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“…we drop any pretense and become honest with ourselves. We admit that we have been holding on to both an illusion of and a strong desire for power over our pain and illness.” Quoted from Step One, Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous (2015)

So, it’s about being transparently honest; nothing less will do. Given my decades-long history with joint pain, given my denial and rationalization fostering the pretense of being well and appearing like everyone else, developing an honest relationship with my body is daunting. Yet, this is precisely the challenge to be embraced in partnership with Higher Power and the CPA Twelve Steps.

Parallel to this task is dealing with the mortality of my body; it’s one thing to read or talk about it, but quite another to face its indescribable losses, especially relationships of the heart. Grief, a multifaceted angst, plays into this, as well.

For almost two years into my hospice care, there was little change in my body except for weakness, shortness of breath, fatigue, and the side effects of two medications to slow down my collapsing lung sacs. Speaking was becoming rougher, almost to the level of pain. However, deep breathing and stretching exercises have kept me strong enough to show up for the next day’s routine, even post a blog.

But with all symptoms worsening the past six months, my body has dropped much of its fat, no matter how much I eat. To counter this Auschwitz-like appearance, I stand in front of the mirror and pray for acceptance. “Accepting the unacceptable,” so says Step One, even the weight loss, so disconcerting, at first. It is working, but occasionally quicksand sucks spirit from me, only to be pulled back into sanity by my CPA buddies.

Without my practice of the gentle discipline of CPA’S Recipe for Recovery, I shudder how I’d be faring with my present circumstances; they must be experienced, one day at a time, until completed.

Then, in the twinkling of an eye …

At 7:05 A.M., I awoke with this unsettling dream, unusual because of a long period of no recall:

It is Sunday. Night darkens the conference complex where a large number of mixed adolescents have been spending the weekend. Because they’ve had no exposure to sexuality in textbooks or experience, teachers inform them. As days pass, the adolescents have become unruly: seamy jokes, scurrilous laughter, and throwing food. Any display of authority is met with snickers. I’m concerned if there will be sufficient time to clean up the complex before the scheduled arrival of another group.

In the dream, I work in maintenance, strong and healthy in my uniform. Both night and Sunday suggest endings: of the day and of the weekend; their implications, though, speak to my end-time of eighty-six years, a long time to live.

The conference complex suggests the setting in my psyche, designated for learning that poses daily challenges. In the dream, though, it’s besmirched by the adolescents up-ended by the presentations. Many want to experiment, in full view of all. Such displays the inner turmoil in my unconscious, roused, perhaps, by yesterday’s felt terror of my death. Even that moment was too much.

The dream concludes with stress roused by the Herculean task of restoring the conference complex in a few days for another group. I feel similarly with the task still lurking in my psyche. On the surface, all appears in order, but this is not so.

This is where Precious God comes in …

From a recent response to a blog emerged this metaphor from my psyche:

Death is its own signature.

Its strangeness, almost a non-fit, perplexes me. Death’s pervading presence in all of life, whether the decay of a summer bouquet of daisies or the fading of that favorite sweater, precipitates uneasiness. Yet, death plays into the removal of undesirable character defects and the growth of self-restraint and discernment.

Another kind of death, though, has its own finality, the ultimate one we all have to face: the wrenching loss of ourselves, a significant other, or pet. Such rips apart illusions and plunges us into unwanted experiences of grief and rebuilding. Without spiritual help, warped perspectives confound the jettisoned pieces of what remain and worsen the psychic pain.

So how does the word signature play into all of this as my psyche wishes me to look into this. Contracts of all stripes, artistic works, and inventions bear binding signatures. Of critical importance are the signatures of the medical examiner or primary physician on death certificates. As yet, mine has not been filled out, only stipulated in my end-of-life care.

I, too, have signed many contracts with my signature and honored all but two: those that kept me in the convent and later, in the marriage; from both, I received a dispensation, again executed by my signature.

Still another contract looms ahead—that with Death from which there will be no reprieve—his signature will cast me into the unknown. The closer my last day approaches, the more I love my life, just as it is. Writing this blog weights my heart as another day passes. But then again, to be relieved of my symptoms and experience wholeness of a different kind—That also appeals…

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