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At 2 A.M., I awoke with this dream:

It is night. Only halogen streetlights illumine my situation: alone, anxious, seated behind the steering wheel of a U-Haul 17-foot truck packed with stuff. I’m waiting to make the delivery but need directions. I check my watch. It’s already been a long time. No traffic on the nearby Interstate.

And at 4:30 A.M.:

Again, I’m seated in a box-shaped truck filled with stuff. I wait for directions. It is night.

Mulling upon the message of these dreams led to two interpretations, the first one more appropriate to last week’s stance toward my terminal illness.

Night signifies the end of daylight living, old age, death. The image of being seated behind the steering wheel suggests the need to control my ILD, even to slowing it down with exercise, nutrition, and elimination, rather than surrendering to its inevitable diminishments. I’ve chosen to be alone in this process, despite some wishing to support this critical experience with me.

My stuff speaks of bits and pieces of decades-long behaviors and attitudes deemed unacceptable, their revelation, humiliating, now locked away within the rental. Exhausted, impatient, lethargic, I await directions for the disposal of these unsavory aspects of myself—as if checking my watch would bring the needed directions to do so.

The second take on the dreams suggests the responsible handling of my affairs prior to the death of my body: consciousness of my end-time with its solitary journey into diminishment and death, sequestering my stuff from harming others, willingness to properly dispose of it, and exercising patience as I wait for directions for the next right step.

Perhaps both dreams suggest last week’s glitch that led to yesterday’s willingness to let go of my body, a critical breakthrough that reframes each twenty-four hours, granted by Creator God. I remain in good hands.

 

 

It was Christmas morning, 1972. A chilled brilliance seeping through loose window sashes shuddered the narrow refectory, alive with pungency. At the front next to the Mothers’ table stood a live Scotch pine tree decorated with fresh lemons, each attached by a brass screw and an orange ribbon. No other adornment. I caught my breath.

These many years later, that image still excites my imagination. Using lemons in that way had never occurred to me; their simplicity spoke of the giftedness of the recently arrived Superior who delighted the community with her creation. Its aromatic presence and analogous colors soothed me through the holidays.

Which speaks to the knack of combining two seemingly unlike objects that morph into something else, evoking change/surprise. Chefs know this and enfold lemons within entrees, salads, and desserts. Body workers know this and place scented lemons oils in their studios. Therapists know this and rub juice from fresh lemons onto the bodies of troubled clients. Those with respiratory ailments know this and sip lemon juice in water.

But lemon’s zing also nudges spirit in significant ways: dissolves glitches, cleanses taste, enlivens interest, and sparks the present moment where, alone, grace abounds. And it is precisely therein that I seek to hang out, given my increasing weakness. Just as the succulent lemon eventually discolors and dries up, so too is my body showing signs of change. Still buoyed by lemon-water each day, I move ahead to what is, eyes wide open. This is working out, albeit slowly …

 

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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