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On the other side of change lurks the unknown, at times fraught with crippling fears for most of us.

I still shudder remembering the first wrench: leaving home for the semi-cloistered convent after college. Only the trousseau afforded clues of the lifestyle I was preparing to embrace, and that wasn’t much: linens, toothpaste, rubbers, galoshes, Girl Scout shoes, man-sized handkerchiefs, white nightgowns, etc. Once behind the enclosure, daily changes whittled my identity to the robot-like postulant that I became with nineteen others.

The second wrench was leaving the convent seventeen years later, on my own forthe first time in my life. Helpers showed up precisely when I needed them, but lesserfears still tinged decisions and scrambled my thoughts while moving from city tocity, from job to job, from advanced degree to advanced degree.

The third turn-around was surrendering to my disease of alcoholism and joining Alcoholics Anonymous in 1991. Again, others modeled practicing the 12 Steps until I was willing to practice them myself, and with Higher Power’s help, explore the faulty bedrock of my identity and rip it out. At last, I was becoming my own person.

And now the fourth change—accommodating terminal illness in my lungs within the Unknown, buoyed by the gentle discipline of Chronic Pain Anonymous. To this daily practice, I bring the compass of faith. I’m in good company. In some future not of my devising, this part of my journey will end. In my dreams, however, I am still healthy, still learning.

So like everyone else, I am mortal and show up for each day’s experience.

 

 

Midnight—my neighborhood, bone-quiet. Yet, strident voices in my psyche rouse me from deep sleep, prodding me to get a snack. I am hungry, not having eaten sufficiently during the day. Work on the Memorial Mass had consumed me: My emotions ran high selecting suitable hymns from the St. Louis Jesuits that had inspired years of prayer at The College Church.

Four hours later, the same voices pull me from sleep, prod me to sit at my word processor, and write. It is dark, chilly in my study, the whir of the concentrator in the next room. Recall of the accompanying dream story could have specified the disorder—It must be about listening.

Three hours later, I awake to another dream: It is quiet. Outside my window crews of workmen have removed centuries-old oak trees and excavated deep holes in the ground for new foundations.

 More work still to be done—more trust and surrender to the Contractor’s plan. Again, I clamber onto the path and start out.

 

 

Listening relaxes strangleholds that impound change within padlocked barriers.

Listening steels resolve to accept the unacceptable, with its terror of the unknown.

Listening encourages taking the next step wherever it leads, up or down, anywhere.

Listening eases raspy breaths until the next treatment, with the expulsion of fluids.

 

Listening stills the gibberish wheel whirling nonessentials into crazed perceptions.

Listening staunches imperatives that impound choices within sticky globs of paste.

Listening softens the jagged edges of anger intent upon maiming, grousing, lying.

Listening defuses pompous pretending like pricking helium balloons tied to gates.

 

Listening twizzles cacophony into harmonious rhythms that brilliance moods.

Listening unearths flickering images signaling critical change in the night sky.

Listening greens hope that hides out in recesses of stuffed closets and drawers.

Listening waters parched arroyos with decades of insect and animal detritus.

 

Listening enhances words that vibrate like dulcimers along mountain streams.

Listening teases shimmering pastels that titter in sunshine-drenched mornings.

Listening patches potholes of isolation and ignorance with significant connections.

Listening burgeons whispered prayer like striped camellia blossoms in full flower.

 

 

Such listening fosters obedience of the heart, authentic living, and growth in His likeness.

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