“Insights from myths, dreams, and intuitions, from glimpses of an invisible reality, and from perennial human wisdom provide us with hints and guesses about the meaning of life and what we are here for. Prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action are the means through which we grow and find meaning.” Jean Shinoda Bolen
Recently I prepared a presentation on “Are You the Hero or Heroine in Your Own Life.” I’d been thinking about the hero’s journey as presented in Joseph Campbell’s work, and in many ways I could relate to this archetypal male journey. I chose not to live a traditional woman’s life in many ways and went out into the world, primarily to become a dancer and follow my passion.
The Heroine’s Journey to Wholeness
But with so many years of living behind me now, I realize that the pattern of my journey was different, and a friend recommended I read A Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock. I don’t know how I could have missed this book, but it was amazing. As I read it, I felt I was reading about my own life and particularly my journey as I presented it in my memoir Awakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholeness. On the cover of Murdock’s book, it is described as “a woman’s quest for wholeness.” Well, no wonder I could relate to it.
We Are All Heroes and Heroines In Our Own Lives
The concept that I emphasized in my presentation was the idea that we are all heroes or heroines in our own lives. In both the male and female journey, we go out into the world at some point and experience a series of trials in trying to achieve our goal. Both the trials and achievement of the goal (or boon) test us in many ways. Even when we achieve our goal, we have to face the disconcerting feeling deep inside that makes us ask, “Now what do I do?
Male and Female Journeys Are Different
In Campbell’s masculine journey, the hero must take what he has learned or gained back into the normal world, integrate it into life and share it with the world. It may be spiritual wisdom, a new technological discovery, or simply a new understanding of some issue in his life.
In Murdock’s description of the feminine journey, the heroine, who may have had to subdue some of her feminine traits, develops her masculine attributes in order to achieve her goal in the world. This causes the mother/daughter split, which may not be an actual split with her mother but with herself. She must reconnect her feminine side, heal the masculine within that is also out of balance, and integrate both aspects within. And to be balanced, she must learn to take care of herself as well as care for others, an aspect of life that challenges many women.
Beyond the Goal Is Integration and Sharing
This ability to learn from life and share what we learn with others is, to me, the key and most important aspect of the journey. Through our trials we learn valuable lessons. We expand our lives and our spirits when we share what we have learned and that contributes to the sense of community we so much need to create and grow.
I do believe we are all heroes and heroines when we feel called in some way and follow that call. Whether or not we meet society’s standard of success is not what is important. It is what we do with what we learned on the journey that matters. Does it uplift us or the people around us? Does it make us more whole? Even if we have not achieved what we hoped, can we see that our attempt was heroic?
Dealing With “Failure”
After I left my university job in Nebraska because I could not live with the extreme cold, I looked for another full-time university position for several years without finding one. As each year passed, I felt more and more like a failure although I had limited the places I was willing to live, thereby limiting the possibilities.
In the meantime, I found several studios or colleges where I could teach one or two classes of dance. It was scary to be self-employed, but it pushed me to learn about publicity and tax issues and to expand the range of what I taught. I became more creative, teaching a class to help people learn how to see and learn movement and another class created to help musicians develop more body awareness. I took a part-time job at an art school to create a financial base.
Most of all, I learned I could survive without “a job,” and that tremendously increased my self-confidence. I learned to take care of myself in a way I never had before. Instead of feeling like a failure, I eventually began to feel like the heroine in my own life because I did something I didn’t know I could do. Like the hero, I answered a call, overcame the challenges, and became more whole and confident as a result. In doing so, I was able to share my passion with others and hopefully inspire them.
Every person’s journey is unique. What seems like a simple task to me may be a huge accomplishment to you. Every time I see someone without legs competing in a race, I am in awe. In fact, I am also in awe of most parents. Helping form another human being is complex, messy, and beautiful. That much I’ve learned just from teaching. I certainly think my mother was a hero, for my brother had polio and I had a heart murmur most of my childhood. Just keeping us alive and growing toward health was an amazing achievement.
So, make a list. What are all the heroic things you have done and are doing in your life? What about all the things you’ve done that you didn’t think you could do, but because you had to do them, you did? And if you can’t find anything you think is heroic, go deeper and give yourself more credit for the things you have done.
© 2012 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5