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A chance listening to a mountain dulcimer and a string orchestra performing Connie Elisor’s Blackberry Winter (1997) quickened my imagination: Succulent blackberries and frigid winds erupted into a honied ache, a puckering of the lips, a twinge of sweetness. What was the composer up to?

In my perception, he used the literary device called juxtaposition in which two dissimilar images are purposely placed together, their resonances morphing into a larger reality. The desired surprise gladdens the listeners/readers.

It might be stretching the meaning of juxtaposition to apply it to persons seeded at birth with life and death, but here goes. Only the wise see mortality in a newborn, but it is there. Only the wise sense our living both in kairos time and chronos time. Only the wise intuit the interplay of spirit and matter as we develop through the decades allotted us.

And I’ve had many. Strange beauty characterizes my spiritual path fraught with rheumatoid arthritis, now damaging my lungs: like an irritant developing seed pearls buried within the soft tissue of a mollusk shell. At times, such rubbing terrifies and sickens; at others, it gentles and assuages: but it must be endured for the emergence of the new Elizabeth.

Such juxtaposition awaits me: the outworn will give way to something totally other.

Early this morning, I awoke with this corrective dream:

Anxious, restless, and hungry, I turn over in my hospital bed and check the wall clock—still several hours before the breakfast trays will reach our floor. Then, I pull the mask over my eyes and doze, until roused by the food cart’s rumbling in the corridor. More time passes and no breakfast. “Have you got a tray for Moloney?” I finally yell. An aproned server stops by my door and says, “No—Didn’t get an order for one.”

 After a short interval, he returns with hot biscuits and gravy, bacon, fruit juices, and coffee, all of which trigger the inflammation of my rheumatoid arthritis, if eaten.

Anxious, restless, and hunger suggest multiple faces of anger hiding out in my unconscious, out of reach from my blogger’s mind; how easily it has spoken of acceptance of the terminal malaise in my body. Yet, decreased breathing in tow with weakness has opened me to the biology of my body. Such has cast me within a deeper dimension of suffering, a new marker along the path toward my transition. Only with its recognition can I unite with the Passion of the Cosmic Christ in our midst.

Another take on the dream suggests my need for closer scrutiny with the “feedings” of news outlets, slanted by journalists’ and talk show hosts’ politicization of their stories. Instead of being informed, confusion and overwhelment result. Few ask my opinion, anyway. Given my present circumstances and limited time, other resources can better keep me strong in spirit and teachable.

With the Crucified, I pray, “Passion of Christ, strengthen me.” from the Anima Christi, attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, (1491 – 1556).

As depicted in ancient texts around the world hardship, suffering, and death have always seared experience. Brought to our knees, we learn limits and obey, but today’s Covid-19 knows no historical precedent.

It foists upon our awareness the specter of mortality, tinges outlooks with grief, demands mindfulness as we move through each day, and garbles communication among the experts. Intense is the dislocation from the familiar. It feels like being whipped around in a centrifuge, its switch damaged, or like being abandoned within a Sci-Fi thriller that the author stopped composing. Isolated, leeched of energy, exhausted: such dis-ease psyches like barnacles burrow into hulls of boats. If unaddressed, loss of soul occurs. For some, prayer helps; others observe the recommended CDC precautions and follow the daily posting of numbers. Still others invent safe getaways and maintain significant contacts with Zoom. Belly laughter is key to sanity.

Certainly, this scourge bespeaks of an uncanny wisdom at work. Its outcome still eludes us.

A similar scourge, ILD with Rheumatoid Arthritis, is also shortening my life and demands full consciousness to keep self-pity at bay. Slow is the slippage, but decline is happening. Rather than relapse into denial or rationalization, however, I choose conscious contact with Higher Power through practicing CPA’s Twelve Steps. Central to this practice is the simple prayer: Thy will, not mine, be done—Six one-syllable words that easily slip off the tongue, but ones that empower new élan, new direction, and new joy. It still works, and with each day I’m that much closer to eternal life.

 

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