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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.



“Whap! Whap! Whap!” Punch’s painted grin and wild-eyes gave him a demonic look as he smacked a stick across the head of his wife Judy, in retaliation for her nasties. Titters erupted from the audience as we approached the stage. I cringed, tucking my scarf and mittens in the pocket of my coat, then took a seat with others for the puppet show.

It was Mother’s annual Christmas treat, followed by a savory lunch in the Missouri Room at Stix Baer Fuller Department Store. Before the streetcar ride home, we would also view the animated Christmas windows, filled with Santa’s elves and workshop, while icy drafts cut my cheeks and blurred my vision.

As a child, such noisy and exhausting outings scrambled my sensibilities. Yet, I went along; it was expected of me. I had no voice, other than what the puppeteer voiced through me, and that, for much of my life. Like Punch and Judy and their entourage, I fashioned my life in pretense. Few seemed to notice or care.

After years of 12-Step recovery and dream work, I discovered my latent voice and began expressing it in speech and in writing, new words surfacing whenever I needed them. Clarity replaced brain fog and indecision. But old habits are deeply ingrained, and the puppeteer still seduces me within anger’s grip.

More than ever, I cry, “Mercy!”

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