Forgiveness is the key to happiness

My weekend had been humming along rather nicely here in dreamland if I do say so myself. I had finally gotten moving on a writing project I’d been fussing with and procrastinating about, clinging mother-like to my creations as I am wont to do, afraid to see them off into a cruel and bitter world, longing to hold them to the dubious safety of my throbbing heart a little longer.

Crossing the final t and dotting the final i without further flirting with form or content, I’d sent the manuscript off to the designer at last. A flood of new ideas rushed into the void. I spent all day Saturday tackling long overdue projects around the house, cooking and running errands, cleaning the refrigerator and emptying cupboards and closets of their expired occasionally mysterious and even frightening contents as brainstorms for classes, essays, and stories percolated along the horizon of my adrenaline-powered head.

Toward the end of the day I rushed home from the giant warehouse store having completed my final tasks and headed downtown with my husband to catch dinner at a favorite French restaurant followed by a deft performance of Sleeping Beauty with the Colorado Ballet. Awaking the next morning with a sore throat and stuffy nose, I lingered in bed with my little dog, weakly attempting to connect with the inner teacher of kindness for all as I do every morning before surveying the day’s upcoming activities. My husband had flown out before dawn to attend to putting his parents’ newly renovated home back East on the market. I had scheduled lunch with a friend and a late afternoon movie with another. Despite feeling the onset of the bug that seemed to be going around, I rallied and rose, looking forward to a day of leisure, my just reward for a day of productive toil.

After feeding Kayleigh the dog and Victor the fish and downing a fistful of magic in the form of vitamin and mineral supplements, I grabbed the big, blue book and my jacket, intending to head to the gym for a workout on the stationery bike while reviewing a text selection for the weekly A Course in Miracles class I teach, only to discover that my keys had gone missing. Thinking I’d probably grabbed them while getting ready to leave, I retraced my steps in the kitchen and bathroom to no avail, rummaged in my pockets and purse, and paused. OK, when had I last used them?

I recalled returning from Costco after being unexpectedly caught in a construction-induced bottleneck of traffic that sent me crisscrossing around back streets in an effort to make it home in time. As I was unloading the car, my neighbor had pulled up and—citing our impending engagement–I’d excused myself from our usual conversation as I lugged a case of Vitamin Water Zero and a few other groceries into the house. I thought I remembered heading back out to lock the car with the remote on my keys. I checked outside and found the doors to my car indeed locked. I checked the refrigerated items thinking I might have set the keys on top of something in my distracted state, the pants pockets I’d been wearing and the jacket I’d donned for the ballet.

Before going any further let me just state for the record that—unlike some other people with whom I cohabitate, for example—I am not a chronic or even an occasional loser of keys. I am a creature of devoted habit who returns her belongings to their proper places the moment she walks in the door. Jackets are hung on the same hanger from which they were removed. Shoes are placed on the special shelves precisely designed for that purpose conveniently situated by the doors. Mail is immediately sorted and dealt with. Shopping bags are stored in their containers in the closet. Keys go back in the same pocket in my purse. Not knowing where something I need could be is clearly unacceptable to the person I still think I am when I look in the mirror; unacceptable and—apparently—somewhat terrifying.

I started ransacking the house like a forensic scientist on meth, flinging kitchen and bathroom cabinet drawers and doors open. Peering under the bed with a flashlight and scanning the floor of my office, donning dishwashing gloves and sorting through trash cans, questioning the dog staring up at me with her ancient-looking eyes, seized by a growing sense of panic I couldn’t really account for. I called my husband who sagely advised me to look in all the places I already had.

My throat and eyes burned, my neck ached, and my heart seemed to contract, gripped by a wild, reckless, dangerous sense of lost control. Suddenly nothing in the world seemed more important than finding those freaking keys! My entire well being and future safety illogically appeared to depend on it, even though I had another set of car keys, my house keys were not on the key ring, and the other set of keys that was on the key ring  had no meaning to anyone who might find them.

I knew from studying, practicing, and teaching A Course in Miracles that the missing keys were not responsible for my panic attack. I knew I could see peace instead of this by choosing the inner teacher of unalterable peace instead of the inner teacher of constant chaos. But quite honestly in that moment, I wanted to find those keys more than I wanted to learn that lesson. Still, I couldn’t quite dodge a vague awareness of Jesus—that symbol of our awakened mind the Course uses to teach us we are not many demented bodies but one sane mind—hovering in the background of my consciousness.

I spun around and—just as I suspected–there he was, our imaginary robed wonder, smiling his signature smile.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I said.

“You always do.”

“Well, don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to find the freaking keys for me.”

His eyebrows shot up the way they do.

“No really,” I said. “I wouldn’t think of dragging you into this. I mean, it’s not like you’re a valet or something. Anyway, bringing you into the world to help me out just makes me want to stay here and we know only too well the thing to do in a desert is leave.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“It’s just that I need my keys for that,” I said.

“Funny.”

I sighed. “That’s why I’m calling in Saint Anthony.”

“Saint Anthony?”

“Patron saint of all things lost.”

“I see.”

“Even though I know what you’re thinking. If I do that I’m really pushing your love, I mean my love, I mean our love away and I know that’s not what I really want. So how about you give me just one second while I dial up Saint Anthony and then we can just hang out together for a while. Have a cup of Joe?”

“We’ve talked about this.”

I sighed. “It’s just that I want to have my Course and my keys, too, if you know what I’m saying? I mean, if I ask for your help in looking at this I might not get my keys back, right?”

“True. But you might not get them back anyway.”

“You don’t believe in Saint Anthony do you?”

But he just kept smiling, go figure.

“OK,” I said. My breath slowed. My shoulders relaxed. My chest expanded to embrace the all. Words from the big, blue book came boomeranging back to me. “It’s like it says in workbook lesson 121, ‘Forgiveness is the key to happiness,’” I said.

“‘Here is the answer to your search for peace. Here is the key to meaning in a world that seems to make no sense. Here is the way to safety in apparent dangers that appear to threaten you at every turn, and bring uncertainty to all your hopes of ever finding quietness and peace. Here are all questions answered; here the end of all uncertainty ensured at last.’”

“Well stated,” he said.

“Ha! And all that means is choosing your viewpoint, your awareness–but only yours. The teacher of love and fear can’t speak over each other. And peace is never found or lost in form.”

“A +,” he said, with a little thumbs up.

I returned the gesture, heart full. “How about that coffee?” I asked.

But he was already gone. I grabbed my spare set of keys and headed to the gym.

(NOTE: A Course in Miracles uses the figure of Jesus as a symbol of the part of our seemingly split mind that remembered to smile at the “tiny, mad, idea” that we could separate from our eternally one, loving source. It teaches us to call on this part of our mind whenever we find ourselves blaming our distress on something seemingly outside us to experience healed perception.)

ACIM mentoring can help students learn to practice and experience the Course’s extraordinary, mind-healing forgiveness in their daily lives, and offers the opportunity to experience a relationship outside the bondage of ego judgment and need. For information on individual ACIM mentoring; please click on the mentoring tab on this site.

Check out the recent questions and answers to my Q & A page on this site and feel free to ask an ACIM-related question there.

My collection of personal essays, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, about practicing ACIM’s extraordinary forgiveness in ordinary life is a finalist in the 2012 National Indie Excellence Awards http://indieexcellence.com/ and is available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Extraordinary-Ordinary-Forgiveness-Susan-Dugan/dp/1846945585.  If you read and like the book, please consider posting a review on Amazon.

If you enjoy these posts and like fiction, you might enjoy my collection of linked short stories, Safe Haven, recently selected as a finalist for the Colorado Book Award in the literary fiction category: http://www.coloradohumanities.org/content/2012-colorado-book-award-finalists.

Comments

  1. What a gem, right a the end: “…peace is never found or lost in form.” Maybe our totally shared answer is to always ask our Inner Kindness Teacher to do the (oh-so-gentle) valet parking of our metaphoric space-time vehicles. :-) Since you’re on the subject of keys, here’s my fave ‘key story’: …
    (I found it online here: http://www.getnewvisions.com/teaching_stories/how_to_read_ts.html )

    A man was walking home late one night when he saw the Mulla Nasrudin searching under a street light on hands and knees for something on the ground. “Mulla, what have you lost?” he asked.

    “The key to my house,” Nasrudin said.

    “I’ll help you look,” the man said.

    Soon, both men were down on their knees, looking for the key.

    After a number of minutes, the man asked, “Where exactly did you drop it?”

    Nasrudin waved his arm back toward the darkness. “Over there, in my house.”

    The first man jumped up. “Then why are you looking for it here?”

    “Because there is more light here than inside my house.”

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