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“I write to shine a light on an otherwise dim or even pitch-black corner, to provide relief for myself and others.”  Words taped to the desk of the memoirist, Laura Munson, author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is – a Season of Unlikely Happiness (2011).

Housewife and mother, she had managed to write fourteen novels that failed to attract the notice of publishers. Yet, she continued honing her skills until the sea-change called for a different tack.

Stung by an unforeseen marital crisis, Laura reaches for her journal and writes over a five-month period—jottings that later become raw material for a memoir. Her readers she calls “gentle friends.”

Backstories of her twenty-year marriage, their two children, and life in a farmhouse in a Montana glacial valley open the memoir. In the writerly process, Munson explores her own darkness, especially her nasty inner critic, “Sheila, her twin sister.”

Graced by grandmothers practiced in creating beauty in their homes, Laura does similarly in her vegetable and flower gardens: her response to her children’s needs and her mate’s identity crisis, as provider, triggered by a failed business venture.

Humor and honesty, the hallmarks of successful memoirs, are found in this one.

This Is Not the Story You Think It Is – a Season of Unlikely Happiness was listed on the New York Times Best Sellers List, and was promoted by Oprah and the Today Show.  With its writing, Laura Munson changed.

Around 4 A.M., I awoke with two illness dreams:

I am dressed but very unwell. I sit next to another woman, also with symptoms, anxious and self-absorbed. We wait for the delivery of medicine.

I am weak, can barely stand as another holds me from behind so that I can receive communion. Everything blurs before me.

This is the first time I remember appearing ill in my dreams, and significantly so, on my eighty-sixth birthday. My psyche reveals major distress. I’m powerless, depressed, barely alive. Only the compassion of others can sustain this onslaught of diseases that envelope my entire being.

On a deeper level, I search for understanding. True, I’ve had problems with my word processor and have been unable to compose for several days. Such focus, alone, establishes communion with Higher Power; without it, I become disconnected, abandoned, and anxious. True, more signs of aging, apart from my terminal illness, are appearing in my old body. And perhaps I’m still trying to fix myself.

Certainly, deeper acceptance is called for. Denial has no place here. It’s only moving forward, twenty-four hours at a time, supported by CPA’s Twelve Steps and the spiritual fellowship. And certainly, deeper emotional honesty is called for, as well. My eighty-six years of life feel like a heavy mantle over my shoulders, and only Higher Power can bring about its acceptance and deliverance.

So like a flickering candle-flame, I wait in the darkness for the next dream and its direction …

At 7:15 A. M., I awoke with this Step One Dream:

I’m planning my special dessert for guests invited to my home later in the day. The ingredients call for two-to-three feet of newly fallen snow and pots filled with melted chocolate chips. Everything is ready. I go out to my backyard and dribble hot chocolate syrup over the snow, then begin mixing the concoction with a wooden paddle.  To my horror, the snow congeals the chocolate into hard bits. I’m furious.

A departure from yesterday’s dream, this one reveals, in Jungian terms, shadow material: unwonted behaviors and attitudes and so much more that lurk within the darkness of my psyche. In dreams, such disorders are symbolically brought to consciousness for my review. Such was this morning’s dream.

I’m planning suggests total control and obsession to please my guests with the dessert of all desserts that will enjoin their adulation upon my low esteem. I will feel alive. Nothing about the ingredients seems unusual: two-to-three feet of newly fallen snow that suggests frigidity, unyieldingness, and unwillingness to relate to people, places, and things; and melted chocolate chips, the mood-changer with their caffeinated kick.

The wooden paddle becomes the tool to whip this delicacy into shape, rather than chill my arthritic hands. The hard bits were not supposed to happen and trigger blinding rage. 

On yet a deeper level, this dream plunges me into the unmanageability of Step One: my bargaining with Precious God—if I come up with an unheard of sweetness for my guests, including Him, then I’ll be rewarded with a longer stay in this existence. But my plan fails and decades of repressed rage bite me in the ass.

Besides carrying this rage to subsequent steps in CPA for its removal, I pray with the Psalmist: “From my hidden sins, O Lord, deliver me.” Psalm 19:12

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