How many times have we let people and situations define who we are?
Personally, I am so happy it's finally January because the holidays are a difficult time to work in retail. During this time of year, it seems as if more people feel a sense of powerlessness no holiday party or hair purchase can dispel.
For me, that often means having to respond to emails about what a horrible person I am from people who are unwilling to fluff out their ponytails or wand curl their blowouts. It means people calling me a scammer when USPS goofs up delivery or demanding that my defunct return policy from three years ago be enforced.
It's weird because while I know these complaints are largely out of my hands (I am not responsible for anyone’s unwillingness to... um... style their hair), these emails still feel like a stab in the heart.
One of my favorite books A Course in Miracles says you think you have many problems, but in reality, you only have one: you've forgotten your true identity. The text then describes all the forms this one problem takes. There are many, but this one nailed it on the head for me: you believe you are what your brother makes of you, but you aren't. You are a child of God and He would be incomplete without you. If He is love, you are an extension of this love, which makes your existence an eternal part of this universe.
In secular language, this means we are all part of this planetary organism. Being part of the whole, when you move the whole organism moves. The natural state of our ecosystem is one of harmony (love), and it's when we choose to leave this harmony that problems arise.
Knowing your true identity is important because whether you see yourself as a child of God and/or existing within an eco-system, the meaning is still the same: you are part of a whole, which makes you whole. Remember: when you move, it moves. To wish for separateness is to insist on powerlessness - and what a nightmare that is indeed!
One of my deepest pains comes from being stood up. When I was a child, a family member promised to take me out for a special day and failed to show. I'll never forget waking up bright and early, full of excitement, and putting on my favorite outfit. Waiting patiently by the window, I stared out of it hoping to see a car that would never show. I waited all day and as the hours dragged on, something inside of me broke. The sadness and rejection cut deep. It made a scar.
This past Saturday it happened again when a guy stood me up, starting a crazy childhood spiral of heartache and pain. But at this point in life, I'm learning to lean into God instead of the nightmares I create - to be open to healing, even with fear clutching at my heart. And from that willingness, I was guided back to A Return to Love, the book that introduced me to the Course. And after reading its introductory pages, I remembered my one problem with many forms. Once again, I had forgotten my identity.
I am not falsely advertising. I am not a scammer. I am not a reject incapable to love. And yet, because a few people call me these things, a tiny part of me believes it must be true. Why else would it cause me pain?
But just as my nightmares aren’t true, there’s aren’t either.
My website consists of pictures, product descriptions, and policies. Everything is easily available for the customer to view. And as for the guy, I knew he wasn’t a good match. We just connected on one thing and I was desperate to talk. I was also desperate for a hug.
Why do we project our innermost fears onto others? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the same reason people call me a scammer and why I went looking for a hug in a loveless space. We’ve pushed the fear so far done, we hardly realize its there. It’s like we’re sleepwalking under its programming.
The Course says people live in their own nightmares until they are awakened to their true identity in an all-encompassing love. Until then, everyone who graces their life becomes an actor embodying a character from their past. They reenact the same old tired screenplay, asleep to the possibilities each new second of life brings.
We are not our brother's casting decision in the Nightmares of Their Lives. Furthermore, they are not their dreams. Because let’s get real, we are all dreamers until we fully awake to our true identity in love.
I'm writing you this letter on napkins in Starbucks because I didn't envision writing today, and therefore came woefully unprepared. And yet, here I am reminded that love can use all things to extend itself. Even the nightmares of others. Even my own.