Listening to What’s Keeping us Awake at Night

Over the last couple of weeks while I was in my cave, and despite being totally worn down with a sinus infection, I found myself lying awake at night watching scenes from my childhood play across my mind, particularly ones featuring my domineering best friend, Lina. I hadn't thought of her in decades! The first night, this little mind-movie was a curiosity. The second night, it was somewhat annoying. On the third night, I finally said, "All right, all right! I'll get up and journal about it already!"

And so I did. I had a vague sense that there was a key hiding in these memories that would unlock a particular door of healing that I needed at this moment in time. I wondered if these memories were being triggered by the flower essences I was taking. After all, one of them was supposed to assist in clearing old energies, and my relationship with Lina was certainly old energy. The other one was to support me with self-love. I didn't immediately see any connections between Lina and my current life, but I've learned enough over the past few years to trust where this was heading. 

The 40 ot 6
When I was seven years old, Lina became my best friend simply because she was the only girl in a five mile radius … plus I was afraid she'd beat me up if I said no. Her first words to me when we moved in were, "Get off my property or I'll come after you with my Dad's 40 Yacht Six!" I obviously had no idea what a 40 yacht six was, only realizing later that she meant a gun, and maybe it was supposed to be a 30 ot 6, not 40, but it scared me nonetheless. There was an introductory period in which my play time was shared between Lina and Willy, the other young neighbor on our 4-house, dead-end road in the boonies of Brush Prairie, Washington. It wasn't long, though, before she gave me the ultimatum: Willie or her. There was to be no sharing. She was a monogamous friend. I didn't see much choice at the time. Willie was cut out of the equation and Lina and I became exclusive.

The Forts
Sure, there was some fun involved. We were forever building forts and tree-houses. Every tree in every surrounding field – and there were dozens – was modified in some way by our creativity. Most of the forts were made of plywood sheets propped up by scraps of two by fours jammed into the dirt and the tree trunks at just the right angles. 

Once we became experienced fort-builders, we decided to try our hand at building a two-story structure with pilfered wood and nails, and a little engineering help from her older brother. We were ultimately mistrustful of the rickety, homely thing, though, and abandoned it shortly thereafter. 

For each fort, we formed a club. Lina was always the de-facto president and I was always the secretary. Though I secretly dreamed of the presidency, I knew I would never attempt a coup. 

The Barn Jump
And that's about where the fun ended. The rest became a daily exercise in pushing down my fears and hoping I didn't get killed. She was forever stretching my limits. Everything she wanted to do felt dangerous to me; heck, voicing a contrary opinion felt dangerous, but I went along with her anyway, and kept my fears and opinions to myself. She once convinced me to sneak into a stranger's barn with her, and then, when we heard someone coming, her solution was to jump out the upper window onto a thinnish pile of hay below. I was scared to death to jump, of course. It was a long way down. But she got my mind spinning on what kind of axe-murderer was on his way up the stairs, and so I jumped, landing on my back and knocking the wind out of my body. I thought I was done for. She grabbed me by the arm and dragged me toward the barbed-wire fenced we'd climbed through, with me sucking as hard as I could to get some air back into my lungs.

This was a normal day for us, and I mostly hated it.

On the days we weren't out trespassing, we'd hang out at her house. Occasionally her mom or her dad was there, but usually there were no adults. Her teen-age brother, Mike, was often hanging around, lying on the dark couch in the dark living room, listening to rock music on his headphones. Lina and I would make Top Ramen or else eat taco seasoning right out of the packet while skimming her older sister's racy books that had the word "sex" in them. 

The Near Train Wreck
This might seem relatively safe and innocent, but in retrospect, it's incredibly disturbing to me that I was allowed to spend so much unsupervised time over there as a youngster. You see, I'm pretty sure her father was drunk most of the time. Once, a few of us were in the car while he was driving through town. There were railroad tracks everywhere in Brush Prairie, and in the '70s, there weren't gates or flashing lights at the crossings – just wooden signs. You had to be train-aware. We were approaching a crossing and could hear the train whistle blowing pretty loudly. We all looked up to see the train quickly approaching, but Gene wasn't slowing down. We began to yell for him to stop, and he shouted, "Shut up! I know what I'm doing." We shot across the tracks right in front of that train. We barely avoided getting smashed to smithereens. 

The Car Crash
Her mom wasn't much better. In another driving mishap, "Sadie the Lady" (that's what she liked to be called) apparently didn't see all the cars stopped in front of her. She slammed on her brakes while steering toward the side of the road, which at the time was piled with ash from the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Ash is some slippery stuff, and it shot us out across the center line into oncoming traffic. Sadie swung us sideways to avoid a head-on collision, and a car slammed into my side of the car, somehow causing the door to swing open. Lina and I were in the bench seat in the back - not wearing seat belts, of course. I remember that door flying open, and Lina flinging herself across the seat to grab me and pull me on top of her so I didn't fly out of the careening car. It was yet another near-death experience with my best friend.

The Jailbirds
The other unsettling thing about spending time with her family was her brothers. The oldest brother was in jail at the time – I forget why. That should have given my mom a little red flag, but apparently it didn't faze her, or more likely, she just didn't know about it. Mike, the other one, always gave me kind of a creepy feeling. I chalked it up to shyness around older boys at the time. A few short years later, he turned out to be a serial rapist and murderer, and is currently serving a life sentence on top of a 60-year sentence - just to be sure he stays locked up, I guess. And I spent countless unsupervised hours in a house with him in it!!! 

The Fit
So, now that you have a sense of this friendship and the crazy family that came along with it, you might understand why, as I unearthed these memories, I became very, very, VERY angry. I was angry at Lina for being such a bossy-boss and for pushing my boundaries so relentlessly. I was angry at her knuckle-dragging family and the subtle influence they probably exerted over my budding worldview - not to mention all the life-endangerment. I was angry at my mother for allowing me to spend so much unsupervised time with Lina and for not noticing that her daughter was living in constant fear. 

Most of all, I was angry at myself for not being strong enough to stand up to Lina, for not talking to my mom about my fears, and for allowing those few years of self-capitulation to become my long-term strategy for getting by in the world. That is when I decided my voice didn't count; that I didn't count. That's when I got so comfortable with fear that it felt like homeostasis to me. That was my first experience with codependency and enabling, setting the standard for many of my relationships to come.

I was so mad that I cried until I could hardly breathe. As you might recall from my previous post, I have long suspected that anger is the catalyst for my sinus infections. Bingo! I had managed to get to a deep source of some of my suppressed anger. My next step was to decide what to do about it. I attempted to do some journaling around forgiveness, but it just didn't feel true. I was writing the words, but I didn't feel them. I was still too mad. 

The Forgiveness
The next morning, I called back my flower essence gal, and that's when she sent me the Dagger Hakea essence to help deal with resentment. It's really amazing how these flower essences work! At first, I couldn't let go of the anger at Lina, my mom and myself. I just couldn't find a way to honestly let us off the hook. But when I started taking the Dagger Hakea, all of that anger and resentment just disintegrated. Of course Lina was the way she was, poor thing. Look at that family! And my mom had no idea what was going on. How could she? I told her nothing, probably to protect Lina. As for me, Brush Prairie was the tenth place I'd lived in my seven years and I craved a close friend of my own. It's not surprising that I put up with the craziness and did whatever Lina said in order to keep her as my friend. It wasn't a hateful character flaw – just some understandable desperation.

The Flood
Not only did I feel a huge relief from the clearing of my resentments and my sinuses, but within a few days I was flooded with new ideas, focus, and clarity. Apparently, I'd created an enormous vacuum in my energy field, which made room for all of this great stuff that had just been waiting for enough breathing room to come on in! I was reaching decisions on choices I'd been debating for way too long - some for as long as a year! Writing ideas were coming to me in rapid-fire succession, and the sticky-notes began to cover my desk. Most of all, with the release of all of that anger, especially the self-directed part, I felt like I was finally easing up on myself, and experiencing something akin to self-love.

I dare say none of this would have happened if I had ignored what was keeping me awake those first three nights. If I hadn't been willing to listen to that nudge from spirit, saying in essence, "Yes. Go there. Go deep. You'll be glad you did. Trust me on this one," I would have remained stuck. I would have missed the opportunity to let it all go. 

The Challenge
So … if you're being kept up at night with seemingly random thoughts, and you roll over and force yourself back to sleep, just think of what you might be missing!


Kathryn March 12, 2010 at 6:25 AM  

Great post Alexis! I seriously was laughing out loud as you illustrated the Lina-Alexis friendship model. I love your writing and story telling. This actually sparked something in me from when I was a young girl in recognizing myself in both the Alexis role and Lina role...and how I probably need to take a few action steps myself (particularly with people I was Lina with). Thank you.

Julie March 12, 2010 at 11:38 AM  

wow - sounds like you've been on such a journey, of remembering, acknowledging and and coming to understanding and forgiveness. It struck me as I was reading how odd that your family let you be around these people, before you specifically commented on it, but I guess it was a different way of doing things back then, and we were all given much more freedom, with the consequences. I also remembered how much I kept from my parents about my unhappiness at school, and how shocked they've been as I've told them things as I've got older - when you are a kid, you kind of expect them to understand without you actually telling them. What a wonderful outcome though - to have realised all that negativity and to have found such passions and creative energy to fill the void. Hope all continues to go well, including your recovery to full health.

Alexis Ahrens March 13, 2010 at 1:22 PM  

Kathryn~ Thanks for the compliment on my storytelling. I appreciate it. I am glad this sparked something in you and encouraged you to explore and release any of your own stories that may have gotten stuck. See? We never know the ripple effects of our sharing.

Julie~ Thank you for the warm and encouraging words. That bit about growing up in a different time with so much freedom is something I've been thinking about deeply lately. There's much backlash against "helicopter" parenting these days, but I think it's so understandable, considering many of us were raised by a rather self-focused generation. We look back in disbelief and sadness on how much our parents didn't know about us, and it makes sense that we'd want to hold our own children just a bit more tightly.

Healing our own wounds helps us respond from a more proactive place rather than in reaction to our own parenting. In that space of awareness, we are better able to find our own balance between smothering and neglect that works for us and our children. I hope that's what this inner work is doing for me.


LoveCompanion March 13, 2010 at 9:16 PM  

Alexis, this post was very eye-opening and when I got to 'The Fit' part I thought of a dream I just had the other night which disturbed me and it is this journey of self which took on subtle messages that I came to believe that 'i was not good enough' or 'accepted just as i was' and later that 'others did not believe in me' from a few teacher's perspectives. I think that wears on a child. I suppressed a lot and I think really there is still anger on board that I was not accepted for who I was and so now that my heart is opening again I fear also not being accepted for who I am because I am creating now from that inner child, so that vulnerability still exists. This gives me some things to think on. I have had a lot of messages from dreams lately. I just remember from this one feeling like such a 'wanderer' and just nowhere that I went in the dream felt 'right' for me. (friends, family, legalistic realm etc) I just wanted to run!!! thank you for letting me share here today in reflection of the mirror of being. It is so healing. ~Jenn

Janice March 14, 2010 at 4:41 PM  

I love the post and your writing. I'm glad that your blogging again. I missed your writing. :-)

Great work, Alexis! I need to find me a flower essences gal! :-)


Alexis Ahrens March 14, 2010 at 4:46 PM  

Hi Jenn~ I am so honored that you shared your own experience here! Yes, opening our hearts does certainly allow other "non-loving" beliefs to surface and be healed. You are very brave and wise to be willing to explore this for yourself.

You're so right that it does wear on a child. In this culture, almost all of us have some version of "not good enough" spinning around in our brains. So many of us look back and realize we weren't really known for who we are, and that's painful.

For me, what has helped so much is to just be present to the pain that arises at these times of release and to allow myself to feel it - almost like it's a wave moving through me. I used to resist, try to solve, intellectualize the experience, and so I didn't get the chance to ride the wave all the way until it dissipated.

A final note - so great that you're getting a lot of messages from your dreams. You mentioned in your other comment that you journal regularly. Are you journaling these dreams? I don't even think there's a need to go back and analyze them, but when we write them down, we're still working out the messages on some deep level. The wandering dream you mention sounds a lot like a genre of dreams I have periodically that I call "traveling dreams." Wandering seems to fit even better, but I came up with that name years ago to vaguely try to group them, since they all had the same unsatisfied, unbelonging, searching, and moving on kind of vibe.

How great to connect with you here! I'm thrilled that you found my site and I look forward to more lovely exchanges with you, Jenn!

Alexis Ahrens March 14, 2010 at 4:47 PM  

Janice~ Thanks so much for your sweet words. I appreciate the support. A flower essences gal would be so great for you - and Moses, too!

amy March 15, 2010 at 12:52 PM  

i've had similar experiences with sickness & vivid insight it's incredibly frustrating to have all of it come up in the middle of the night...but so worth the loss of sleep (that would probably occur anyway) to find clarity. i think you might even thank lina for making you stronger!

Alexis Ahrens March 15, 2010 at 2:04 PM  

Amy~ I know, right? You think to yourself that what you need more than anything else when you're sick is sleep, and then you end up awake all night with tortured memories. The only way through them is through them, though. Good for you that you managed to stick with the thoughts until the insights arose.

As for thanking Lina, hmmm... I suppose you're right. I'm only seeing it in the current sense, though, as in: I feel stronger for having let go of it all. Might I have felt just as strong, if not stronger, from a much earlier age without all of this baggage in the first place? Maybe. Maybe not. But since it happened the way it did, there's nothing to do but be grateful for how it contributed to who I am now. Thanks for the thoughts!

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