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The shredder’s whine and engorgement of previously valid documents reminds me of the ego’s painful process of letting go—Certainly, the experience, for most of my life.   

My collection of paper caricatures of who I thought was began with baptism and communion and confirmation as drawn up by the parish church, followed by signatures on vow formulas, as a nun, and later, on its dispensation granted by the Vatican in Rome. I was also collecting paper degrees, with corresponding certifications as teacher, as social worker, and as hospital chaplain, each of which substantiated my identity. Outside of what I did for a living, I had no identity.

With the early onset of rheumatoid arthritis came more reports from internists, rheumatologists, and surgeons, results of lab and x-ray work-ups, and a spiral bound notebook for notes, remembered from office visits.

Then, came the three-year marriage: with more signatures at City Hall, at the church, followed by the divorce decree and the subsequent annulment. The bottom drawer of my desk housed these documents; it remained shut until the next change. Never did I ever know whom everyone was describing. It seemed like someone else.

And it was. Only after a series of painful dreams did I seek Jungian analysis in 1988. Thus began close listening and study of my unconscious that was desperately seeking to be heard. Imperceptibly, I began to change: the fruit of daily recording my dreams and their meanings, enclosed within thirty-two loose-leaf binders that lined my bookshelves.

With my 2001 retirement, I began serious writing and Twelve Step work on my character defects. The rest is in print.

The shredder’s power to re-constitute whatever it was fed is like another Power who has reshaped my past: it is me and not me, at the same time, with conscious contact of my Higher Power.

At 3:30 A.M., I smiled, recording this dream:

After a long absence, I’ve returned to the Lindell Club to attend a Women’s meeting of Alcohol Anonymous. Animation swells the room filled with mismatched tables and chairs. Sunshine streams through streaked windows. When my recovery buddies spot me, they run over and hug me.

The Lindell Club, housed in an 1890s brownstone, has been a privately maintained hub for recovering alcoholics in the Greater St. Louis area since 1950. A significant container for changing lives, it has served me well as far back as 1991, when I first found my way up the marble steps to the front stoop letting onto the massive black doors. That noon meeting launched my entrance into Alcoholic Anonymous and my life has never been the same.

The image of mismatched tables and chairs speaks of AA’s identification with the first beatitude of Jesus: Blessed are the poor of spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, an identification that also extends to material things. Only the lowly can access Higher Power’s transforming grace for the willingness to change everything; with light hearts, we participate in His dream for us.

(I still remember the faded leatherette peeling from the chair in which I was sitting that first afternoon.)

And the image of my recovery buddies suggests vibrant healing of the Feminine spirit within my psyche. Multiple years of self-hatred and emotional dishonesty, juiced by sweet wines, had scarred my psyche. Desperate for relief, I was heartened as others shared their experiences working the 12 Steps. Immediately, I began the arduous task of self-scrutiny that led to meaningful relationships with Higher Power, others, and myself. Although presently homebound, isolation no longer blocks me from others.

This dream feels like Higher Power’s winking “Well done!” Yet, only my last breath will complete this graced work.

 

This morning’s dream invited me to enter Silence. I was alone. Soft light-warmth permeated every cell of my being: Tingly with joy all over, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It seemed to last forever, until jolted back into my old body with its worsening symptoms, but not to fret. In memory, I can return to this exquisite revelation of what is surely to come. Someone loves me with exceeding gentleness—and everyone else, as well.

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