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Seeing things differently: Episode 1: Happily ever after

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

Last Saturday afternoon, I went to see a Metropolitan Opera live broadcast of a Puccini opera, “La Rondine,” and it was the catalyst for an initial healing of an issue that has been an underlying part of my life for a long time: fear of disaster ahead.

I love opera and, being quite an emotional person who feels things deeply, I sometimes get caught up in the drama and carry it over into my life. At the end of “La Rondine,” the heroine does not die, as she usually does, but she does leave her beloved, because she believes her unsavory past will dishonour his family. I left the performance sad and wondering why it had to turn out that way. When I got home, James was there to greet me, and I as told him about the opera, I started to feel really distressed. Often after I watch a movie or attend an opera, I end up “going away,” as James describes it. When I leave the fantasy world of the movie or opera and return to the “reality” of my life, I feel that reality facing me, weighing down on me, and I feel sad, afraid, and angry. That’s what happened in this case.

As I shared with him what I was feeling, I had an important insight into what was really going on. I realized that I was distressed because I want people to live happily ever after, and in this opera, the lovers don’t; on the contrary, they part, both of them heartbroken. James asked me, “Do you want to live happily ever after?” I was taken aback by his question, and tears welled up as I replied, “Yes!” Then he asked if I thought I would. The answer to that was, “No! I want to live happily ever after, but I don’t believe I can.”

When I awoke early the next morning, I journaled about my insight, because I saw that I was really on to something. As I wrote, I could see myself as a little girl, growing up with parents who didn’t seem to love each other very much. I can remember wishing so much that my parents would be happier; that my father wouldn’t be so angry and my mother so sad. My parents certainly didn’t live happily ever after, and we weren’t a happy family like those I read about in books. Now, years later, I still want a “happily ever after” for me and for everyone, but I don’t believe that it’s possible. I feel sad and I feel angry at circumstances, people, things, the world that seem to be making it impossible–but mostly at myself. I think I have made choices in my life that mean I don’t deserve to and can’t live happily ever after.

As I continued to explore this, it dawned on me that the strong desire I have to live happily ever after in this world, is really a reflection of my true desire and longing to be back with God, where–and only where–I will live happily ever after, and where I was until I had that tiny, mad idea that I could find happiness elsewhere. I realized that I have been longing for something that can’t really be found here–not on a permanent basis, anyway.

I don’t think that it’s really the choices I have made in this world that are keeping me from living happily ever after, but the disastrous choice I think I made to separate myself from God. Just as the Course teaches, I believe that I destroyed reality and, with it, the possibility of my living happily ever after. I was angry with God for not giving me the special status that I wanted. I wasn’t satisfied with being His creation and sharing His power and glory. I wanted to be Number One: that’s how I thought I’d live happily ever after. So, I chose to throw myself out of Heaven where I was living happily ever after and into this world of time and space, where I never really could live happily every after!

Although it’s addressed to Helen and Bill, one of Jesus’ New Year’s messages seems to speak directly to me about this:

His Voice has spoken so clearly, and yet you have so little faith in what you have heard, because you have preferred to place still greater faith in the disaster you have made. Today, let us resolve together to accept the joyful tidings that disaster is not real and that reality is not disaster. Reality is safe and sure, and wholly kind to everyone and everything. There is no greater love than to accept this and be glad. For love asks only that you be happy, and will give you everything that makes for happiness. (T-16.II.8)

Just as the passage says, I see disaster as real and reality as disaster. I actually seem to believe in two realities: an ultimate reality and a worldly reality. In the ultimate reality, I am living happily ever after in Heaven. In this worldly “reality” however, I am sometimes happy, sometimes not. I live under a shadow of impending doom–“perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow,” but definitely some day.

However, my insight and the New Year’s passage have given me new hope. I realize that it’s impossible to believe in two so totally different realities, so I’m resolving to withdraw my faith from disaster and place it in the reality the Course is teaching me. By doing this, I trust that I will learn to dream a happy dream instead of this nightmare of my own making, and–as much as it is possible in this world–live happily ever after. Based on Jesus’ New Year’s message and a couple of other passages elsewhere in the Course, I came up with this practice idea:

I accept the joyful tidings that there are not two realities but only one, and it is safe and sure, and wholly kind, satisfying, and loving. Reality is never frightening, but brings only perfect peace, and there I live happily ever after.

I have been using this for the past several days as part of my Post-Workbook practice, and it has been having a powerful effect on me. It really sets me off on the right foot in the morning and keeps me on track throughout the day, and I have been spending my days in a more peaceful, relaxed, and trusting state. Reminding myself that there is only one reality has also been very helpful as a response to temptation whenever I start to feel worried or fearful. I plan on using this as part of my daily practice for a while. I feel confident that it will help me heal my disaster thinking so that I can let go of it once and for all.