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He was fussing for something, his dark eyes fired with desperation. He wanted something, badly, this very moment. He’d just woken from his nap. At intervals, his lips struggled with the semblance of a word, intelligible to him, but not to his mother kneeling next to him. “But!” it sounded like; then, “Chip!” Tension mounted between them. More sounds came from pursed lips, and more fussing and jiggling his bare feet on the kitchen floor.

To break the impasse, the mother placed her fist in her opened hand, their agreed-upon gesture for help. Immediately, the toddler understood, returned the gesture, and giggled; then, ran for his Sippy cup on the chair. He needed a drink. More giggles and hugging enlarged both worlds as she watched him suck on the plastic straw. His efforts to make speech rather than point were not lost on her. He was learning.

This anecdote reveals the difficulty of acquiring words and stringing them together in meaningful sentences to get our needs met—an ongoing task between the developing child and his parents. 

Yet, language is a living exchange among peoples and demands consciousness for accuracy. With more words coined to accommodate new experiences, this ongoing task continues throughout life. More than ever, relevance in speech and the printed word is urgent.

Such is the ideal to which I hold fast, despite the jargon, around me, that passes for communication and seeds global exchanges with confusion.

Returning to heart-solitude and listening deeply for the gift of words can warm the frigid condition of our language. Real intimacy is still possible.

At 6:20 A.M., I woke with this dream:

It is evening service at the black church I’ve been attending, at the invitation of the pastor and his wife. Again, I’m greeted and enter the fellowship filled with hymns and prayer. Other than occasional constipation, I am well. The pastor, also a physician, will perform a proctologic exam in his office in the morning. Having had one before, I’m anxious.

The vibrant setting of this dream, the evening service at the black church, opens my psyche to hidden disorders that require identification and correction. The occasional constipation keeps my body/mind starved of vital nutrients, dulls my perceptions, and dumps me within the morass of sloth: Why bother?

The pastor bridges the gap between God’s presence and the worshipers in his black church: such engagement restores disorders that sludge human interactions and quickens spirits into living flames. On my own, I’m powerless to achieve the wholeness to which I aspire.

Yet, I’m anxious. Given my long-standing pride, it’s painful to admit my arrogance and willfulness, smirches upon my character for all to behold. For much of my life, pretense kept such disorders at bay; whenever aware of them, I barely nodded at their toxicity.

Since working the Twelve Steps in Recovery, however, such disclosures become frequent cries to Higher Power to effect the necessary changes. This is precisely the task of spirituality.

With the afflicted Job (10:6), I identify with his cry to God: You must search out my faults and probe after my sin. Such purification works: It’s about becoming humble and serving others.

At 6 AM., I awoke with this dream:

I’m alone, content. I put my whole heart into singing lullabies until I no longer recall the next verse. Then, I recite nursery rhymes that I remember; their melodies and rhythms and repetitions tinkle, within, like my neighbor’s wind chimes.

A soothing dream, its story is unlike any I’ve experienced. I appear well, having sufficient breath to support both singing and reciting; their rhythms and repetitions lighten and enlarge my world. My bloodshot eyes smile, unlike my usual glum look when alone.

Within my psyche exists a caregiver, intent upon helping me befriend my terminally ill body and relax into each moment, despite death’s shortening them—A unique time in my life, I can only do this once.

But there was a time when I had belted out “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” marveling how the nursery rhyme echoed off the walls of my study. My Pilates coach recommended this practice to increase the stamina and volume in my speech. It worked for a while until, too fatigued, I stopped. 

However, the gift of this morning’s dream implanted these nurturing ditties within my unconscious and reminds to pull one of them out whenever overwhelmed—Like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” reminding me to gently pull for my body needs and access Higher Power’s grace for the next challenge. After all, it’s only a stream…

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