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At 2:00 A.M., I awoke with a strong impression of Vietnam, with no accompanying dream story.

Instead, a flood of images converged in its wake: anti-war demonstrations, President Johnson and his advisors in the Oval office, TV coverage of guerilla warfare with casualties, the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. withdrawal from the conflict, the horrific stories that followed, the 1975 unification of Vietnam, bloodied by thirty years of killing.

So the question remains, what does Vietnam say to me now?

A brief YouTube of this country reveals an impoverishment of spirit with unconscious war scars, an aping of Western ways, and an enslavement to Communism. Lost in the dust of centuries is its identity as a people with its dynasties, its Buddhism temples, and its skirmishes with China.

Certainly, I own my self-imposed impoverishment: violence, confusion, need to please others, and skewed perceptions that I still deal with in Chronic Pain Anonymous. But I shudder to think of the bleeding remnants, still hidden within the recesses of my unconscious.

With God’s help, I’ve come this far. The challenge is to continue mining my dreams for more hints of such disorders and Twelve-Step them away, one day at a time. So I pray for healing…

 

 

Happily, my copy of Helen M. Luke’s classic, Old Age: Journey into Simplicity survived several thinnings of my bookcase. First purchased in 2012, I highlighted significant passages, filled margins with stars and exclamation points that evidence past AHHHs! However, such richness must have surfeited my taste because of the unread essays on Shakespeare’s Prospero and T. S. Eliot’s Little Gidding—To return to a later time, I probably told myself, when calmed down.

That time only came now. Well on the cusp of old age, Luke’s material resonates with my diminishments. Her lifelong play with unseen realities, beneficent and dark, bear the imprint of her Zurich training as a Jungian analyst; she has been through the mill and knows of what she speaks in the concluding chapter on Suffering.

Only life’s untoward barbs constitute authentic suffering; it bruises the psyche, offers course corrections, and deepens wisdom, humility, and honesty. Acceptance is key to this grief process, with its changes. Pseudo-suffering, its opposite, provokes whining, holds out for quick fixes, and pines for robotic living shielded by denial’s comfort. Only authentic suffering builds character that does not diminish, that we carry into the next life.

Her conclusion speaks: When suffering breaks through the small personal context and exposes man to the pain and darkness of life itself, the way is opened to that ultimate state of passion…There completely emptied, as Christ was when He cried, ”My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me,” he may finally come to be filled with the wholeness of God Himself.

For this, I long.

 

This morning’s dream heartened me:

It is a spring morning and breezes quiver greening leaves upon towering oaks. I’ve met my first cousins at the old Moloney three-story brownstone, located on a corner lot in the city. Decades of neglect have given it a derelict appearance: overgrown shrubs, waist-high grasses, cracked sidewalks, sagging gutters, trash matted against the side gate. At the bottom of the hilly front yard sits Lucy Kelly pulling weeds. I call down to her. “You are a beautiful child. Never forget that.” Her dark eyes study me with bewilderment. I plan to buy large planters, fill them with colorful annuals, and line them next to the wide granite front steps.

The image of the old Moloney three-story brownstone suggests my psychic container, still bearing the imprint of my alcoholism, despite years in AA recovery and recent ones in CPA. The tendrils of my psychic disease still hide out in the nook and crannies of my shadow. I’m powerless to extricate them.

But change, not of my making, is in the offing. New willingness appears in the first cousins to repair the broken, to replace overgrown shrubs and seed the weed-infested yard, and whatever else is needed, given my terminal illness and shortness of days. The forlorn Lucy Kelly, an image of my damaged child, reminds me to deepen my self-care, to gentle my angst in letting down this life for another.

Yet, my desire to beautify the wide granite front steps speaks of my continuing interest to cull dreams from oblivion’s cobwebs and blog their messages.

I’ve much to learn from the Beautifier…

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