When I posted last week about watching dragonflies hatch, I didn’t realize at the time it was a metaphor for my current life.
This past week, it seemed every direction I faced there was a wall. Nothing got finished; everything in process, obstacles galore. After about the third frustrating project, the image of the dragonfly nymph popped up. My subconscious was knocking.
I thought back to that afternoon and how I had felt a combination of peace and impatience watching the nymph emerging from its confining caste. The peace because it felt so wondrous, the impatience because it was taking so long.
I remembered how the nymph’s emergence had had spurts of effort followed by long moments of stillness. During the still parts, I imagined the nymph making minute adjustments to its still-restrained body inside the caste, cognizant that a single impulsive movement could tear the delicate membrane of the wings. (I did see a dragonfly that had emerged with crooked, broken wings–heartbreaking–and this dragonfly was doomed. A dragonfly must be able to fly.)
I think anyone who tries something new (which is another word for growth) is like that nymph emerging. And like the nymph that instinctively knows when to push and when to rest and adjust, I think there is a roadmap inside us.
If a dragonfly is given the intrinsic knowledge of how to grow, surely we, as part of nature, are too. There is no guarantee we will be successful (the broken-winged dragonfly) but there is the knowledge, always, waiting for us to only listen.
Life is not fifteen minutes of fame. Life is the hero’s journey.
Joseph Campbell identified what he named “the hero’s journey” as the one constant myth throughout all cultures and societies. It is the individuation process of becoming who we are and fulfilling our destiny within our greater community. So-called “primitive” societies have marked this coming of age with rituals that are, for the most part, missing in modern society; but the need is still the same—to find out who you are as an individual and within that, where you belong. Rituals validate this growth, making it more palatable since growth, by definition being outside of the comfort zone, is not a comfortable process. But if the urge to individuate is not honored—if we numb it with drugs or alcohol or inattention—it will come back, and even stronger.
Life is only growth, and to that end, challenges are presented to facilitate this growth. Behaviors that prevent us from moving forward stall growth, but the challenges continue.
So face your challenges, embrace your individuation process. There’s no one else like you in the entire world, and your voice has something to say. Find out what that is and present it.
Leave home, find your power, bring it back to your community and share it. Then the circle is complete.
One of the things I appreciated about my vacation last week was the perspective I had when I came back. Right now I’m going through something. It’s a growth (aren’t they all) phase, and I call it that because it is so darn uncomfortable. My insides are all churny and I feel as if the old structures that I set up to define me and protect me—the scaffolding and armature of my identity—are breaking off and falling away. The me that is growing bigger than my old façade feels unsure and vulnerable as it is being exposed and it doesn’t have the protection I think I need, hence the uncomfortable feeling.
And therein lies the rub, as they say.
Because the whole point of living is not to protect and wall off yourself, it is to feel your life. Feelings of vulnerability and lostness are part of life. And if I don’t let myself go down there and wallow in it, not only am I missing out on experiencing my life, but I’m short circuiting my process of growth by not acknowledging the feelings that herald that particular growth.
I really don’t like the feeling of not being in control. Trust is not my strongest suit. So guess what, it is trust that I have to learn to grow into. And life, in all its profound wisdom, presents me with opportunities to trust by making me feel vulnerable. I could fight it, and I have, in the past. But that only leads to a stronger, shall we say, nudge, to grow. So now I try to get what life is asking of me. I go down there and I wallow and I feel what is asking to be felt. And then I discover, to my surprise and gratitude that vulnerability is just that—a time of openness and trust. And in truth, it is filled with the joy that is the foundation of life.