“I take the journey with you. For I share your doubts and fears a little while, that you may come to me who recognize the road by which all fears and doubts are overcome. We walk together. I must understand uncertainty and pain, although I know they have no meaning. Yet a savior must remain with those he teaches, seeing what they see but still retaining in his mind the way that led him out, and now will lead you out with him. …” (A Course in Miracles workbook Part I—Review V, paragraph 6)
I stood outside my daughter’s car in front of the outdoor baggage check-in kiosk at the Seattle airport, as if awaiting an executioner. Ready or not, the time had really come. I hugged her, choking back tears I had been heretofore successfully swallowing (at least in her presence) for weeks. She had just finished explaining the facetime app to me again, showing me how to access the tiny video camera icon on my reputedly smart (but in actual practice barely above-average) phone, another virtual way we would keep in touch this summer, Mom. And, you know, for the rest of our lives apart, she thankfully did not say. The idea of my life moving onward after boarding this plane seemed, at the moment, as obscure as the benign cumulous clouds playfully scudding east past Mount Rainier in a bright blue sky Denver hadn’t seen the likes of all spring.
I had arrived six days earlier to help her and her boyfriend find an apartment in their new hometown. They had departed from Denver a few days before that, the worn cloth bunny my daughter had cherished since infancy endearingly tucked into the leather folds of her career girl bag, enabling them to spend several days before me in Seattle to explore potential neighborhoods and firm up appointments with the realtor charged with helping them explore rental possibilities. Immediately upon my arrival we had embarked on a whirlwind, two-day tour of mostly towering new downtown high rises constructed to accommodate an enormous influx of young people relocating to the city to fill jobs with rapidly expanding tech companies.
Most of the new residences boasted gorgeous rooftops complete with fire pits, high-end grills, bocce ball courts, putting greens, artificial turf mini dog yards (I am not making this up … well, anymore than usual), and sweeping, hypnotic, panoramic views of Lake Union and Puget Sound. Here and in grand, lavishly appointed lobbies, resident managers boasted about the many social activities—from concerts and cooking demonstrations to cocktail parties and Crossfit classes– regularly held to help human and canine newcomers mingle. Geared to attract a young, social, dog-parenting, upwardly mobile, millennial demographic, the spaces served to distract potential renters from the pricey, cramped, minimally appointed abodes above and below, at least long enough to slap down a deposit, undergo a background check, receive credit approval, and sign a year-to-18-month lease before the hangover kicked in.
I am happy to report that, although captivated and sorely tempted, especially by the hypnotic views, in the end, my daughter and her boyfriend wisely chose not to drink the Kool-aid, selecting instead the lovely, compact apartment in a smaller, lower building that had first caught my eye. Located about a mile up the hill on a quieter, tree-lined street, it was still easily within walking distance to work and downtown attractions and sported a vibrant neighborhood of its own. My daughter and I spent the remainder of the week driving out of town far enough to find affordable warehouse furniture stores (from which to purchase a couch) and taking care of other relocation-related errands before she started work the following week. Now and then, we took breaks to play tourist, indulging our senses at Pike’s Place market, learning about a giant Pacific octopus at the aquarium, touring Lake Union and Washington by boat, and eating the best sushi I have ever encountered!
I thought I would be able to resume my so-called life once I had gotten a visceral sense of my daughter’s new physical location. But back in Denver three weeks later I seemed to have stalled. During the last year, aware of this time slowly approaching like an asteroid on a collision course with my personal earth, I had tried to maximize every moment with my daughter. Who, ironically, as the inevitability of gradation and her launch into the great frontier of adulthood drew nearer, had started calling and texting more and coming home on weekends.
The closeness we had shared when she was a child (before adolescence hit seemingly overnight the first week of middle school) not only restored, but magically transformed through the alchemy of time and a fine liberal arts education. So that the best friend I’d always sensed lurking in her (beyond the roles we played) from the moment she first stirred within me—“quickening,” they call it, when the growing fetus first makes its presence known, or maybe because of the way it quickens a mother’s heart—emerged all grown up! And, you know, ready to move on.
As she sent out resumes and emailed me cover letters to look over, her future still a pristinely blank slate, I did my best to remain completely supportive but neutral. Reminding myself that she had chosen her own path, her own classrooms and curriculum in which to ultimately learn—as we all do, through lengthy trial and error—the only real purpose and ultimate use for our seeming lives here: true forgiveness. All the while, the tabula rasa of my own future, post wherever she ended up landing, skirted the gauzy fields of my peripheral vision as I went about my daily tasks, writing, and teaching, and whipping up yet another pot or platter of something to sustain us, in a state of suspended animation. Until, shortly after Easter, when we learned she had landed a good job in Seattle. The place she most hoped to go, having lived her whole life and attended college in Colorado, to taste something different for a few years. Before I come back home to settle, you know, Mom? And, believe me, I did! Only I never looked back when I left at 21, never returned, had no real intention whatsoever of doing so.
During the weeks that followed, the long graduation weekend we spent in Colorado Springs followed less than a week later by a celebration trip to Hawaii that proved once again that there are no vacations from forgiveness—not even in paradise—returning to a houseful of guests and, but days later, flying to Seattle, I could only focus on getting her settled there. My colossal powers of imagination notwithstanding, I couldn’t seem to envision anything beyond that horizon and still seemed hopelessly stuck. Imprisoned like Chevy Chase as Sparky Griswald in the old movie Christmas Vacation. Trapped in the proverbial attic with nothing else to do but miserably entertain myself replaying old family movies of seemingly happier times.
Worse, although I swear I occasionally thought I heard him oh so distantly whisper: “Don’t go there, Susan,” try as I might, my inner professor, that symbol of the part of my mind that took no film (however tantalizing its oh, so special effects) seriously and knew beyond all ego shadows of doubt that the Love we still are and have always been could never go missing, had remained maddeningly elusive since graduation weekend. Despite my feeble cries for help to see things differently. Although I tried to raise the cause of my seeming, solitary, abysmal reactions to doubt as A Course in Miracles asks us to, my decision-making mind felt numb, drugged; unable to shift out of its default ego gear. I couldn’t read, write, think, paint, cook, sleep, pray.
Once in a while, I would try to use the void within which I seemed to drift productively to tackle a long backlog of mindless domestic errands that involved driving to the likes of Home Depot, pharmacies, Costco, nurseries, even a jeweler at one point to finally get those rings that had been slipping off my fingers for years resized. But rather than distract me, these pathetic little road trips left me ever more riveted on the past. Everywhere I went, the ego’s parade of images outside the car window seemed to mock me.
There was the pool where I taught my daughter to swim and we played endless rounds of Marco Polo, the university music school where she’d taken voice lessons, the music store where I waited and chatted with aging hippies while she learned to finger a guitar. There was the noodle place, run by the elderly Chinese couple, where we savored the most amazing Cantonese broth-filled dumplings, before or after soccer excursions, the preschool, elementary, and middle schools she attended where I volunteered and taught creative writing classes, the local library where we picked up bags of books. There was the Botanic Gardens where she whirled around in poufy dresses during summer concerts and, with her friend Gabby, sat on a grassy hillside painting and selling watercolors of blooming lily pads the year they installed the Monet’s Garden exhibit. I know!
“Bad dreams?” my imaginary inner professor asked, now, glancing up from the pile of papers he appeared to be grading on his desk, even though we both knew they had actually started out, at least, as good.
I blinked, still groggy, surprised to find myself seated across from him once more. You have no idea, I thought. After all, it had been such a long time I had begun to wonder if he were just another figment of my wild imagination, pre-programmed by a mind on a planet far, far away to ultimately abandon me like every other apparent object of my projection. All so I could fulfill my secret wish to prove I really exist apart from our one loving Source, but it’s not my fault, it’s theirs! (Ugh!)
Behind him, through the beveled window, the rain continued to stream from engorged clouds above the wantonly leafy, swaying trees.
“Long time, no see with,” he said.
“Yeah,” I agreed, yawning. “You never call, you never write.”
He smiled. “What can I do for you today?” he asked.
I grabbed my phone from my pocket and began scrolling through photos from the last few months, explaining and documenting the unfortunate predicament I found myself in, filling him in on all the bittersweet details. He pulled his chair around the desk and sat beside me, leaning in to study each image, as if he could see them, too.
Then we sat in silence and I leaned my head on his shoulder.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I said, after a while, sitting up straight.
His brows shot up the way they do.
“It’s a good thing for both of us you don’t know how to roll your holy eyes.”
But then he turned toward me, took my hands, and looked straight into mine. For once I did not look away.
And what can I say? There was no need for joking around, you know? No need for false bravado. Under his knowing gaze, the inner tender spot revealed, the wound within us all somehow healed. The tears came then, welcome tears of relief. I lay my head on his shoulder again and finally rested, really rested! There was nothing else in the whole wide world left to do.
“I see what you’re saying,” I said, eventually lifting my head, because strangely enough, I think I finally did. “I mean, what if love doesn’t require a focal point, a recipient? What if we can love and love some more and love again and again regardless of who we’re with or not with, what they do or don’t do, where they go or don’t go, here or there or anywhere—hell, nowhere!—at all? What if we can just open to it, be honest about it; stop trying to protect ourselves from it? What if we can dive into the precarious pleasure and pain of struggling to retain its form, and arise from those depths completely unscathed, simply to love?”
He nodded. “Go on,” he said.
I sighed, in the best possible way. I didn’t feel empty anymore. But beyond these words I could barely go. “And find ourselves where we have always been,” I heard myself say. “Completely intact, right here in the mind with you?”
“Imagine that,” he said.
And I can’t really explain it, but for a moment that felt like all lifetimes well lived, I did.
“We place faith in the experience that comes from practice, not the means we use. We wait for the experience and recognize that it is only here conviction lies. We use the words, and try and try again to go beyond them to their meaning, which is far beyond their sound. The sound grows dim and disappears as we approach the Source of meaning. It is Here that we find rest.” (Paragraph 12)
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.