It was a disorienting and painful time in my life. I had recently divorced, changed jobs, moved to a different house, and was just beginning to adjust to having joint custody of my daughter. Each step toward establishing order in my house helped me begin to orient myself to this new phase of life. Yet night after night, I would slip back into disorientation, often waking up and not knowing where I was. When this happened, I would first make certain where I was—in this unfamiliar bedroom within a strange house that had not yet become a home. Then, once I knew where I was, I would awaken more fully and determine if my daughter Suzanne was with me or with her Dad. This nightly reorientation left me either thankful that she was with me or sad that she was not. With either feeling, my mind would spin as I struggled to get back to sleep. ...
One night I was awakened by a disturbing noise. I went through my mental check: Okay, I thought, I'm in my new house. Further awakening, I knew Suzanne was not with me. What was that sound that woke me? Could it be someone trying to break in?
Looking out from my second story bedroom window to my driveway below, I saw what had happened. Someone must have driven a car into my driveway to turn around and run over a neighbor's cat. Amidst the darkness and shadows, the nearby streetlight cast enough light for me to see the lifeless cat. Now my spirits plummeted. It was 2 a.m. I didn't know the neighbors and didn't know which one owned the cat. What could I do? I couldn't make myself face this situation in the middle of the night. I decided to wait until morning. After much tossing, turning and dread, I went back to sleep.
With the bright morning sunlight, I awoke, and for a moment was encouraged by the new day. Then I remembered the dead cat. I lay there for a long while, dreading what I had to face. Apprehensively, I got up and looked out the window. There in the driveway, in the bright sunshine lay a tree branch! It took a few moments for this scene to really sink in and for my mood to lighten.
In the darkness, my mind had translated this scene into one of tragedy. I had felt such pain, guilt, disorientation and darkness during the process of divorce that I had continued to color my world from a palette of dread and gloom. In the darkness of night, my thoughts and my imagination had teamed up to create a nonreality. I had been stuck in a pattern of expecting the worst. But on that morning I woke up to a new reality. ...
That night was a profound wake-up call for me. It was as if a stage play was performed outside my window, complete with sound effects, props and spotlighting to get my attention. In my new awareness, I realized that I could choose to see life differently and begin to change my thoughts. I could begin looking at life in a new light, to refocus my thinking, and to embrace new possibilities.
I had known for some time that, though thoughts held in mind produce in the outer after their kind, what I needed to remember was that the negative thoughts I was clinging to and holding in my mind were also creating after their kind. The law works whether the thoughts are positive or negative. I can choose whether to create more darkness or more light.
I also needed to acknowledge another spiritual truth: that the grace of God can override and deflect the results of negative thought. While perceptions, feelings, emotions, desires and imagination shape our world, we can be spared the full brunt of negative thinking by God's grace. The light of a new day, the light of understanding, the light of God can transform the darkness and awaken us from fear to faith in a new and glorious dawn.
James Dillet Freeman's poem "Prayer for Protection" is a constant reminder of the Truth and can calm us and redirect our thoughts in the midst of any "dead cat in the night" experience:
The light of God surrounds me;
The love of God enfolds me;
The power of God protects me;
The presence of God watches over me.
Wherever I am, God is!