I tend to see life as a Hero’s Journey. For many years I taught a class on Myths, Dreams and Symbols at Sonoma State University, using texts by Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. Over time, it has become second nature for me to look at life symbolically, and my weight loss and quest for vitality has been a Hero’s Journey of epic proportions. This has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, not because of the dieting, but because of the inner work I have done to support it. I have had to become a new person, not only in my approach to food and exercise, but in how I think of myself and how I relate to the world.
This pilgrimage is a hero’s journey within a Hero’s Journey, a fractal. To not respond to this call to adventure when it stirred my soul would be to invite stagnation into my life. To accept it is to risk failure as much as to invite success. One of the hard truths I have had to face this year is my own stubborn perfectionism: I don’t want to try something unless I have some guarantee of success. Shedding weight has taken away my main excuse for saying no to adventures, my main tool for buffering myself from failure and the world. I wore the truth of my fear rather than speaking it.
The truth is that I may not succeed in walking all the way to Chartres. The walk may prove to be too much for me… and all of you will know about it because I’ve finally chosen to break my silence and announce it from the rooftops of Blogland. And therein lies my success.
In my quest for vitality, I’ve had to come face to face with the demons of an aging (and sagging) body. I’ve had to learn for myself that vitality does not necessarily mean trying to look like a young supermodel, nor does it mean accepting every challenge on offer. It means honoring one’s hard-earned battle scars and accepting some limitation with grace.
I love shopping for adventure clothes, love the gear, love the planning! I will always be a curvy woman, will never, ever have the trim stick figure I long for… but I now fit nicely into medium-sized clothes, which delights me no end. I love that I can finally wear zip-off trousers! I will confess to having spent many happy hours shopping for clothes and trekking poles and rucksacks over this past month. But not shoes; no fancy new high-tech trail shoes for me.
I have a serious problem with my right foot. It’s one of those hard-to-explain problems that seems to defy definition and diagnosis, which persists despite having had a toe-joint replacement in an attempt to address the swelling and pain. This foot worries me as it will no doubt trouble me on our walk. I have tried on literally dozens of boots and shoes, but in the end I will be wearing the running shoes I bought in California last spring. The enthusiastic and knowledgable saleswoman, Deborah, spent over 2 hours with me, evaluating my feet, watching me walk and run, finally suggesting I think of my new shoes not in terms of any specific activity but simply as Going Forward shoes. I like that! I am honoring my body’s limitations by wearing carefully chosen shoes and using trekking poles for stability, but I am still managing to answer my call to adventure with a resounding YES, balancing my sense of adventure with a dose of common sense.