I sat at my desk on another Monday morning, staring at the computer screen in front of me, the proverbial blank page I still sometimes see in my dreams, as white as the carpet of newly, fallen snow outside my office window, beckoning my inner child to fill it with angels. A space I once believed filling with words might reveal the answers I was seeking, coaxed from the faraway recesses of enlightened mind. A space I have simply dedicated in more recent years to observing my individual wishes seemingly realized, and reviewing them with the inner teacher of true forgiveness of what never was within. That I might join with him in transcending their symbols to their source—the false belief in many conflicting bodies triumphing over one ever-tranquil, loving mind—a story without plot or characters, heroes or villains, lights, camera, or action, nonetheless always met with endless, expanding applause.
It had been a week in which events within the imagined movie of this so-called life had left me rocked by an intense experience of déjà vu, a heightened awareness that I had seen these films before, ad nauseam, actually. That their recurrence offered the self I still mostly think I am a fresh opportunity to use them for the purpose of healing my mind, instead of to prove my dream of separation real. To remember I was their producer, writer, and director, rather than their star, striving to deliver the academy-award-winning performance she believed she deserved.
Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Pictures had delivered its awards to its best and brightest the night before and the industry’s pageantry lingered. The flash of the Red Carpet, the couture gowns. The jewels, the gaffs, the potty-mouthed, talking Teddy Bear, Barbra’s surprise performance of that beloved anthem of the special relationship, The Way We Were, the blood, sweat, and tears the self I still think I am luxuriates in vicariously indulging. And so, I texted my inner teacher, that imaginary robed marvel within available 24/7 for consultation, to meet me in the viewing room for a little retrospective of The Saga of Susan. And found him suddenly sitting beside me, wearing the cardboard, 3-D glasses he had pinched from me a while back and found so entertaining—upside-down, no less—not an easy feat. Obviously, form has never been his forte. And—let’s face it—no glasses will ever enable him to really see a hallucinated, 3-D world.
Nonetheless, to humor him, really—a favor I owe him, big time!–I turned them over and placed them back on his face. “We need to talk,” I said.
“Okey dokey. Time for popcorn?”
I patted his arm. “It’s a little early for that,” I explained. “Cup of Joe, instead?”
He shook his head. “Trying to get off the stuff.”
“Ha! Flax-seed muffin?”
He held one up to his glasses, as if examining it.
“You want to eat the tops,” I said, demonstrating how to twist it off, intact, a skill for which I was justly famous, granted, in a pretty small circle, but still.
He did so, too—such a quick study.
“What about the bottoms?” he asked.
I frowned. “No real texture, superfluous really.”
“So what do you do with them?”
I shrugged. “If you’re in a bad mood, just hurl them.”
“Far out,” he said. But he must have been in a good mood again—go figure—because he just put his down on the little side table conveniently built into our imaginary, especially plush and comfortable, theatre chairs.
The lights dimmed. The credits rolled, and we were once more watching one of the scenes from The Saga of Susan replayed again last week and God knows how many lifetimes, the one in which I again found myself lamenting the many ways in which a costar seemed to have once again invented his own damn script, improvised his own plot and lines, rather than delivering the one we’d been rehearsing in my mind, the one I’d been trying to get him to play since the apparent dawn of linear time. Only this time, about to throw another internal diva hissy-fit, I found myself pausing. Not only suddenly aware there was a better way, another script, but actually unable to deliver the reactive performance that would lead to the tragic outcome I once secretly wanted as a substitute for the comedy I secretly believed I didn’t deserve. We didn’t deserve.
I grabbed the remote, hit the pause button. “There,” I said, “Right there.”
Jesus tilted his head, adjusted his glasses, as if to get a better view.
“The thing is, I’m tired of this role,” I said. “Tired of the whole damn series, really.”
As if he didn’t already know. “Because it hurts, too much,” I said.
“See, every scene in every movie of our seeming, individual life offers the chance to choose again for healing our mind instead of reinforcing the idea that I exist but it’s not my fault. It’s that award-winning costar’s. It’s the plots’, it’s the scripts’. And the same scenes and the same movie will keep repeating until we’re ready to see things differently. You know, the way you see them, as opportunities for healing our mind of the thought of separation realized instead of driving ourselves deeper into the movie-making business. It’s like you said in Chapter 31, VIII. Choose Once Again:
‘Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought you. In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity, Christ calls to you and gently says, “My brother, choose again. …” ’ (from paragraph 3)
“See, it’s like in that movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray keeps living the same day over and over and over but eventually learns he doesn’t have to step in the metaphorical puddle again. He can eventually learn to avoid the victimized and victimizing mistakes he made and replace them with kinder responses. Simply by reviewing them with his right mind and realizing they’re hurting him. Keeping him imprisoned in an endless, frustrating day.”
I was on a roll now. “Or, it’s like the introduction to the old Dick Van Dyke show, where he walked into his living room and tripped over the ottoman for a couple of years before he finally learned toward the end of the series that he could choose to remember his mistake and step around it.”
There had been other scenes from The Saga of Susan revisited over the last week, too. Itchy evidence of another spider bite, the creepy perpetrator mysteriously, at large. My failure to once more reach my stealthy daughter–away in the mountains in a snowstorm over the weekend–by phone. My complete inability to cohabitate with a box or five of Girls Scout cookies (invited into the house by a rogue costar), without succumbing to a seemingly involuntary urge to consume every last one of them, resulting in a crabby sugar hangover.
And yet, in each case, there arose in my mind the certainty that I just didn’t want to hurt myself again, like this, and didn’t have to. That holding any one or thing seemingly “out there” responsible for destroying my peace—including the Cookie Monster I still seem to see in the mirror—would cause me to suffer. And I didn’t want to suffer over these scenes anymore.
“And so, I chose again, for you,” I concluded.
Jesus and I gazed up at the screen. The credits rolled. And it went blank again.
We sat in silence for a moment, or a lifetime, I can’t be sure.
“Do you mind if I eat the bottom of this thing, too?” he asked, after a while, raising his muffin.
I thought about it, surprised to learn I really had no opinion left on the subject. At least at the moment. I shook my head, and smiled. “Knock yourself out, big guy,” I said.
“The images you make cannot prevail against what God Himself would have you be. Be never fearful of temptation, then, but see it as it is; another chance to choose again, and let Christ’s strength prevail in every circumstance and every place you raised an image of yourself before. For what appears to hide the face of Christ is powerless before His majesty, and disappears before his holy sight. The saviors of the world, who see like him, are merely those who choose His strength instead of their own weakness, seen apart from Him. They will redeem the world, for they are joined in all the power of the Will of God. And what they will is only what He wills.” (paragraph 4)
Susan Dugan’s books Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, and Forgiveness: The Key to Happiness are available at RMMC and on Amazon. She writes about ACIM based on Ken Wapnick’s teachings at ForaysInForgiveness.com and teaches Tuesday nights at RMMC.