Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Heroine's Journey

It’s just occurring to me what I’m really up to.

I declared it at the beginning of this adventure, but the challenge is just hitting me now. I’m married. I’m the mother of two young children. I don’t have “help.” And I’m claiming some time for myself. I’m claiming a portion of life that’s not about being a wife or a mom, but about being human.

I’ve been struggling the last few days - berating myself for how “slowly” my progress as a newbie-surfer seems to be going. Planning my daughter’s seventh birthday festivities and dealing with a teething toddler who gnaws on me all night can make surfing seem irrelevant and the ocean seem very far away.

Which reminds me that Elizabeth Gilbert’s adventures in “Eat, Pray, Love” touched the nerve they did because they fulfilled such a common fantasy. Cut loose by divorce and heartbreak, untethered by responsibility and commitment, the author was free to seek herself and her spirit.

But I am tethered.

Before the delusion of surfing entered my life, I was writing a different book all together. Inspired not by a woman who got an advance to eat gelato and fall in love, but by men like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi - I was writing a prison memoir. Stuck in a cell, they managed to cultivate love, passion and spirit not despite their circumstances but because of them. Stuck in my metaphorical cell, perhaps I could do the same.

(Note: Before I go any further, let me say that I may be a drama queen for complaining about being a mother. And if so, so be it - you can stop reading here.)

As a writer and a thinker (and a spiritual person having a human experience) I have struggled to recognize myself in the vast majority of what I read about motherhood. I appreciate the humor and camaraderie of some mommy-blogs (ie. FreeRangeKids and Laundry For Six ), occasionally enjoy the spirituality of those wacky Christian-home-schoolers and respect that Ayelet Waldman named her parenting memoir “Bad Mother.” But nothing I’ve read has captured my existential agony while simultaneously celebrating the possibility of spiritual liberation inherent in it.

And yet…a couple of weeks ago, Brian showed me a document compiled by some women at the Mount Saint Mary’s College English Department. It’s a chart comparing the hero’s journey as lived by a man and as lived by a woman. And what do you know? They entitled Part 1 “Imprisonment in a domestic environment.”

Which made me think, drama queen or not, I may be on to something. After all, if a woman must be imprisoned in order to become a heroine, then she can't even start on her journey until she names her cage. So whether I'm hammering my way out using my surfboard as a pick axe, or simply meditating on the oneness while confined to close quarters, this must be the journey, and I must be a heroine in the making.

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