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At midnight, a bathroom break woke me to this dream:

I accepted an invitation to join equestrians for a formal foxhunt located in a rural area. No matter that I’ve never done this before. For the occasion, I rent an outfit: black velvet helmet, a white long-sleeved show shirt, white stock tie with pin, canary yellow vest, dark blue frock coat, buff breeches, black leather dress boots, and black leather gloves. That morning, the sky alive with sunshine, I look handsome, astride a chestnut mare as I wait for others to arrive at the stables.

 My Dreamer invites me to participate in foxhunting, a sport that demands athleticism and skill, neither of which I’ve ever cultivated. But I know not to decline. Another helps outfit me in the formal attire of a hunter, a persona that hides my inexperience from more seasoned riders. Still another gift of the sure-footed mare, my knees hugging its flanks, my buttocks sensing its instinctual energy, stokes my confidence. I will do this.

But the question remains—What is this?

 Foxhunts meld equestrians within sustained danger edged in exhilaration: Hound dogs yelp, horses strain over uneven terrain, thundering hooves taking the next fence in hot pursuit of the red fox. Only with unwavering attention will the hunt continue. The stakes are high.

It seems my Dreamer urges this hunt for my beleaguered body: Like the red fox, it needs gentling once caught—no more hiding in the burrow of self-absorption and dissociation. Only with CPA’s 12 Steps have I the Hunter-persona to deal with this, one day at a time.

 

 

Another night of psychic distress roused me. No dream snippets clued my sense of what was amiss, especially since yesterday’s puttering around had gone so well—even had my teeth cleaned. I was clearly in Step I: “We admitted we were powerless over terminal illness—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Yet, I preferred my comforter’s warmth to my chilled study and meditation with Recipe for Recovery. Hours limped by. Dawn light finally sulked like spent embers.

Bleary-eyed, I sat in my prayer chair, turned to the Ingredients of Step I, and mulled over “Accepting the Unacceptable.” Often, I had begun my day with this practice, one that countered the denial of my mortality and opened me to bliss on other side of my diminishment, however it played out. But this morning was different—my insides were raw as if scraped clean by a scalpel.

I groused, mindful of conscious efforts to live fully in the present moment, the locus of grace, as I thought I had done the day before. How was I to move toward acceptance of my terminal illness as practiced in CPA? What was I to learn? More daylight filtered through the blinds. I waited, listened to my breathing: inhaling, exhaling. I began to relax, wiggle my toes.

Then it happened—I fell prostrate before the God of my understanding, the source of last night’s distress. Anther lesson in humility was underway and I knew it. Beneath my façade of contentment still lurked control, albeit limited, of my homebound world. Without the support of oxygen and Dexamethasone, my symptoms would level me.

 

 

 

Again, I accepted my ultimate lack of control over my terminal illness, until the next rupture and lesson. I’m not humble.

“You’re doing very well, Liz, managing your symptoms—and your vital signs are normal,” says Alice my hospice nurse as she folds up the pressure cuff and puts it away. “You know to call anytime you’ve got questions. We’re here to help.” I sit back in my armchair, noting her cheerfulness, her compassionate eyes, her capable hands. My heart brims with gratitude. Her Wednesday visits the past four months have companioned my efforts to remain conscious of my terminal illness.

And even more heartening is learning that we went to the same high school, Villa Duchesne, and that I was a friend with her aunt and deceased uncle, through Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in University City, Missouri.

Moreover, knowing that Alice will coach me through the loops of ILD with Rheumatoid Arthritis, my terminal disease, allays my terror. In no way can I prepare for this ordeal.

What I can do, though, is live each day to the fullest: blogging the experiences, exercising, eating well, resting, ADLs, praying, and mediating. Daily CPA meetings and phone calls with my sponsor keep me close to the 12 Steps.

And keeping fresh tulips on my dining room table buoys my spirit. All of this is the work of Precious God. There are no words—I’m grateful.

 

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