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I woke at 6:30 A.M. with this dream:

It was mid-afternoon, the sun enlivening scarlet knockout roses in the backyard. Over the weekend, nieces and nephews and their children had gathered for a reunion. A steady stream of stories energized everyone. Especially impressive was their maturity; it being a long while since we last met. Many commented on how well I looked, attired in my yellow T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, my limbs showing signs of summer’s tan. “It’s because of the exercise,” I said.

In this dream I showed no signs of disease, despite my white hair and wrinkles. I felt vibrant, deeply loved, glad to have been included in my extended family for this reunion. No one had difficulty with my introversion, only conversing with them as my energy allowed, unlike past gatherings at the Tan-Tar-A Resort when I had exhausted myself to fit in.

My response about exercise was pivotal: both in toning the body and the psyche. Only a surgeon’s warning in 1970 prodded me to exercise my arthritic body every morning, a practice I still maintain. And only pesky dreams surfacing in the 1980s drove me into Jungian analysis and mandated a gut job for my psyche teeming with specters. Occasionally like this extended family dream, my authentic self surfaces.

On a deeper level, the dream suggests lively connectedness within the kinship archetype, the Jungian designation of patterns that repeat themselves in the unconscious of human beings. Fossil remains of families have been unearthed all over the world: they just are. Given everyone’s flawed character, however, it is the rare family that enjoys such intimacy. This dream story of my relatives, however, seems to be one and fills me with joy.

Could this be a glimpse of eternal life—The kinship archetype evolving in multiple systems of creations in which we participate even now? Just a thought…

“Oh! No way are we gonna let you go,” said Cayce, the nurse practitioner, again come to evaluate my continued participation in hospice, a requirement by Medicare. “Even though there’s been no change in the measurement of your upper arm,” she added. She had already noted the new symptoms of my lung disease and taken my vital signs—all normal.

“Can we talk about my hands?” I asked as I showed them to her. “More crippling in my fingers since your last visit. Do you know if this symptom is worsening my Interstitial Lung Disease, since it’s associated with it?”

“That, I don’t know, Liz, but I’ll find out and get back to you.”

Cat Scans taken of my lungs during my last six hospital admissions indicated its slow progress, but since I’m receiving hospice, now in my tenth month, Medicare denies payment for such tests.

Cheerfulness softened her eyes as she admired the arrangement of white tulips on the dining room table. “So lovely!” she said, her words somewhat muffled by her protective mask. “I always love seeing them when I come here.” Three days old, each tulip had bowed its petalled cup in a concentric circle as if paying homage to Creator God. Their transient beauty reminded me of my own mortality, with its daily dying.

As Cayce zipped shut her case and prepared to leave, she said, “And great that you continue your exercises, especially the deep breathing ones. They’re keeping you going—No matter that you’re slowing down. This is working out.”

Her encouragement was balm to my soul and a reminder to let go of the outcome, another opportunity for accepting life on life’s terms as practiced in CPA. I’ve much to learn…

 

 

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.

 

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