I was just so frustrated again. Still nauseated, in fact, by the seeming stupendous insensitivity of a costar in the movie of my so-called life, a special relationship I thought I had forgiven once and for always that nonetheless seemed to be right back in my face. Prompting the unwelcome realization that although recognizing that this relationship was not the cause of the conflict and drama in my life had been a huge step toward right-mindedness, it was by no means the end of the road to healing.
Acknowledging that this person was not the cause of my problem was not the same as truly answering my own desperate call for love presenting itself in disguise, responding from a place of open, honest empathy beyond all need to have things go my way (as if I even knew which direction that might be). In truth, I knew I was pushing love away again because it scared me. I still wanted to prove the lie of a me capable of fleeing from love because at least I knew what happened in that sad story, while I had no idea what true joining with the only real relationship within for any sustained period might mean.
“Surrender, Susan!” the ego, currently impersonating the Wicked Witch of the West of Wizard of Oz fame, wrote in the sky above my empty, little head. “Turn back, my pretty, before it’s too late!” she shrieked, hovering on her broomstick in my peripheral vision, seemingly unbidden, in an effort to terrify me back in line.
“Sickness is a defense against the truth,” I countered, quoting A Course in Miracles workbook lesson 136. Referring not just to the wretched stomach flu I appeared to have succumbed to, but also to the sick strength of my desire to hold this person–who just never seemed to change his confounding, clueless, boundary-trampling ways–responsible for my emotional and, likely, physical distress. A belief I knew sprang from the lie that our true, united, indivisible nature could have somehow separated from its source. Fragmented into a gazillion unique pieces competing in exile for scant resources, hard-wired to project the unconscious, albeit ever-resurfacing guilt festering in their minds outward in an exhausting, maddening, sickeningly futile effort to prove themselves innocent victims, just like me.
Despite this basic understanding of, and professed allegiance to, all things A Course in Miracles, I had stewed in my own toxic juices the day before—bitterly wallowing in self-pity as I lay on the couch sipping ginger ale and watching back-to-back re-runs of that deliciously soapy British concoction Downton Abbey. Completely unwilling to check in with the inner teacher of forgiveness patiently twiddling his fingers in a right mind that, at the moment, seemed more light years away than I had a numerical vocabulary to name.
“You’re a defense against the truth,” the wicked witch cackled.
“Funny,” I said.
She narrowed her blood-shot eyes, lifted her whiskered, green chin. “Never!”
But even if I wasn’t yet ready to smile gently at the absurdity of my hallucinations, I at least knew I did not have to listen to her witchy ways. She’d been trying for weeks to scare me off this path, impersonating the movie character that had invaded my nightmares as a child, skywriting her all-too-personal warning everywhere I looked. But I was not a child anymore. And even if my fear of returning to the scene of the imaginary crime of separation currently overpowered my desire to take the hand of the inner teacher of kindness, I was at least far enough along with this Course to know the fear would pass. When it did, I would once more find myself holding the proverbial hand of the guide that was leading me out of this bad dream sans yellow-brick road to our one and only home that had nothing, thank God, to do with Kansas.
And so the pale, limping, pathetic, bed-headed person I still think I am stormed off to a tai chi class to get her juju back, my bumbling beginner body following fellow students who’d been practicing far longer than I through the 108-move series. Acutely aware as I struggled to follow the hypnotic dance that I had made all this up, this classroom in a renovated theatre filled with earnest Americans learning an ancient Chinese martial art turned healthful, body, mind, and spirit practice from another earnest American. This special relationship and menacing ego I seemed to be fleeing, the car I drove here in and the road I drove on, the radio reports of more bombings in places the person I see in the mirror couldn’t even pronounce—every last bit of it.
At break I was told in answer to my question that tai chi began as a self-defense system developed by Buddhist monks a couple thousand years ago to protect themselves and their possessions from the raids of marauding bandits—ha! Holding love in their hearts as they created a way to defend the little s robed selves they still mostly thought they were from invasion. (OK, so maybe I threw in that last part.)
Rejuvenated by the end of class, feeling well enough to stop at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop for a half-caf Americano to go, I realized, while waiting in line, that the emotional sickness at the root of the physical, my robotic compulsion to prove myself victim of the world I see by identifying my favorite objects of projection as the invading marauders responsible for poisoning the love in my heart, had passed. Walking back to the car beneath a cobalt sky free of warnings, I encountered the inner teacher of true forgiveness disguised as an acquaintance I had frequently caught myself judging in the past. Now I recognized in his distraught account of his problems in a special relationship my own uncertain self-longing for reassurance that despite the nature of my current dream, I couldn’t fail to find the comfort and completion of our one loving home, and responded with genuine warmth.
In the car, Jesus, that sneaky symbol of the part of our mind that never took the “tiny, mad, idea” of separation seriously, had changed back into his robed-marvel costume and settled in beside me as I sipped my coffee, miraculously going (and staying) down, praise the Lord.
“Where have you been?” I asked.
His brows shot up the way they do.
“Just kidding,” I said, realizing again that taking his hand always meant first taking the hand of the ones we love to hate, however minor or major their role in our dream appears.
And I thought about how, for the longest time, I magically believed that if I were doing this forgiveness business right, I would somehow get up in the morning and see the special object of my projection transformed into a perfectly compliant, unwaveringly supportive version of the one I’d dreamed up, with whom I could blissfully enjoy my ever-awakening state. For the longest time, I still believed changing my mind from the ego as my teacher to the inner super savior would result in a classroom in which all my lessons had already been learned and I could simply sit back and rest on my graduate laurels.
For the longest time, I thought it was the classroom that needed to change, that a conflict-free life would prove I was making real progress with this Course, that I could awaken as “me,” have this Course and the person I see when I look in the mirror, however imperfect, too. You know, without all those difficult others “out there.” Somehow, that thought had wormed its way back in and I was furious that the objects of my projections were still hanging around, doing the same, old infuriating things. Worse, that wicked witch of the ego thought system knew it and was pitching it as evidence not only that I would never get home, but that, if I refused to turn back, continued on this path to sanity, I would end up as flying monkey food.
Surrender Susan, the wicked witch wrote in the sky of my brain over and over, cackling away, seeking to convince me once again that the home I was seeking was not in the mind but back in the dream. Where I could align with its good and evil defenses against the truth, its ever-winding yellow-brick-road to nowhere that, however dangerous, would at least keep the idea of a seeking, dreaming, monkey-bait Susan going.
The fact that I had released my belief that this special relationship was the cause of my conflict did not mean I had completely let go of the robotic need to project the guilt and fear still alive in my mind on my favorite target. I was not always willing to see peace instead of reacting to this person doing the things this person does in this script of “otherness” I’d chosen to review. The details of which I am choosing from moment to moment to continue to believe, reinforce, and support, or question, release, and heal my mind around, depending on which inner teacher I am willing to follow.
I am not always ready to choose again, but at least now I know I always have a choice. I have felt the peace beyond mortal understanding that mirrors the peace of our real home before, and will always feel it again once my fear in the form of anger, sickness, anxiety, irritation—whatever–subsides. At least now I have faith that no matter how miserable I am choosing to make myself at any given moment in a misguided effort to preserve the idea of me, the indivisible love I am really seeking is still so close I cannot fail.
From the level on which we meet it A Course in Miracles is a process. Until all the secret guilt in my mind is undone, I still need the classroom of my life in which to learn and the teacher of forgiveness, ACIM-style, to learn from, lending the statement, Surrender Susan, a completely different, welcome twist. The promise that if I step back and am willing to follow, I will make it home to the one love we are, sooner or later, having never really left it in the first place.
I started the car. “I see what you mean,” I said, back on the road again.
Jesus, go figure, just smiled.
And I knew, truly, madly, deeply, all I really needed, right now, to know.
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.