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One hour after retiring, I awoke with this dream:

It is the beginning of summer. I join a large mixed group of college students on an outdoor stage in the park. We’ve been invited to rehearse a musical, to be presented before returning to our classes. Weeks pass. Although everyone works to the max, enthusiasm buoys our spirits as we enflesh the musical. The wardrobe mistress creates stunning outfits that enhance our youthfulness. My reflection in the long mirror astonishes me: brunette, tall, willowy, perfectly proportioned: as I dance, my white fitted coat flares open revealing a pink silk dress.

In my psyche, all is well.

Step Ten of Chronic Pain Anonymous – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step Ten, the first of three maintenance Steps, challenged me to remain awake to my inner world and note whenever frustrated instincts let loose fear, resentments, dishonesty, and selfishness. Rather than entertain them, an old behavior that had salved my wounds and heightened the drama of fantasies, I sought their removal through interfacing them with the Twelve Steps of CPA. Such action enhanced spiritual fitness, deepened my trust in Higher Power’s design for life during my end time, and facilitated my usefulness to Him.

Of course, harming others required making amends. But with my homebound status and the onset of the pandemic, few visitors came by.

However, my ILD with Rheumatoid Arthritis continued to enslave me within weakness and shortness of breath that provoked self-centered fear: it crimped my entire person. An attitude change was critical if I was to salvage the day. I prayed, then activated Step Three; with energy I did not know I had, I enlisted gentleness, compassion, and patience. My body relaxed, and I resumed my stretching exercises—yet, another instance of Higher Power ingesting my angst like the scarab dung beetle venerated by ancient Egyptians.

Step Ten also urged spiritual practices before the day’s beginning and at its end. As a hedge against self-centeredness/ isolation, I prayed to be shown how to be useful to others. At day’s end, I took an inventory of behaviors, both positive and negative, and if an amends was owed, sought counsel with my sponsor.

Such attention to my psyche has trained me in honesty I never believed possible. If

Higher Power cared that much, then spending more time with Him in prayer and meditation, would further enhance our relationship, both now and in eternity.

Step Eleven fitted in here.

 

 

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Step Eight of Chronic Pain Anonymous – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

 The fruits of having worked Steps One through Seven clarified my character defects and how I had harmed others. It was those “others” I was now to consider in CPA, small in number, given my trust issues, low energy, and penchant to live alone.

The harm I had foisted upon myself warranted writing my name at the top of the list. Since I did not appear ill with rheumatoid arthritis, save for swollen hands—long skirts and pants hid swollen knees—I feigned wellness in order to fit in, but I was always the outsider, a vapid smile creasing my dry lips, rage blistering my psyche, the weight of the world stooping my shoulders. This pretense led to my lying, embellishing stories, and frustrating whatever initiative might have crept up, unasked. Exhaustion’s field day knew no letup.

Also on my list was my deceased brother Mark who I’d harmed with unwanted comments for our mother’s end of life care. I still faulted rheumatologists and surgeons for not reviewing my diet, given many foods triggering inflammatory reactions in my body. Fog brain prevented my noting the connections. And there were others on the list.

Because Step Eight’s intent was to take responsibility for the harm I had caused others and myself, I prayed for Willingness to forgive, an alteration in my psyche only Higher Power could bring about. I could learn to live in harmony and peace with others, not just from an arm’s length, but I would have to do my part.

That would come about in Step Nine.

 

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