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“…we drop any pretense and become honest with ourselves. We admit that we have been holding on to both an illusion of and a strong desire for power over our pain and illness.” Quoted from Step One, Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous (2015)

So, it’s about being transparently honest; nothing less will do. Given my decades-long history with joint pain, given my denial and rationalization fostering the pretense of being well and appearing like everyone else, developing an honest relationship with my body is daunting. Yet, this is precisely the challenge to be embraced in partnership with Higher Power and the CPA Twelve Steps.

Parallel to this task is dealing with the mortality of my body; it’s one thing to read or talk about it, but quite another to face its indescribable losses, especially relationships of the heart. Grief, a multifaceted angst, plays into this, as well.

For almost two years into my hospice care, there was little change in my body except for weakness, shortness of breath, fatigue, and the side effects of two medications to slow down my collapsing lung sacs. Speaking was becoming rougher, almost to the level of pain. However, deep breathing and stretching exercises have kept me strong enough to show up for the next day’s routine, even post a blog.

But with all symptoms worsening the past six months, my body has dropped much of its fat, no matter how much I eat. To counter this Auschwitz-like appearance, I stand in front of the mirror and pray for acceptance. “Accepting the unacceptable,” so says Step One, even the weight loss, so disconcerting, at first. It is working, but occasionally quicksand sucks spirit from me, only to be pulled back into sanity by my CPA buddies.

Without my practice of the gentle discipline of CPA’S Recipe for Recovery, I shudder how I’d be faring with my present circumstances; they must be experienced, one day at a time, until completed.

Then, in the twinkling of an eye …

I wait for words, my note card opened on my table, my pen in hand. Distractions assail me: in my neighbor’s yard hangs the KC Chief’s banner, its bold red and black design flashing in the afternoon sun. I shake free of the team’s fierce determination to trample the Raiders in tomorrow’s game, then adjust my note card and wait for words. They must come.

My friend of long years is ill with double pneumonia, worsened by a blot clot in her lung. Round-the-clock surveillance monitors her condition and keeps her bed-fast. This is just another hospitalization. Others have checkered her life-steps, from all of which she has rebounded, her cheery attitude still sunning others through her continuous practice of acceptance—Even more following a night in her own bed, in quiet environs.

Indeed, she exemplifies Twelve-Step Living, even during these uncertain circumstances; her discovery of the joy of living deepens and teaches us to do likewise. Over and over, we learn that it’s not about us.

In some ways, her hospital stays mirror my own, but with my hospice admission, my return is unlikely.

But enough of this word-game. My note card is still empty, the pen limp in my hand.

I begin, “Dear Judy…”

The inside of darkness is like a thief continuing to encroach upon our sun-time, October’s riotous display, only the faintest of memories.

Leaves from scarlet maples, burgundy pear trees, buttery tulip trees have already gorged December’s appetite, their remnants lining curbs, imprinting sidewalks with outlines, and lodging corners of gutters. Winds swipe footpaths strewn with twisted branches, split stems, graying fragments, crushed acorns, even gumballs. Overhead, hag-like pin oaks frame the darkening world with specter arms.

An eerie stillness companions this loss of color. An unseen power plummets us within this darkening, replete with life-lessons, if we’ve the will to befriend it.

We seek footholds: its port-wine richness intrigues us; its lavender essence intoxicates us; its velvety embrace soothes us; its subtle shades challenge us; and its haunting music transports us to other realms.

We listen, deeply. Solemnity stirs deep thoughts like chanting monks in hushed monasteries.

We wait for direction beneath tonight’s gibbous waxing moon.

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