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Step Eleven of Chronic Pain Anonymous – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

From earliest memory, I had sought God when trounced by pain and obsessive chatter: its frequency soothed scrapes with sidewalks or with others, squinched tears when Mother braided my thick hair, afforded comfort when ignored, and accepted my version of what had happened. God had become my refuge in daily storms filled with unrelieved turmoil.

In an earlier recovery program Step Eleven seemed like a good friend. I did know about prayer and meditation. For decades, such exercises, together with directed retreats, had maintained some kind of contact with God. Yet, chronic pain and illness entrapped me within bondage that blocked authentic guidance from God. In a sense, I became god, another source of irritation when around others; to them, it felt like arrogance.

What changed this scenario was study of the rest of CPA’s Step Eleven with my sponsor. The words conscious contact jolted me—it required silencing the inner turmoil, stepping outside my fantasy world, and listening, deeply, for responses from this God. In Step Three, I had already formulated Him, as I had understood Him. Now it was about praying only for knowledge of His will…and the power to carry that out.

Because such practices resulted in harmonious living with others, my prayer had to become other-focused, even asking God for awareness of my character defects lest they harm others during each twenty-fours allotted us. Such practice also throttled fear whenever it nibbled upon my resolve to live fully with my terminal illness, despite its symptoms and need for more care.

Step Twelve would frame such practices within the joy of living.



“This is your captain speaking. We’ve had more contact with air traffic control in New York. All planes are to land at the nearest airport and wait for additional instruction—We’ll be coming down at Indianapolis International Airport in ten minutes.”

It was the morning of 9/11, aboard Southwest Airlines for our flight to Boston and the directed retreat at Gloucester. A story larger than life was beginning to spew like torn film from a projector. From the rental car’s radio, news analysts blurted surreal facts as proportions of the disaster mounted. Stops at gas stations evoked spirited conversations: no one was a stranger. In the lobby of the Best Western at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, television sets plied ghoulish scenes to the ongoing narrative.

The following seven days at the retreat center afforded a safe place to grieve and pray. Evil had burnt the psyche of our nation: it would never be the same. From the heart of that conflagration stories still flow.

And yet another huge story encircles Planet Earth like a knife-sharp, ill-fitting corset, its ties in knots. Again, I’m at a remove from its raw grief. Yet I feel the global spirit, weighted with peril as it seeks to contain the Coronavirus from further infection. As with 9/11 we’re dealing with the specter of death.

Like grains of incense glowing atop coals in a thurifer, such stories continue yielding their fragrance, continue honing the disparate experiences into meaningful wholes, with consequent psychic growth for spirited warriors. The pandemic has yet to be resolved.

The war between Good and Evil continues …


Like the Genesis story of Jacob wrestling with God/Angel, last night passed in a similar manner, only I was left with terminal illness, not with a sore hip, as was Jacob’s lot.

Stunned, I made it to my wing-back chair, my legs propped upon a hassock, and took stock: It felt like I was trapped in a monstrous ache, barred from all exits. My eyes burned. I rubbed them. I blew my nose, coughed. I began breathing, slowly, until enveloped in deep stillness. Outside my study window dawn softened the leafing lilac bush and patches of fescue grass in the backyard.



Other tumultuous images from the night flooded me: Joan of Arc’s visions, her suit of armor and white stallion, her slaughtering enemies, her restoration of the Dauphin upon the French throne, her arrest for heresy and imprisonment, her frequent interrogations, her death by burning in Rouen’s marketplace. I cringed, owning similar attitudes ill-suited to accepting the unacceptable, glaringly evident in my present circumstances.

Night work with another writer also assumed enormous importance. He depended upon my counsel and often sought my approval whether I was available or not.

Such disjointedness evidences yesterday’s curiosity about the global pandemic’s infection and death rates, stay-at-home-orders for the next month, governments’ measures to protect their people, on-line meditations/exercises to counter negative fallout from such untoward changes. Rather than keep up with developments I have no control over, better to maintain my usual self-care routines, pray, and move through each twenty-four hours allotted me.

My terminal illness remains…

It’s time to stop wrestling.


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