I Gotta Be Me! (Well, maybe not…)

I Gotta Be Me

-Sammy Davis, Jr.

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me
What else can I be but what I am

I want to live, not merely survive
And I won’t give up this dream
Of life that keeps me alive
I gotta be me, I gotta be me
The dream that I see makes me what I am

That far-away prize, a world of success
Is waiting for me if I heed the call
I won’t settle down, won’t settle for less
As long as there’s a chance that I can have it all

I’ll go it alone, that’s how it must be
I can’t be right for somebody else
If I’m not right for me
I gotta be free, I’ve gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die
I’ve gotta be me

I started writing at a very young age, long before kindergarten asking adults around me to pen specific words and practicing, practicing, practicing until my wobbly hieroglyphics slowly morphed into reasonable facsimiles of the word in question. Not surprisingly, the first word I asked to learn was my own name. I practiced writing out SUSAN—not SUE or SUZY as some preferred to diminish it–until I had mastered through repetition the intricacies of my unique moniker. Inflated with that sublime accomplishment, I scribbled it everywhere I could think of, a pre-school tagger before the invention of that word.

On a trip to visit my aunt at her summer camp on a lake whose name I can no longer recall, I even etched it–using the side of a dime from my piggy bank–into a shingle on her garage and was busted within minutes by my mother soon joined by a posse of adult relatives, ambushed as I spun out of control on a tire swing hitched to the branch of an enormous black walnut. Mother hauled me unceremoniously back to the scene of the crime, her similarly outraged tribe in toe, and asked me what I thought I was doing. Terrified, I denied it.

“Who else would write it?” my mother’s tight lips somehow managed to inquire. Of course, she had a point. (I couldn’t exactly attempt to pin it on my little brother.) Nonetheless I stuck with my story, and was banished to a bedroom for the rest of the day while my brother and cousins—high on my exile–loudly frolicked in the meadow outside the open window. I know I cried a lot for a long time at the unfairness of it all. Eventually, though, I opened my notebook and started writing my evil name all over again, robotically leaving my mark on page after page, somehow soothed by the survival of those five little letters that defined me.

In junior high, my focus shifted to hitching the last name of an unsuspecting boy we’ll call Jonathan Brown to my first name, filling notebooks with the signature of Susan Brown, beloved wife. Each stroke of my pen weaving a web of our idyllic life together in a Cape Cod house overlooking a glossy river wherein a voice was never raised, a Disney score played 24/7, and animated woodland creatures joyfully assisted with household chores.

Fast forward more decades than I care to count and here I am still grappling with that fatal attraction to the power of ME. Only it’s not bringing me much in the way of pleasure these days. Practicing A Course in Miracles has pretty much ruined my ability to mindlessly self-indulge, the key word here being mindlessly. I still self-indulge all the time I am sorry to admit, but my awareness of what I’m doing has taken all the fun out of it. After all, I am studying a big blue book which tells us repeatedly and in many different and creative ways that we are not the selves we think we are; these puny little children vying for differentiation and recognition. You’d think I would simply give it up as a result, but the habit is strong, and apparently takes time to completely dismantle. And so I watch as I continue to vacillate between craving attention and abhorring the spotlight certain to illuminate what the Course calls the “secret sins and hidden hates” I have coveted for so long, not nearly as secret and hidden since I’ve been practicing forgiveness A Course in Miracles style, but still.

The thing is, as Course students it may be relatively easy to wrap our heads around A Course in Miracles’ creation myth wherein the one child of God forgot to laugh at the tiny mad idea that it could separate from its eternally loving, united source. We can certainly understand how–guilty and terrified by the imaginary crime–it followed the ego’s plan for salvation, projecting that shameful thought into an entire universe of unique forms, repressing the memory of that decision, and assuming bodies with which to compete for its survival.

The problem is I don’t remember any of this. I have completely identified with the body, brain, and personality of SUSAN to the point that it is impossible for me to experience myself otherwise except in the holy instant in which I again judge myself victimized or victimizing, better or worse, greater or lesser than others, feel the pain of that same old hallucination, and ask to see things differently.  The “I” I still think I am can’t pull this off alone. While the decision maker—the part of the split mind that appeared to choose for the ego at the very beginning–can indeed learn to watch the ego, unless it chooses to watch accompanied by the quiet, loving, knowing, smiling right mind/Holy (Whole) Spirit/Jesus, whatever you want to call it, it will not experience the release and relief forgiveness brings.

When the Course tells us in Chapter 18 that “I Need Do Nothing” it means that the “I” I think I am does not forgive. My only job is to recognize in my persecuting and persecuted feelings that I have again mistaken what I really am. That’s my cue to join with the part of my mind that knows what I am. The part of our one mind that did not take the tiny mad idea of separation and specialness seriously from the very beginning merely waits for us to join with it. It will not swoop down and save us from ourselves because it knows with every fiber of its being that nothing real could ever have been threatened because nothing unreal exists, as the Course’s preface so poetically reminds us. It knows the peace of God remains intact. And so we must choose for it, over, and over, and over again, gradually experiencing ourselves as the empowered decision maker, until the catnip of unconscious guilt that lures us back to the ego has completely dried up and we find that there never was a split mind to begin with, only uninterrupted, endlessly creative, completed and completely supported, relentless Love.

I am learning as I practice A Course in Miracles what’s really in a name, as Shakespeare so aptly put it. The thought of specialness I once coveted in the name of SUSAN is losing its luster. The thought of specialness I once coveted in the names of my closest relationships has followed suit. This does not mean I no longer value my family and friends, but that I see their real, infinite, endlessly magnificent value far beyond my petty needs and expectations of them. And in that ongoing choice from moment to moment to truly see, I am gradually healed of my investment in a name.

I have made a few additions to this site. You’ll find several reviews of my new book on the Book Reviews page. I have just posted some new Q & A’s on my Questions & Answers page; please feel free to submit ACIM-related questions. I have also added a Media page where you can now find a couple of recent radio interviews. (I will soon be adding audio and video recordings about ACIM’s forgiveness here.) I have started offering individual ACIM Mentoring sessions by phone. Mentoring can be very helpful in working through our resistance to allowing the ego’s undoing and accepting the unwavering loving presence of our one inner Teacher.


  1. Great article, thanks! It’s so vitally important to just look (gently, please! 🙂 at the thought system that wants to make our individual identity important, which includes our name, persona, “need machine” body, and all the trappings of specialness that we’ve stacked up as barricades to Peace. Forgiving ourselves when we catch our decision-making minds choosing the ‘make a big deal outta nuthin’ thought system dismantles that imaginary barricade. I like the ‘fatal attraction to the power of ME’ reminder; what we really are isn’t lured by the sirens of “little s” selfhood. 🙂

  2. Thanks so much, Bruce!:)

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