My name is Mary Anne, and I am…

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

I have been absent from the CCC for several months, because I’ve been going through an intense healing process––more like a deconstruction of my whole belief system!–– and too much was happening and too fast for me to write about. Then, just yesterday (December 30th) I had a huge breakthrough and I want to share it, as much for myself as for you.

In October I went to Dallas for a week of treatments for macular degeneration. This may sound quite straightforward, but it was anything but that. It took me almost a year to make the decision to go for the treatments. I was concerned about the cost of traveling from Ottawa to Dallas and undergoing a week’s treatments. But more than that, I kept holding out for a miraculous healing from Jesus. (After all, I had spent a year working on the healing of my mind, and Jesus had constantly affirmed that I was already healed and just needed to accept it!) Guidance over the summertime indicated that I wasn’t ready to receive a spontaneous healing, and that I needed it to come in a more worldly form. Then things started to fall into place without my effort (including an offer from our friend and fellow CCC member, John Perry, and his wife to stay with them and use John’s car to travel back and forth to my daily appointments), so I decided to go.

My whole experience in Dallas was blessed from the beginning and the blessings continued the whole time I was there. Except for two mini ego attacks of doubt and mistrust (which I got through with the Course and John), I spent my time there in a state of love and joy, seeing love everywhere. I could literally feel an endless flow of love going out from me and then coming back to me, as if every moment was a holy instant and every meeting a holy encounter. I felt held in God’s love the whole time. Afterwards I jokingly said that I managed to stay in that state despite driving back and forth every day from one end of Dallas to the other on several different freeways at rush hour! Being in such a prolonged state of love was a new experience for me, and one for which I felt full of joy and gratitude. Each day’s lesson seemed to support my healing in a very tangible way. There was an improvement in my sight at the end of the treatments, but even if there hadn’t been, the trip would have been a great success. The gifts of love and joining would have been plenty enough for me. That was the real healing experience for me.

Perhaps the most significant thing about going to Dallas for the treatments was the realization that in doing so, I was doing something loving and caring for myself. I was telling myself that I was worth the loving care and the time and money involved. That was quite a new thing for me.

When I returned home, I felt as if something major had shifted in me. The day I arrived, we were on Lesson 286, “The hush of Heaven holds my heart today,” and that was exactly how I felt. As the lesson said, “I had found the way, and travelled along it to a wholly certain goal.” I had a strong sense that this time as I completed the Workbook, I would be closer than ever to the goal of accepting my true Self and seeing with true perception.

It’s not surprising that the ego launched a full-scale attack on me shortly afterwards––one which lasted until yesterday. The week after I got back, I started a program of acupuncture treatments for the macular degeneration. At first, I was quite excited about having found a doctor who had proven results with macular degeneration patients, but very soon I started to feel burdened and resentful. I could have seen my acupuncture treatments as another act of loving kindness to myself, but­––oh, no––I had to see them as burdens, taking from me, depleting me even more. The twice-weekly trips by bus and the treatments themselves took up six to seven hours every week, hours that took me away from my Course work. My time in Dallas had already meant more than a week off work, and I still hadn’t caught up. Here I was falling farther behind, working evenings and weekends to try to keep on top of things, hardly ever stopping. I kept getting messages about needing to rest, but didn’t see how I could. I had lots to share on CCC blogs, but had no time to write anything, and I was feeling guilty about letting you CCC members down.

By early December, I was in a state of exhaustion and depletion, although I kept pushing on. I knew that I needed to see and do things differently; I needed to find a new way to live and work, but I had no idea how. On top of all this, I felt absolutely no connection with God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. I felt lost and bereft. I wanted to live a guided life, but was not hearing any guidance. The pain of living this way was unbearable. As I told Jesus, “I don’t want to live another moment of this life without feeling your presence.” Surely there was something more or different I could be doing, but I didn’t know what.

Finally, in despair, I told Jesus, “I give up!” and the immediate response was,

Now we’re getting somewhere…. If you are serious about giving up, then watch the effects of that decision. Give up, Mary. Give yourself up to me to be replaced by your true, one and only Self. Give your mind up to me. Give your worries, fears, your hurts, everything up to me. Watch how I will transform them and replace then with God’s own joy. Now we can really get to work, for I do need you. If you are serious, I will work with you and in you, and you will feel me with you.

The problem was that I still didn’t know what to do to give up!

At this point I realized how angry I was at almost everyone: James, my students, my pupils, Robert, you CCC members, the acupuncturist, Jesus, God. Everyone seemed to need me, to want a piece of me, to be asking more of me than I could give. (Of course, all of that was a projection, but I didn’t see that at the time.) Then, shortly after, I got sick with a severe cold, cough, and sore throat––the first in ages. I saw almost immediately that this had happened so that I would have a legitimate excuse to stop working so hard. (Notice that I said, “so hard.” I continued to work, but just not “so hard”!) Acupuncture treatments, which typically would have removed the symptoms, didn’t work at all, and I saw right away that it was because I didn’t want to give up the cold. If I gave it up, I would just have to get back to working hard again, and I didn’t want that! I didn’t want to make myself sick just in order to slow down, but I didn’t see how I could otherwise. I could see that I was driving myself into the ground, but I didn’t know how to stop––after all, there was so much work to be done!

I knew that there had to be beliefs underlying this unhealthy way of being and working and keeping it in place, so I started looking at them. It all began with one core belief: I think that my value is defined by how hard I work, how well I perform, and how much I produce. That belief has been absolutely central to my belief system. I learned it primarily from my mother, who had these related rules (which James calls “The Ukrainian Work Ethic”):

1.     Hard work never killed anyone;

2.     You can stop when all the work is done;

3.     If you want something done right, do it yourself.

The problem is: 1) hard work can kill; 2) the work is never done; and 3) doing things yourself to make sure they’re done right means that you do all the work!

It all boiled down to a view of life as hard work and sacrifice. (It was not lost on me that all this was coming to a head as we were reading the Christmas sections in the Course, in which Jesus says a lot about love and sacrifice and “Christmas as the End of Sacrifice”!)

I had known for a long time that my attitude toward work was a problem in my life. It had shaped the way I lived and worked, and had determined the way I saw myself. My whole identity was defined by being a good girl, producing through hard work. I had worked hard to manage and maintain this identity, believing that my whole worth and being loved was determined by it. I realized that even when I’m not working hard, I keep myself busy all the time, so that I can make it seem as if I am.

Now that I was looking at this belief more closely, I saw the high cost it had had on me and on my relationships. It had kept me a prisoner to a false identity, had made me sick and miserable, and had almost driven me into the ground. It had given me a picture of love and life as sacrifice. It had made me seek out the hard way, for if things were too easy for me, it would be too threatening to my identity and to my belief system. If I didn’t have the anchor of the belief in myself as a good hard-working girl, where would I be? Who would I be?!

I was being truly helpful to others, being there for them, teaching them, guiding them, but there was a darker side to my serving. The ego had been using my true desire to be helpful for its own purposes: to keep its belief system in place. It had a big investment in keeping me looking for my validity, worth, fulfillment, and love in hard work in order to shore up a false identity of me. Even darker than that was its desire to kill me with hard work.

Having recognized the belief and decided that I no longer wanted to pay the cost entailed, it was now up to me to let it be replaced by a Course-based belief. This seemed daunting, until Robert suggested that I try to overturn the belief on a specific situation-by-situation basis, rather than on a broader, more general basis. I tried this and it worked very well (especially in letting go of the idea of Christmas as sacrifice), but I was still stuck. I truly wanted to give up this false identity in exchange for my true Identity, but I felt as if there was still a piece missing.

Actually there were a couple! The first came with Lesson 350,

Today I let Christ’s vision look upon
All things and judge them not, but give
Each one a miracle of love instead.

Recent lessons had all been about forgiveness and miracles, and I had been wondering how they related to what I was going through in relation to hard work and getting sick. I couldn’t quite see the connection. As I read and practiced those lessons, I felt a lot of emotion but didn’t know why. Then, when I got to Lesson 350, everything became clear.

Although I had done a lot of forgiveness work on my mother over the years, I realized that I was still holding resentment and anger toward her for passing on to me this debilitating belief about hard work. I was seeing her as the cause of all my pain and misery. Almost the instant I realized that, the anger disappeared and there was nothing to forgive. At first all I felt was an incredible sorrow and sadness for her and for me. She had spent her whole life a prisoner to that belief. She saw her life as nothing without hard work, and when she got older and could no longer work hard, she lived in despair until she decided to die. She had lived out generations of that belief and what else could she do but pass it on to me, and then from me to my own daughter. That feeling of sadness passed and, as I did the Christmas releasing exercise from T-15.XI.10, it was replaced with a sense of deep love for my mother and a prayer for her freedom.

The second missing piece came to me yesterday. The previous day, I had told Jesus that I felt as if I were really close to coming out of the painful state I had been in for months. “It’s as if there’s one little piece missing that will shift this whole thing.” Then yesterday it came, and rather than floating gently into place, it hit me like the proverbial “ton of bricks”!

Paula, my student/pupil/friend, and mighty companion in Course Oasis, came over to talk with me and help me sort this out and find a different way to live and work. It was quite a sobering talk. She had been watching me drive myself into the ground and saw the toll it was taking on me. She pointed out the ways in which she saw me clinging to the belief in hard work as my salvation and began to help me identify things I could do differently. It was a “you can’t go on this way, Mary Anne,” talk and it had a strong effect on me. I felt as if I was facing the seriousness of my situation head on, and felt hopeful after Paula left.

Then my daughter called from work. Usually we just have a quick check-in when she calls during the workday, but this time, it was different. When she told me that she had a bad cold and was feeling tired out, it reminded me of my own situation, so I talked to her about it. I told her about my realizations regarding hard work and how much I had internalized my mother’s beliefs. She told me how my attitude about hard work had affected her in her growing-up years and how she lived her life in reaction to it. I was pleased that she was aware of that and I felt strongly that my healing of my belief would bring healing to her as well.

Right after I said goodbye to my daughter, Paula called, and I told her about our conversation. I told her that it had made me realize the extent to which those deeply internalized rules about hard work had affected, not only me, but my children, and my other relationships as well. I said to her, “I guess I am a workaholic,” to which she instantly replied, “Oh, yes!” (By the way, Paula is an addictions and family of origin counsellor!)  I told her that her talk with me had been an “intervention” (as with a person with an addiction or otherwise destructive lifestyle). I saw my conversation with my daughter as the missing piece of the puzzle, beautifully orchestrated by the Holy Spirit to come right after my initial talk with Paula. I have always denied that I was a workaholic, but now I saw that I did have an addiction to work, and that it was just like any other addiction with serious consequences.

Instead of going to a usual place of guilt, I remembered what the Introduction to the Final Lessons said. It seemed as if they had been written for me, especially this:

We will not end this year without the gift our Father promised to His holy Son. We are forgiven now…. We have been saved from wrath because we learned we were mistaken. Nothing more than that…. We come to God and say we did not understand and ask Him to help us learn His lessons…. (FLIn.5:1,5-6; 6:1)

I felt that I had not sinned, but had just made a mistake, which I could now correct with the help of the Holy Spirit. He could wipe away any sense of sin and guilt by reminding me of God’s Love for me. I can’t tell you what a sense of lightness, joy, and freedom I felt. Naming my belief and attitude toward work as an addiction, as workaholism, seemed to lift a huge burden from me. It freed me and now I could move forward. I could do something about it. I started right then by taking myself through a belief recognizing, releasing, and replacing exercise that I had developed. After that, the old belief no longer seemed to have any power over me. I didn’t want to go back to something that had been so debilitating to me for all my life, and felt confident that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I would find the ways to see and live and work differently.

I could now say with confidence,

To You, Holy Spirit, I give my life henceforth. I give my mind up to you. Help me learn Your lessons. Be You in charge, for I would follow You, certain that Your direction gives me peace. (a paraphrase from the Final Lessons)

I had said earlier in the fall that I felt that by the end of “this one year we gave to God together,” I would be closer than ever to accepting my true Self and seeing with vision. A couple of days ago, I had told Jesus that time was running out for me. Now at the eleventh hour, I had an experience that made that original statement come true. The Holy Spirit had heard my call and answered me, just as the recent lessons had been promising. I am filled with hope and joy and immense gratitude. (I am also grateful to you for being there to witness to my naming. I think it’s important for my healing and I am grateful for your being there.) I feel as if I’ve been given a new lease on life. What a wonderful gift with which to celebrate the coming of a New Year, a New Beginning!