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At 2 A.M., I awoke with this dream as soft rains streaked my window with limpid fingers:

With others, I help care for newborn babies and toddlers somewhere in the Orient.

 This dream reveals soundness in my psychic depths and confirmation of my daily routine, despite fatigue and shortness of breath and neuropathy.

With others suggests my willingness to accept the support of my network of helpers, both for personal needs and for the upkeep of my home. This also includes weekly visits from the hospice team and the chiropractor. And phone contacts from my sister Martha put finishing touches on each day. Never could I have imagined surrounding myself with such spirited women as I move through my end time. All is gift that continues enriching this process and preparing me for what is coming.

I help care suggests my deepening relationship with Creator God, empowering me to care for others in need, critical for existence. Eros or connectedness energizes such healing, a process that deepens my compassion and expands gratitude for my humanness.

The next image, newborn babies and toddlers, suggests manifestations of the Divine Child, born into a dangerous world and needing exceptional interventions to survive. Their presence attests to new spiritual growth in my psyche, awaiting further refinement and actualization.

And the Orient suggests the East, the rising sun, hope. It also refers to distant lands, unknown to me, at this time. Yet in my psyche I’m already there and engaged in a specific task. No signs of unwellness, or fatigue dispirit me.

Such dreams hearten me. Without them, I falter.

 

Step Eleven of Chronic Pain Anonymous – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

From earliest memory, I had sought God when trounced by pain and obsessive chatter: its frequency soothed scrapes with sidewalks or with others, squinched tears when Mother braided my thick hair, afforded comfort when ignored, and accepted my version of what had happened. God had become my refuge in daily storms filled with unrelieved turmoil.

In an earlier recovery program Step Eleven seemed like a good friend. I did know about prayer and meditation. For decades, such exercises, together with directed retreats, had maintained some kind of contact with God. Yet, chronic pain and illness entrapped me within bondage that blocked authentic guidance from God. In a sense, I became god, another source of irritation when around others; to them, it felt like arrogance.

What changed this scenario was study of the rest of CPA’s Step Eleven with my sponsor. The words conscious contact jolted me—it required silencing the inner turmoil, stepping outside my fantasy world, and listening, deeply, for responses from this God. In Step Three, I had already formulated Him, as I had understood Him. Now it was about praying only for knowledge of His will…and the power to carry that out.

Because such practices resulted in harmonious living with others, my prayer had to become other-focused, even asking God for awareness of my character defects lest they harm others during each twenty-fours allotted us. Such practice also throttled fear whenever it nibbled upon my resolve to live fully with my terminal illness, despite its symptoms and need for more care.

Step Twelve would frame such practices within the joy of living.

 

 

Step Eight of Chronic Pain Anonymous – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

 The fruits of having worked Steps One through Seven clarified my character defects and how I had harmed others. It was those “others” I was now to consider in CPA, small in number, given my trust issues, low energy, and penchant to live alone.

The harm I had foisted upon myself warranted writing my name at the top of the list. Since I did not appear ill with rheumatoid arthritis, save for swollen hands—long skirts and pants hid swollen knees—I feigned wellness in order to fit in, but I was always the outsider, a vapid smile creasing my dry lips, rage blistering my psyche, the weight of the world stooping my shoulders. This pretense led to my lying, embellishing stories, and frustrating whatever initiative might have crept up, unasked. Exhaustion’s field day knew no letup.

Also on my list was my deceased brother Mark who I’d harmed with unwanted comments for our mother’s end of life care. I still faulted rheumatologists and surgeons for not reviewing my diet, given many foods triggering inflammatory reactions in my body. Fog brain prevented my noting the connections. And there were others on the list.

Because Step Eight’s intent was to take responsibility for the harm I had caused others and myself, I prayed for Willingness to forgive, an alteration in my psyche only Higher Power could bring about. I could learn to live in harmony and peace with others, not just from an arm’s length, but I would have to do my part.

That would come about in Step Nine.

 

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