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In the Belly


It’s week three. I haven’t grown wings yet. Between the bureaucracy of unemployment and my lack of direction, my singular vision is of a juicy bug splattering across a windshield.

Yeeerrown… Splat.

It’s breathtaking how quickly time passes. That windshield could come at any moment.

The hater in me wants me to fail. He mocks. He dismisses the dream as a Greek tragedy. He’s had dominion for so long, it’s all I know. It’s a river of thought impossible to fight against.

I have to abandon it for the unknown.

I terribly want this to be a hero’s journey. I want to be my hero. That’s my vision. I don’t have a fucking clue how to do that. I’m literally writing my hero-story one word, one day, at a time. Some days, probably most days, I feel like I fail completely. This all seems such a foolhardy risk.

Beyond that, my fear is no one will care, that my efforts will be meaningless. All the risk and loss will lead to nothing. Happiness is worshipped as a destination to the point of blinding desperation so the temptation is to drown the telling of my story in cheery optimism. Hope! Faith! Rah-rah-sis-boom-bah. But in using the seduction of that flowery-fake awesomeness, I would betray you and myself. The hero’s path always starts out dark and full of doubt.

I remind myself that Louise Erdich punched us all in the mouth with one sentence:

You are here to risk your heart.

I don’t want to betray my heart anymore in the vain attempt to protect it.

*     *     *     *

So, what is the hero’s journey? According to Joseph Campbell’s theory called the Monomyth, the hero’s journey has 17 stages, divided into three sections.

I identify with being at the end of the first section: Separation. It consists of five steps. The following descriptions are from Wikipedia.

The Call to Adventure:

The hero begins in a mundane situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown.

I’ve heard the Call to Adventure as a low hum for most of my life. I found it rather torturous because it sounded like a muddled conversation in a separate room. It wasn’t until a counselor gave me the book Ishmael that I began to understand what that call was. Unfortunately, I accepted the knowledge as a curse. I didn’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t unread that blasted book, and I couldn’t unsee the unveiled truth of things. “It’s like you read that book and died inside,” my best friend bluntly stated.

Refusal of the Call :

Often when the call is given, the future hero first refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.

I had just bought my first house. I was newly married. I was working hard at climbing my employer’s ladder. Then I bought a bigger house. I had a child. I was deeply invested in a life not aligned with the Call. I refused and the Call haunted my conscious.

I’d elaborate, but this quote from Campbell nails what happened to my life afterwards:

Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or ‘culture,’ the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless… Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his minotaur. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration.

Supernatural Aid:

Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his guide and magical helper appears or becomes known. More often than not, this supernatural mentor will present the hero with one or more talismans or artifacts that will aid them later in their quest.

Spooky forces. I usually don’t subscribe to them. But if I were to associate anyone to them it would be Becky. She’s been there from the start. It is likely I wouldn’t be writing these words if not for her presence.

Crossing the Threshold:

This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.

Divorce. Bankruptcy and foreclosure. The death of my father and mother. And now, the end of my 24 year career with no replacement waiting…

Belly of the Whale:

The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.

Here I am. I’ve completely shed my old life. I’ve wandered into the weeds and swallowed by the dark woods beyond. I’ve surrendered to the unknown.

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