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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 6:45 A.M., I awoke with this corrective dream:

Not far from me, I heard harassing, arguing, bullying, hounding, the voices escalating to a terrifying pitch. It sounded like the Trumps. 

Slowly, I pulled the covers aside, still smarting by the piece of dream story that wedged into my awareness and begged for attention.

True, I had been meditating upon Step One in Recipe for Recovery, with special focus upon surrender to my terminal illness. True, most afternoons, I had been sharing these insights with my sponsor and receiving her enthusiastic response. True, I had drawn insights from daily readings during phone conferences and shared them with my CPA buddies. In coasting along without a hitch, however, I had forgotten that spiritual growth is messy. I did have a terminal disease, after all. It was time for rumpling in my dream.

That my Dreamer likened my anger, largely covert, with the Trumps gave me considerable pause. Yet, truth, alone, fills dream stories, even snatches of them, as in this case.

Because of unremitting arthritic pain that chewed my knees like alligators, anger hid out in my psyche at an early age. With subsequent aging and diminishing health, my anger mounted. And with eligibility for hospice, it escalated into grief: thumping my innards, pommeling my breathing, splaying my thinking, and rendering me less than. Only with the spell’s dissolution did I pick up my life where I left off.

Perhaps my Dreamer prompts the ownership and expression of my anger as more losses deepen.

Yet, I’m also heartened by the Psalmist’s prayer, Who can understand her errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. And I’ve many, still lodged in my psyche.

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It feels like I’ve been poised at the end of a diving board, muscles tensed, concentration total, waiting for the moment of push-off—it never came. 

Such has been my near yearlong experience with hospice nurses and chaplains coaching appropriate measures of self-care, given my rare terminal illness—Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis, its called—that again appears to have plateaued upon new limits.

True, I‘m ill, but not actively dying, but if I’m completely honest, an undercurrent of my mortality has been leeching vital energy from my psyche. Evidently one of my caregivers also fed into this disorder and fueled an untimely dependence upon her. Because she is no longer around, I feel more myself, still in my right mind, and able to make decisions for my ongoing needs.

Again, it’s about acceptance, Step One of Chronic Pain Anonymous. Funny, how that graced word consistently implodes internal tangles and opens skies above it where the sun brilliances the next step: to walk to the other end of the diving board, climb down the ladder, and wait for the next right step.

My relief is huge.

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