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At midnight, a bathroom break woke me to this dream:

I accepted an invitation to join equestrians for a formal foxhunt located in a rural area. No matter that I’ve never done this before. For the occasion, I rent an outfit: black velvet helmet, a white long-sleeved show shirt, white stock tie with pin, canary yellow vest, dark blue frock coat, buff breeches, black leather dress boots, and black leather gloves. That morning, the sky alive with sunshine, I look handsome, astride a chestnut mare as I wait for others to arrive at the stables.

 My Dreamer invites me to participate in foxhunting, a sport that demands athleticism and skill, neither of which I’ve ever cultivated. But I know not to decline. Another helps outfit me in the formal attire of a hunter, a persona that hides my inexperience from more seasoned riders. Still another gift of the sure-footed mare, my knees hugging its flanks, my buttocks sensing its instinctual energy, stokes my confidence. I will do this.

But the question remains—What is this?

 Foxhunts meld equestrians within sustained danger edged in exhilaration: Hound dogs yelp, horses strain over uneven terrain, thundering hooves taking the next fence in hot pursuit of the red fox. Only with unwavering attention will the hunt continue. The stakes are high.

It seems my Dreamer urges this hunt for my beleaguered body: Like the red fox, it needs gentling once caught—no more hiding in the burrow of self-absorption and dissociation. Only with CPA’s 12 Steps have I the Hunter-persona to deal with this, one day at a time.

 

 

My dawn prayer continues.

Terminal illness feels like a run-away train hurtling down a trestle toward a narrow tunnel; its wheels spark emotional and spiritual negatives for which there are no words. Such corresponds to my experience of unmanageability noted in Step I; its angst prods me toward the solution: Step II—Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Yet, the dregs of the rough night still sour my faith and straightjacket my willingness to believe. I sit quietly and listen, breathing in Spirit. Minutes morph into yesterday’s CPA meeting: courage, humility, honesty threaded within the members’ sharing. I sit straight in my wingback chair. Again, it’s beginning to work: the stinking thinking in my psyche breaks apart and reveals a Power greater than I could ever imagine.

Like a persistent lover, this Power changes often as our relationship deepens. Such keeps this exercise fresh.

Then, buoyed by faith, my terminal illness comes front and center, no longer breaking up like the run-away train in the dead of night. Life on life’s terms, CPA reminds me: dying is integral to living. No exceptions.

Dr. Singh also speaks of death as an arduous process that must be passed through in order to actualize the full measure of our humanness. Practice of Step II helps allay pitfalls and restores conscious contact with Higher Power, without whom I flounder.

Then my dawn prayer moves me into Step III and deeper surrender.

 

 

 

“Happy Birthday, dear Mary, Happy Birthday to you!” A glow suffused the eyes of her extended family gathered around the dining room table covered with a Christmas cloth. In front of her, five striped candles flamed atop the chocolate Bundt cake dribbled with white icing. As she filled her lungs and blew, exclamations splintered the hush and conversations picked up.

“We’ve got several flavors of ice cream and decaf coffee to go with the cake,” said Karen, as she smoothed loose strands of hair behind her ear and picked up the cake plate. “The grandkids will take orders.” But they were no longer kids, having matured into young adults, two of whom were planning weddings in 2020.

Decades of such birthdays had been celebrated in Mary’s home, with hand-made frosted cakes bedecked with sprinkles, gaily-wrapped gifts and hugs. Conversations buzzed, bonding deepened, spirits embellished as evenings evaporated within time’s memory. As always, she missed Tom, my brother.

Mary’s involvement with her growing family also extended beyond birthdays and other milestones to include overnights, movies, lunches, and athletic competitions. Her heartfelt smile affirmed their efforts to grow. She was their Nama.

Now in her eighty-fifth year, Mary’s widowed spirit faces daunting challenges: her convalescing from hip surgery, her recent downsizing, her diminishing energy. But no matter, she still dresses to the nines and participates in whatever engages her. Daily Mass in her parish remains her lodestone: the fire that inflames her spirit, keeps it willing and sacrificial. She remains the cheerful woman for others.

I know. I, too have been included around those birthday tables.

 

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