Hero’s Journey

It’s Memorial Day. The “kickoff” for summer, my favorite season- gardens, long sunny days interspersed with warm rain, ice cream, cookouts, star gazing, kayaking, hiking, camp outs, beach. Memorial Day is also a reminder that people paid the ultimate sacrifice serving our country and the freedom to do all the things I adore.

Yesterday, my beloved said as I was leaving to go set up for a fundraising event, “You’re a good person for doing this.” It made my skin crawl. In that moment, I realized that probably exactly how my friends who are veterans feel when people say they are heroes and good people for doing their job. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this in the past three weeks. Several people have said that my friend is lucky to have a friend like me.

The thing is, we’re not good friends. We are friends. She was my boss. She and her husband are undergoing a real shitstorm right now and need help. I am one of many who are willing to pitch in and help. I don’t even know that I’m doing it so much because I want to, it’s what I perceive us humans do in times of need.

But maybe we don’t. Maybe we’re so isolated and narcissistic, worrying about our own problems and worrying about what others think of us that we forget we’re all in this together. As I type this, I realize that helping my friend and her husband helps me not focus on my issues and that in and of itself is both healthy and problematic. It’s creating a whole new set of problems that I need to address within myself and let’s face it, that sucks. I’d rather help someone else than help myself sometimes. I know I’m not alone in this paradox.

Joseph Campbell identified the Hero’s Journey as a 12 stage process:

  1. THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero faces polarity in life, pulling him/her in different directions and causing stress.
  2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.  External pressures or from something rising up from deep within, begins the process of change in the hero.
  3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL.  Fear of the unknown makes the hero try to avoid the change. Often enough this is where friends and family try to talk the hero out of following the desired change.
  4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.  Enter the “teacher” who helps guide the hero. Likewise, the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
  5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.  The hero finally makes a commitment to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values- this feels like the abyss and trying to jump into a sport while in play and figure out the rules while playing.
  6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances the new realm. I personally call these “Are you serious?” moments when the Universe says, “Oh yeah? This is the life you desire? How bout know with this challenge? Still interested?”
  7. APPROACH.  The hero says “yes, I am serious” and prepares to move forward to desired change.
  8. THE ORDEAL.  Something’s gotta give. The hero can no longer have one foot in the past and one in the present. The hero has to leap, go all in, face the fear, fight the battle, show up fully and unapologetically real. Out of the moment of “death” of the old comes a new life.
  9. THE REWARD.  The hero faced “death” and reaps the reward.  Now the hero has to hold steady, lest lose that new ground.
  10. THE ROAD BACK.  At some point the hero has to return home from this journey.  This is showing up with the old tribe as a new person.
  11. THE RESURRECTION.  This is the ultimate test.  The hero is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level.  By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
  12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.  The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed. The hero then begins to lead others as the teacher in some capacity.

I’m no hero. I’m just doing what us humans do, playing in the contrast and trying like hell to figure out how to expand out of it into a place of ease and grace. It feels better to be expansive and in a flow state than struggling and stuck. Yet, I keep on jumping in the mud puddles of the contrast. Most recently by going all in with the volunteer work instead of finishing the journey I am on. Contraction. Expansion. Reveal the wisdom. Conceal the wisdom. It’s all a part of the journey and the Divine Play we choose over and over and over again.

I think most non-heroes think they’re all alone in this process. Far too many people have put me on a pedestal that I don’t struggle with this anymore. I do. So, no, you’re not alone. I know all this and still I love the mud for some reason.

On this beautiful Memorial Day, I am having to clean up the internal mess I’ve made. I’m exhausted. I am remembering what this aftermath feels like yet again. Each time gets a little quick and easier to clean up, harmonize, and re-focus. So if you’re needing a little help in the “yeah, but how?!” on how to move forward, reach out. I’m always happy to help. Just not today. Today I am putting the oxygen mask on me first. (hint, hint)