Where are all the rainbows and unicorns?
About a week and a half ago, I had the privilege of being a guest presenter for The Grove Inc., an organization that is taking the work of the former Diana’s Grove Mystery School and evolving it into their own tradition and community. They’re doing some great work, and it was an honor to be asked to be a part of it for a few days. I liked it so much that I’m heading back in October and bringing a few friends. All of Expanding Inward will be there as guests of The Grove to facilitate of the culminating pieces of their year-long exploration into Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. They’re calling it “The Hero’s Journey to Resurrection,” and there is still space available if you want to join us.
The personal work embedded in the September weekend focused on the step in the Hero’s Journey called “The Road Back.” In Campbell’s pattern, this is the point where the hero makes the decision to leave the “enchanted land” and return home. Dorothy leaves Oz, Bilbo returns to the Shire, etc. We did a bit of work defining what our personal “enchanted lands” looked like, and what the impact of leaving them was/is/might be.
Many of the personal enchanted lands I heard people talking about were wonderful, amazing places or experiences that were life-changing. And sure, I could have talked about all of the times I experienced significant transformation — my first Reclaiming Witchcamp, going through my initiation, college, moving to a new city… like everyone, I have had several hero’s journeys throughout my lifetime, each with its own enchanted land that I eventually had to leave in order to integrate what I had learned.
I could have talked about those wonderful moments, each of which affected and changed me in remarkable ways. But rainbows, glitter, and tie-dyed sarongs just aren’t where I am right now, nor are they part of my current Hero’s Journey. The enchanted land I just left had fewer unicorns and more heart monitors.
On July 28th of this year, I blacked out and collapsed about a half a block from my apartment. I had a blood clot in my lungs, and it was large enough to block the flow of blood to my heart. I remember my breathing suddenly becoming very labored, my heart racing, and sweating profusely, then… darkness. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground and there was an ambulance on the way to take me to the hospital where I would stay for the next 6 days while they worked to stabilize me.
This sort of medical event can be, and often is, fatal. (Spoiler alert: I survive.) While I’m out of the hospital and fairly healthy considering the circumstances, this is not an issue that goes away quickly. I am still dealing with the aftermath of it all – blood thinners, lots of doctor visits, dietary changes so I don’t hamper the effectiveness of my medication, not to mention the constant fear of throwing another clot and my luck not holding out a second time.
I’m not sure that anyone else who has had an extended stay at the hospital would call it an “enchanted land,” but the more I thought about it in the context of the Hero’s Journey, the more it became clear to me that it was. As a patient, I was under constant observation and monitoring. Health care professionals were watching over me, making sure I got the medication I needed, and planning and implementing my treatment. I certainly didn’t want to stay there any longer than I had to – but I felt safe there.
When I was finally released, I was jarred into the sudden experience of being on the Road Back portion of the Journey. After six days of constant care, I was alone. Very alone. The weight of that realization made me spend a good hour crying while sitting on the edge of my bed the first night that I was home. The Road Back can be a pretty lonely experience.
While I am doing much better now, and have certainly taken every opportunity that I can to find and accept support, this Road Back to health is one that I have to travel by myself. No one else can do it for me, which is the nature of a Hero’s Journey, I suppose. I can’t hire a surrogate hero. I am learning to pay more attention to my body and not ignore signs of potential trouble. I am learning how to be my own advocate in what has turned out to be a very convoluted health care system. I am learning how to discipline myself so that I can both speed along and support my healing. And while I have told a couple close friends that I would really like it if the Universe would stop giving me opportunities to prove how strong I am — I am learning that I am stronger than I often give myself credit for.
However, the biggest lesson is learning to be where I am. Wishing for what might have been or even longing for what I hope will be is not helping. What is helping is focusing on what is going on in the present moment and making choices that support my current reality. Some Journeys are about reflection, others are about dreaming. The one I am on appears to be about putting one foot in front of the other and not rushing things by succumbing to my impatience.
I mention all this to point out that our personal and spiritual work doesn’t have to mirror everyone else’s. There is room enough at the table for everyone’s experience and Journey, and while we usually have access to allies, we have to take those Journeys alone. No one can do it or define the outcome for you. I honor all of the Journeys of the folks I had the opportunity to examine this work with. For those of you who found enchanted lands with rainbows and unicorns, I hope to visit them someday. But first, I have to dissolve these clots and get off these blood thinners – a process I am embracing by taking it one day at a time.
(If you want to read more about my recent health scare and experience, I wrote about it extensively at my personal blog. The first post in the series can be found here.)
This post was written by River Roberts