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At 7:15 A. M., I awoke with this Step One Dream:

I’m planning my special dessert for guests invited to my home later in the day. The ingredients call for two-to-three feet of newly fallen snow and pots filled with melted chocolate chips. Everything is ready. I go out to my backyard and dribble hot chocolate syrup over the snow, then begin mixing the concoction with a wooden paddle.  To my horror, the snow congeals the chocolate into hard bits. I’m furious.

A departure from yesterday’s dream, this one reveals, in Jungian terms, shadow material: unwonted behaviors and attitudes and so much more that lurk within the darkness of my psyche. In dreams, such disorders are symbolically brought to consciousness for my review. Such was this morning’s dream.

I’m planning suggests total control and obsession to please my guests with the dessert of all desserts that will enjoin their adulation upon my low esteem. I will feel alive. Nothing about the ingredients seems unusual: two-to-three feet of newly fallen snow that suggests frigidity, unyieldingness, and unwillingness to relate to people, places, and things; and melted chocolate chips, the mood-changer with their caffeinated kick.

The wooden paddle becomes the tool to whip this delicacy into shape, rather than chill my arthritic hands. The hard bits were not supposed to happen and trigger blinding rage. 

On yet a deeper level, this dream plunges me into the unmanageability of Step One: my bargaining with Precious God—if I come up with an unheard of sweetness for my guests, including Him, then I’ll be rewarded with a longer stay in this existence. But my plan fails and decades of repressed rage bite me in the ass.

Besides carrying this rage to subsequent steps in CPA for its removal, I pray with the Psalmist: “From my hidden sins, O Lord, deliver me.” Psalm 19:12

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.

After I blogged Amanda Gorman’s poem The Hill We Climb, it would not leave me alone. Leit-motifs from Twelve-Step spirituality kept surfacing: In both, the imperative to change is cast in the first person plural. Survival depends upon this.

Like the Old Testament prophet Jonah, the belly of the beast sickens us. This image speaks to Step One’s admission of our powerlessness and the unmanageability of our lives. There has to be another way; never-ending shade no longer works.

Step Two’s Power greater than ourselves sets the stage for essential change. Beneath our country’s messes that we created, the dawn is ours before we knew it: an image of the Divine hidden in our depths. The challenge is to believe this, afresh, and to allow it into consciousness where real living occurs. Step Three speaks to surrendering our lives and wills to this Power, not for a union that is perfect…but union with purpose. Such constitutes thriving in our humanness within Higher Power’s will.

In Step Five the poet honestly admits our ills (Step Four) and stokes our willingness to approach The Hill We Climb: difficult, but not, hazardous. We now have help.

The poem continues. This is the era of redemption, the turning point, encapsulated in Steps Six and Seven: our being totally ready to let go of our sinfulness and humbly welcoming Higher Power’s psychic cleansing: no more wars, intrigues, heinousness of any kind. Instead, we have found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

Steps Eight and Nine prepare for forgiveness and offer it to those harmed. The poet continues, It’s the past we step into and how we repair it…We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover: An ongoing process also found in Step Ten.

Step Twelve speaks of the joy of living—We step out of the shade of flame and unafraid. And Step Eleven’s practice of prayer and conscious contact with Higher Power helps to inspire even deeper psychic change.

I have the sense that Higher Power showed up at the Inaugural, smiling upon us. This is working out. The new dawn balloons…with our light.

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