisely why the human brain is hardwired to not generally store memories from that time in our lives in an easily retrievable place. But please note that for all of us, the memories are there, latent, waiting for you to embrace them. Indeed, some of the most fearless Champions that I have ever encountered became that way by exploring and experiencing these uncatalogued memories. And no, I am afraid that I am not yet brave enough to delve much deeper into these memories.

  In fact, the really funny thing here is that my mother never admitted any of the circumstances of my birth. Indeed, it was not until I told her that I knew what happened did she reluctantly admit to my first few months being spent in a pink crib with pink blankets and clothes. It was a few more years before she admit to wanting to name me "Tina". I caused that poor woman so much pain. She did not deserve it, or me.

  But, retunring to the point here, as it turned out, I was rather precocious. I could read at 2, not fully, but when it counted. If the special on the menu for the church kitchen said “hamburgers”, I would stop my mother to say “Ma, I want a hamburger!” And when she lied, “baby, they do not have any hamburgers.” I could reply, “yes they do ma, it says so right on that chalkboard.”

  That kinda stuff used to scare the crap out of my ma, who never knew how to handle, or what to do with, a 2 year old who could arguably read, and so, in that vacuum I learned, at an early age, to amuse myself in the context of a very, very vivid and active imagination. And I think that is where the problem, and the blessing, began.

  To pass the time, I often laid in my bed, closed my eyes and just daydreamed about this or that or my favorite tv show at the time. And in 1979, every small child was addicted to the Muppets – Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Animal and Fonzi to name a few. But for me, my personal favorite was Animal. Don't know why, but I liked his chains, and his defiant attitude.

  Anyway, one night after Ma had put me to bed, I decided to not go to sleep but to daydream, and so I began my daydreaming exploits, playing with the Muppets. However, as I was apt to do, my daydream became a dream, as I slowly succumbed to fatigue and actually fell asleep. At first, the dream was indistinguishable from my daydream, but gradually all of my imaginary playmates wandered off, and suddenly I was alone in a field, bordered by a forest on one side and steep rocks on the other. For reasons that I cannot explain, I felt compelled to go toward the rocks.

  As I approached the rocks, I heard a familiar drum beat being played. It was Animal! And it sounded like he was just around the corner. So I broke into a full blown sprint toward the rocks, and upon arriving at the base of the large granite boulders, I noticed that the rocks obscured a small opening into the ground – it was a small cave.

  Now even as a small child, I would have never entered a cave, especially in a dream. But Animal’s drum playing got louder and beckoned me into the opening. The cave itself was odd. First, it was lit with an eerie red light that had no obvious source. The air seemed cold, but had no detectable odor, other than an undescrible dampness that permeated the ambiance of that place. The walls were bare rock, with stalatites and stalagmites scattered around the path through the middle of the cave.

  As I slowly inched deeper into the cave, I noticed other Muppets peering from behind rocks. I couldn’t figure out why the other Muppets were acting so weird. Animal would know what is going on, and from the sound of it, he was just around the bend. So I hurried around the corner and sure enough, Animal was there. But he seemed different; well, I guess, well, he “spoke” but didn’t use words. He wanted me to come with him. Deeper into the cave. We could play forever there. Be together forever.

  Now, I loved Animal, more than anything else in the world, but Animal would never do anything without his drums! And Animal didn’t talk! Yet this one spoke to me clearly, but without words. My young mind screamed danger! So, I decided to leave and turned to walk away, but Animal would not let me go. Stay. He grabbed my arm, and I panicked, and my entire being screamed to flee. And I just decided to do just that.

  Suddenly, I was awake, like I am when I daydream, but my body felt numb, cold and empty. Unfamilar, almost like I was a visitor in my own body. I struggled to move, but I could not. My entire body tingled, like a limb that fell asleep. I awoke too quickly, and I was "stuck", a mind in a body that was not prepared to receive it. But after a few moments, my body began to respond to my commands, and I could move again. As I slowly awakened, I winced, as I suddenly felt pain from my arm, precisely where Animal had grabbed me.

  That was the first time that I ever opened a rupture from a dream and returned, if rather abruptly, to my body, but it would not be the last. That first incident thoroughly traumatized me;however in time, I learned to transition more smoothly from one place to the next. Nevertheless, I never forgot that episode, and to this day, I still search for the demon cowardly enough to torture a child, to scar a child. And to this day, I still do not sleep in the dark.

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